Original OSNews Interviews Archive
It's been several weeks since Ray Tomlinson, best known for the invention of email, passed on. Email, however, represents only a very small portion of his work and contributions.
While writing a research paper on possible new methods to reduce and eradicate malware, I came across a bit of intriguing history whose available details did not satisfy my curiosity, and I needed to know more than what the internet had to offer. The event in question was the creation of Creeper, a piece of software created in 1971 by Bob Thomas that, according to most sources, is the world's first computer virus. There hasn't been a lot of information available on the internet regarding Creeper except that it was created to "infect" computers running the TENEX operating system on ARPAnet. It would cause the machine to print "I'M THE CREEPER. CATCH ME IF YOU CAN." Then Ray Tomlinson created Reaper whose sole purpose was to seek out and remove Creeper from the machines it had "infected".
I wanted to know more, though. Why was Creeper created in the first place? Did it cause problems? Was it an annoyance to those managing the machines it affected? Should it really be considered the first virus (technically worm, if that)? In late 2014 I ended up finding Ray Tomlinson on LinkedIn of all places and asked him if I could ask a few questions about Creeper and Reaper. He very kindly obliged.