MacMag Virus by Computer Graphics Conspiracy / Artemus Barnoz & others
A computer virus written and spread as an artistic/Neoist prank in 1988. From the Montreal headquarters of the "MacMag" computer magazine and the Neoist "Computer Graphics Conspiracy", it disseminated widely via the Compuserve online service and was even on the official retail floppies of Aldus FreeHand 1.0. [...]
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MacMag Virus

A computer virus for the early Apple Macintosh, written and disseminated as an artistic prank in 1988, thirteen years prior to the artistic computer virus "biennale.py" by 0100101110101101.org and EpidemiC.
To promote the virus from their office in Montreal, Barnoz took advantage of the fact that he was simultaneously a Neoists and the editor of the popular Canadian computer zine "MacMag". The "MacMag Virus" is the first known virus to display a text – which Barnoz later called a "parody" and corny "new age message" - and spread, nine months before the infamous "Morris worm", over public networks, in this case: the Compuserve online service. Whenever it was downloaded and opened, it secretly installed a system extension which made the computer display the message on every startup and copy itself to other boot floppies. The virus made its way to the company Aldus (today part of Adobe) and eventually shipped on the retail floppies of FreeHand 1.0, the first release of the still-popular graphics program.
This story made it into most major newspapers in Canada and the U.S., and the line "we are the virus in your computer" became part of the Neoist electro-pop anthem "I am Monty Cantsin", published and sung by the Neoist "open pop star" Monty Cantsin on the LP "Ahora Neoismus" still in 1988. If the program of Neoism could be described as contagious replication of self-invented language constructs such as the proper name ``Monty Cantsin'' into ``data cells'' - a term coined already around 1985 -, collectively adopting and mythologizing them beyond recognition, then the MacMag virus was the first computer version of this program, in other words: the first implementation of Neoism into algorithmic code.
Besides, the MacMag virus was one of the very first personal computer viruses and is prominently featured in "virus histories" and anti-virus documentation all over the Internet.
[Further resources on the MacMag virus: Tilman Baumgärtel, Experimentelle Software, Telepolis, August 1999, http://www.heise.de/tp/deutsch/inhalt/sa/9908/1.html
Robert M. Slade, History of Computer Viruses, http://www.bocklabs.wisc.edu/~janda/sladehis.html]

by Florian Cramer, posted 06 Jun 2003


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