January 19

1986 — (c)Brain, the first IBM PC virus

 

You’re working from home today.  You set your mug of coffee on your desk and wait for the PC to boot up.

The process seems to take longer than usual, but that’s okay.  Your computer is a bit like you:  it’s not a morning person.  Whats the computer equivalent of coffee? you wonder.

A loud grinding comes from the C.P.U.  That’s like a yawn, isn’t it?  The system’s struggling to wake up.

You catch yourself making a yawn, too.  You take a sip of your coffee.

Finally, the sign-in image appears on your screen.  You let the MarkoSoftTM operating system choose the image, and it changes every day.  The pictures are always cheery and colorful: a hill covered with bright yellow flowers; a sunset over the ocean; a lion cub sleeping in soft grass.

This morning’s image doesn’t fit the pattern.  The muted landscape looks similar to the banner image at a blog you sometimes visit:  a dry, dead expanse of gray and black, with steam rising from the heated earth.

A small white box appears at the center of the desolation, and you type in your pet’s name, case sensitive.

The screen flashes blue, then black.

You think the monitor has turned off, but then you notice a small white “greater than” symbol in the top left corner.

>

White letters begin to fill slowly after the prompt sign.

> WELCOME TO THE APOCALYPSE (c) 2017 Chaos & Death Ltd VIRUS_Ver7.3.666 Good last MORNING!! Given to catching finitude imprint…er BEWarE…@$!^&$$( [space to continue press]

You tap the space bar, hoping that will make the problem go away.  Several lines form on the screen.

> SELECT FOLLOWING:

> 1( Discomfit

> 2) Pain

> 3) Sulffering

> 4) Dis ease

> 5) Analiation

> USER INPUTS: __

Maybe you should turn the computer off.  You don’t always make the best decisions this early in the morning.

You type “3” after the prompt.

Nothing happens on the computer.  But you hear a loud scream from outside your building.

Probably just a coincidence.

The monitor goes black, then refreshes:

> SELECT FOLLOWING:

> 1( Discomfit

> 2) Pain

> 3) xxxxx

> 4) Dis ease

> 5) Analiation

> USER INPUTS: __

I guess sulfering isnt an option anymore, you think.  You type “2.”

From your computer speakers, you hear a sound like a gunshot, then a booming crash.

You didn’t realize your speakers could get this loud.

> SELECT FOLLOWING:

> 1( Discomfit

> 2) xxxxx

> 3) xxxxx

> 4) Dis ease

> 5) Analiation

> USER INPUTS: __

The joke is wearing a bit thin, and you really need to sign into your work email, so you press the “ESC” key hoping to bypass the invasive program.

On the screen appears:

> USER HAS SELECT: 4) Dis ease

No outside screams or speaker crashes this time, but a click from the other room, and the hum of the television warming up.  Perhaps the virus program was able to mimic the signals of the TV remote?

The usual banter of a morning talk show seems more serious. You make out the words “outbreak” and “airborne.”

Your screen refreshes.

> SELECT FOLLOWING:

> 1( Discomfit

> 2) xxxxx

> 3) xxxxx

> 4) xxxxx

> 5) Analiation

> USER INPUTS: __

You press the “ESC” key frantically, repeatedly.

> USER HAS SELECT: ___

The cursor flashes, indicating that the program has stalled.  It’s thinking.

Please.

A loud grinding comes from the C.P.U.  This time, it sounds more like an animal’s growl.

Please let it just be discomfort.