(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
It's not every day that I get to interview a writer of a computer virus -- let alone the very first one. After all, virus writers tend to stay under the radar. They aren't exactly popular with computer users -- or with law enforcement.
Given that this year is the 25-year anniversary of the first personal computer virus, I tracked down its author, Rich Skrenta, who wrote it in the ninth grade for the Apple II as a prank on his friends.
I've spoken with Skrenta before, when he was head of an online news business called Topix, which aggregates news from thousands of traditional news sites and blogs. I didn't know about his past then, and I had to do some research to confirm that he is indeed the same person I had spoken to before.
Not surprisingly, Skrenta, now 40, has matured over 25 years, and his recollections from ninth grade came across like a trip down memory lane. He talked at length about what he did and how he did it and openly acknowledged his participation in the software piracy circles that were common at the time.
I got a sense he was somewhat annoyed that he was being remembered for this rather than for all his professional accomplishments since then. But he remained composed and went through the interview with the type of sense of humor I would expect from someone who spent so much time over a winter break crafting this prank on friends.
Perhaps four years from now, on the anniversary of the first virus to hit PCs running a Microsoft operating system, the Pakistani brothers who wrote that one will be as forthcoming.
-- Anick Jesdanun