This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Saturday, 2 November 2019

Saturday Rave: The Morris Worm.

The Morris Worm came into being in 1988. It was named after its summoner, Robert Tappan Morris, and also after the Great Worms (we'd probably call them dragons) of JRR Tolkien.

(You can see an illustration by Wouter Florusse of one of the Tolkien worms, Scatha, HERE.)

The Morris Worm (suddenly Morris sounds a very unlikely name for a dragon) caused a great deal of dragonish havoc and destruction, but that was a mistake (though the idea that anyone can control a worm of any kind is, of course, laughable).

The Morris Worm (or Great Worm as it is sometimes called) was a piece of computer code designed to show up how easy it was to breach the security of the very early internet. 

In this is was completely successful. Unfortunately Robert Tappan Morris made a mistake when he designed the structure of his worm. This meant that each computer could be infected many times, and each time it was infected the machine ran a little slower. 

It didn't take long before about ten per cent of the machines connected to the internet had been dragged to a halt.

Robert Tappan Morris, cunningly, had launched the worm from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (he was actually studying at Cornell) but he was soon nabbed, fined, given a community service order, and put on probation.

The Morris Worm, although it caused a lot of worry and inconvenience, turned out in the end to be not altogether a bad thing. It did make everyone sit up and take notice and think about on line security.

And what happened to Robert Tappan Morris? Well, he wasn't daunted by his experience. He went on to found a software company which he sold in 1998 for $49 million, and later became a professor at MIT.

He's still running computer companies. He's only fifty three. 

But I think he's keeping away from dragons, nowadays.

Word To Use Today: worm. The Old English form of this word was wyrm. The history of the word goes right back to the Greek word romos which means, rather embarrassingly for present-day dragons, woodworm.

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