Latest By

Artificial Intelligence
Data Storage
Input Devices
Living Space
Space Tech
Virtual Person

"I believe in limited government, and the 20th century has been the century of government. The data is uniform. The government has failed at every single task it has set out to do, with the exception of waging war."
- Bart Kosko

Computer Worm (Tapeworm)  
  The first description of a set of computer codes that moves from one computer to another on a network as a coherent entity.  

I believe this is the first reference to a computer tapeworm. As far as I know, Brunner invented the idea as well as the term.

At this point in the novel, the story's protagonist Sandy has found that he no longer has power in his home following a confrontation with a character named Fluckner. Checking the net, he finds that his account with the power company has been declared overdue and his power shut off. Deducing that Fluckner has set loose a tapeworm that is traversing the net damaging his credit and his livelihood, Sandy takes action.

He sent a retaliatory worm chasing Fluckner's. That should take care of the immediate problem in three to thirty minutes, depending on whether or not he beat the inevitable Monday morning circuit overload. According to recent report, there were so many worms and counterworms loose in the data-net now, the machines had been instructed to give them low priority unless they related to a medical emergency.
From The Shockwave Rider, by John Brunner.
Published by Harper and Row in 1975
Additional resources -

Brunner makes interesting use of the concept in the novel. It appears that early tapeworms were really intended as normal residents (albeit hidden ones) of the data-net. The government used special purpose tapeworms; individuals, like the unhappy Mr. Fluckner, could also create them without a lot of special knowledge. Individuals sometimes used a stolen or borrowed ID (with a corporate imprimatur) to make the worm more effective.

A tapeworm is different from a computer virus in various ways. A computer virus enters its "host" (a computer system) and becomes part of another computer program. A computer tapeworm is an entity that does not necessarily seek to duplicate itself; it uses the special programming (and often some sort of ID or password to get special access) in its "head" to gain admittance. It then lives as a parasite within the host computer, utilizing host resources according to its programming. In Brunner's computer tapeworms, the tapeworms gained entry and then "fed" on data, adding copies of the data to it's (the tapeworm's) own length. The tapeworm would then leave that system to occupy others, moving through the data-net from host to host at will, continually adding new segments of copied data to itself, getting longer and longer.

In 1979, John Shoch and Jon Hupp at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center created a small program that searches a network for computers with idle processor time. Ironically, the first worms were intended to provide more efficient use of computers. Worms demonstrated a capacity for invading any computer on a network, creating the security threat that continues with viruses today.

The Morris Worm, written at the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, was the first worm released on the modern Internet. Starting November 2, 1988, it used bugs in Unix and infected many computers. Robert Morris was convicted, sentenced to community service and fined.

See also Computer Virus from The Scarred Man by Grgory Brnford, published in 1970.

Comment/Join this discussion ( 1 ) | RSS/XML | Blog This |

Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Shockwave Rider
  More Ideas and Technology by John Brunner
  Tech news articles related to The Shockwave Rider
  Tech news articles related to works by John Brunner

Computer Worm (Tapeworm)-related news articles:
  - Mydoom Email Worm (aka Novarg Mimail)
  - Can Computer Tapeworms And Viruses Be Your Friends
  - Cyberviolence A Growing Web Trend In South Korea
  - The Flame - Malware Worthy of John Brunner

Articles related to Computer
IBM's Neuromorphic Chip
Software Agents Fight Unseen On The Web
Terminal Snooping At Bloomberg
Will There Be A Digital Afterlife?

Want to Contribute an Item? It's easy:
Get the name of the item, a quote, the book's name and the author's name, and Add it here.





Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.





More News

Otto Self-Driving Truck Kit Delivers Budweiser Beer
'Trucks gulped packages and scurried like beetles...'

Airnest Drone Flight Logging Tool
'He reached to unsnap the cartograph from his belt.'

Untethered Drone Gets Wireless Power
'We'll use my 'broomstick'.'

ESA Plans Akon Projectile To Europa ala Jules Verne
'... might [it] not be possible to project a shot up to the moon?'

Transparent OLED TV By Panasonic
It's the look of things to come.

Shape-Memory Metal Transforms Millions Of Times
'Annealed in any shape for a time, and codified, the structure of that shape is retained down to the molecules.'

Advertising Drones Hover Over Traffic In Mexico
'Blurbflies are allowd to travel the streets, buzzing their adverts alive and direct...'

How Can Amazon Patent A Voice-Controlled Drone?
''Tight mid-shot...' he told it.'

'North Sense' Wearable Piercing From Cyborg Nest
'The fingers opened from the many-scaled stellarimeter grafted onto his palm.'

proCover Smart Sock Prosthetic Limb Enhancement
'Series of chemelectric afferent nerve-analogues, which permitted it to gauge to an ounce...'

More SF in the News

More Beyond Technovelgy

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise | - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.