Malware and viruses of yesteryear were far different than those that plague modern machines. Aside from the obvious level of sophistication, today’s malware and viruses are largely silent assassins that siphon personal data for financial gain.
Back then, however, most nefarious software was upfront about the fact that you’d been infected and typically just wanted to make your day miserable by trashing your files. Ironically enough, early viruses would often do so in a visually pleasing or otherwise amusing manner.
The fine folks over at the Internet Archive recently launched The Malware Museum, a collection of early malware (mostly viruses) distributed in the earlier days of computing. The team has removed the destructive portions of code and through the use of emulations, you can experience what early viruses were like right in your browser.
In total, there are currently 78 pieces of software on display – a small but important sampling of our digital past. Some of the noteworthy entrants include Casino, a slot machine “game” that gives you five chances to save your data, Coff Shop which promotes the legalization of marijuana, Marine which shows a sailboat out in the open sea and the Terminator-inspired Skynet virus.
As Wired correctly points out, these early viruses didn’t have the luxury of the Internet to make the rounds. Instead, they circulated via floppy disks physically passed around from person to person. My, how times have changed.