This is what computer viruses from the ’80s and ’90s looked like

This is what the old-school computer viruses from the ’80s and ’90s looked like

Like good things, bad things also have memories. People seldom remember the Dos based viruses which wreaked havoc in olden days. Though many of us have probably forgotten what Dos based virus looked like, F-Secure’s Mikko Hyponnen still remembers them vividly. For he has spent decades analysing, collecting and writing about viruses and saving them on old floppy disks.

Some of the earliest malware that infected an MS-DOS computer is now live at the Internet Archive. So, when Hyponnen learned that the Malware Museum uses an emulator to let you watch the virus written for DOS computers and play it safely, he decided to share his bizarre collection of malware with the world.

The destructive parts of the viruses in the collection have been removed from the 5.25-inch floppy disks and tweaked by hand so that all that remains is their visual effects – not their harmful ones. You can now enjoy these unusual pieces of semi-malicious art from the safety of your modern browser at the Malware Museum.

“The casino virus is neat,” Hypponen explained in a 2011 talk that accompanies the collection. “It actually takes a copy of your file allocation table to memory, then it overwrites it on your hard drive. So, you’ve just lost all your files,” he explains. “But it has a copy in RAM, right? And now it lets you play a game.” Basically, if you win the game – dubbed as Disk Destroyer – it writes your file allocation table back to the drive, restoring your stuff. If you lose, well, you lose your files too.

Jason Scott, who helped set up the Malware Museum and curates the software collection of the Internet Archive, acknowledges the viruses for both their artistic and historical outlook.

“Removed of their teeth and confined within the emulator, I do see these as art,” Scott told Business Insider. “From this safe distance, a lot of people can see what these viruses were like to get, and see what effect it might have had to get one.”

“I think it’s really important that we try to archive our common digital history the best we can,” Hyponnen said in an email. “No one else will do it for us.” While no one else may do his work for him, others have already given a hand. Thanks to the contributions of other virus collectors, Scott said that the collection that began at 30 viruses, has since grown to nearly 80.

Have a look below at what the viruses look like.

The Q Walker sends this cartoon man across your screen.

The Delyrium virus leaves victims make them feel like they are in an earthquake.

The LSD virus does…this.

Zohra turns things psychedelic before leaving a cryptic message.

Q Casino, which is Hyponnen’s personal favorite, forces the victim to play poker to save their files.

Crew simply displays a logo for a hacker collective.

Flame speaks for itself.

Hymn – a fancy advertisement.

And finally there was Kuku

Do you remember any of the above viruses that infected your school/college computers? Or perhaps, some other virus not mentioned here may have been a serious threat in those days. Do note down the virus name so we can bring you an emulated version of that virus.

Kavita Iyer
Kavita Iyer
An individual, optimist, homemaker, foodie, a die hard cricket fan and most importantly one who believes in Being Human!!!


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