Around 1980/81, a car-pool buddy told me of a story that he had read about a computer virus that constantly evolving. I vaguely remember that it's human programmer had created several early variants that weren't self-sustaining but as they 'died' he would add new characteristics - self-replicating, mirror real code to escape detection, and eventually self-modifying so it could learn and adapt on its own. I don't remember the title or author (or friend, for that matter) but it was the earliest I had heard of a computer virus that evolved. Any thoughts?

  • 1
    Nope - definitely could not have been "ME" which was published around 1999. Much earlier than that.
    – Neutronned
    Commented Jan 27, 2017 at 0:39

1 Answer 1


That's not much to go on (there are probably many stories that match your description) but given the timeframe my bet would be The Adolescence of P-1 (1977) by Thomas Joseph Ryan.

From the Wikipedia article:

After reading a Scientific American article on game theory outlining how to teach matchboxes to play tic-tac-toe, he becomes interested in using artificial intelligence techniques to crack systems. After manually cracking the university's 360, he sets aside a portion of memory to experiment in, calling it "P-1", suitably cryptic so operators would not notice it. He then uses this area of memory as an experimental scratchpad to develop a program known as The System. The System follows any telecommunications links it can find to other computers, attempting to compromise them in the same way, and remembering failed attempts to tune future attacks. If successful, The System sets up another P-1 on that computer, and injects itself and everything it has learned so far into it.


Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.