Creeper (program)

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TypeComputer worm[1]
Author(s)Bob Thomas
Operating system(s) affectedTENEX

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 release1972
Operating systemTENEX

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

Cultural impact[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. A humanized Creeper has also appeared in the webcomic Internet Explorer, alongside the likewise personified Morris Worm.[5]


  1. ^ a b IEEE Annals of the History of Computing. Volumes 27–28. IEEE Computer Society. 2005. p. 74. [...]from one machine to another led to experimentation with the Creeper program, which became the world's first computer virus: 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 31 July 2019.
  3. ^ a b c John Metcalf (2014). "Core War: Creeper & Reaper". Retrieved 1 May 2014.
  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
  5. ^ Merryweatherey (w), Princess Hinghoi (a). {{{title}}} Ep. 51: n/a ({{{date}}}), retrieved on 2019-12-18