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A 1401 Virus?
by Keith Falkner

One particularly snowy day, on which I had ridden my motorcycle to work, a colleague named Cathy raved about the volume of snow expected for the weekend, because she looked forward to a delightful two days skiing. I, on the other hand looked forward to a prodigious amount of shoveling and some chilly and sloppy motorcycling whenever I wanted to go anywhere.

So I stuck this card in Cathy's object deck when I spotted it on the cart of decks going to Operations for testing.

Starting in column 1:


Starting in column 40


On this card I scrawled "8/2 PKT"

I think you can see readily enough what this card does. First it directs itself to pocket 2, so it is ambiguous whether it is input data selected into pocket 2, or punched output selected to pocket 8. The idea was that the victim would think she had inadvertently received the punched output from someone else's test and would not connect this card with the damage it had done

The last thing it does is an MCM command that fills memory with the message in columns 1-21. This command never encounters a record mark or group mark/word mark combination, so it wraps memory and crashes with a process error. The obligatory core dump reveals that memory contains some word marks and the message CATHY LIKES SNOW CATHY LIKES SNOW several hundred times.

I knew the operator who ran the tests, and he owed me a favour (Canadian spelling because this occurred in Canada). I prevailed upon him to rerun Cathy's test, this time without the destructive card, so that she would not lose a cycle of testing. Cathy forgave me for this intrusion upon her object deck; it may have been one of the first computer viruses in history, if you can call such an assault a virus.