Creeper (program)

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Type Worm[1]
Isolation 1971
Author(s) Bob Thomas
Operating system(s) affected TENEX

Creeper was an experimental computer program written by Bob Thomas at BBN in 1971.[2] Its original iteration was designed to move between DEC PDP-10 mainframe computers running the TENEX operating system using the ARPANET, with a later version by Ray Tomlinson designed to copy itself between computers rather than simply move.[3] This self-replicating version of Creeper is generally accepted to be the first computer worm.[1][4]

The program was not actively malicious software as it caused no damage to data, the only effect being a message it output to the teletype reading "I'm the creeper: catch me if you can".[4]


Original author(s) Ray Tomlinson
Initial release 1972
Operating system TENEX

Reaper was a similar program created by Ray Tomlinson to move across the ARPANET and delete the self-replicating Creeper.[3]

Cultural impacts[edit]

The conflict between Creeper and Reaper served as inspiration for the programming game Core War,[3] while fictionalized versions of Reaper have been used as antagonists in the anime Digimon Tamers and the visual novel Digital: A Love Story.


  1. ^ a b IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, Volumes 27-28. IEEE Computer Society, 2005. 74. Retrieved from Google Books on 13 May 2011. "[...]from one machine to another led to experimentation with the Creeper program, which became the world's first computer worm: a computation that used the network to recreate itself on another node, and spread from node to node. The source code of creeper remains unknown."
  2. ^ Thomas Chen, Jean-Marc Robert (2004). "The Evolution of Viruses and Worms" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-03-02.
  3. ^ a b c John Metcalf (2014). "Core War: Creeper & Reaper". Retrieved 2014-05-01.
  4. ^ a b From the first email to the first YouTube video: a definitive internet history. Tom Meltzer and Sarah Phillips. The Guardian. 23 October 2009