Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Truly Trivial: What sci-fi novel coined the phrase 'computer worm?'

Feel free to use this image on your blog or we...Image via Wikipedia
Once again, I am overburdened by day jobbery and must resort to recycling one of my old TechRepublic Geek Trivia posts for this week's Truly Trivial column. Don't worry; it's timely. Twenty-six years ago today, the computer virus was born. Twenty one years ago last week, perhaps the most famous computer worm ever, the Morris Worm, was launched. Which brings me to my original article:
The effects of the Morris Worm were so widespread and pronounced that it made the national news (quite a feat in 1988), and it eventually earned Morris a landmark if decidedly unintimidating conviction: Three years' probation, 400 hours of community service, and a $10,050 fine. In geek circles, people sometimes referred to the Morris Worm as the Great Worm, a reference to the Great Worms (i.e., dragons) found in J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings series.
This, of course, was not why we called Morris' creation a worm, as these types of malicious programs (distinct from computer viruses) owe their etymology to a work of science fiction, rather than fantasy.
You can find the complete original Q&A here.