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Artists commemorate the worst computer viruses in history

Online gallery Computer Virus Catalog sees artists from around the world interpreting and visualising the most famous viruses to hit our hard drives.

Implant by Karborn -- Computer Virus Catalog

Some computer viruses are little more than crudely brutal assaults, while others are secretive things, works of elegance. Whichever it may have been, though, it is the rare PC user who has never been infected -- and, over the years, since the first large-scale outbreak due to the Elk Cloner, there have been many notable viruses over the years.

Curated by Amsterdam-based writer Bas van de Poel, Computer Virus Catalog is a sort of homage to those viruses -- the funny, the clever, the downright infuriating.

"They steal our files, corrupt our hard drives, and destroy our lives. We scan. We block. Do everything we can to prevent infection. Computer viruses. We hate 'em," van de Poel wrote. "Nevertheless, we remain fascinated by their evil plots. This fascination led to a new kind of art collection -- Computer Virus Catalog. The worst viruses in computer history interpreted by artists around the world."

Stuxnet by Mel Nguyen -- Computer Virus Catalog

The viruses span a period from the very first virus -- Cookie Monster in the 1960s -- to 2010, across a range of platforms (although mostly DOS and Windows).

Each of the 23 participating artists has chosen a virus and added their own interpretive spin. Techno, for instance -- a DOS virus that filled the user's screen with the word "TECHNO" while blaring out techno music -- has been interpreted by artists Nick Liefhebber and Joost as a series of rubbery, pixelated dancers on a glitch orange screen.

Another virus, Implant, illustrated by artist Karborn on a Commodore 64, showed the user a picture of a blonde woman in her underwear -- it looks a lot like an underwear ad from the 80s -- and wiped the hard drive. The rather more benign Lichen -- a program that would create trippy, lichen-inspired visuals on the monitor whenever keyboard activity stopped for more than a minute -- was reimagined by Jonathan Zawada as a cloud-like sculpture.

It's a very pleasant, funny and enlightening way to spend half an hour.

And, if Computer Virus Catalog has whet your appetite for strange computer viruses, head on over to the YouTube channel of Danooct1, a wondrous rabbit-hole where you can see all these viruses (and a whole bunch more) in action.