A rogue computer program broke loose and spread uncontrollably. By the end of its rampage, the virus conquered a full ten percent of the world's internet-connected machines. An unfathomable 6,000 computers had crashed.

Twenty-five years ago today, the Morris worm's path of destruction began. As it turned out, the damage was unintentional — Robert Morris, the Cornell student who wrote the program, never intended to wreak havoc on the nascent Internet. But a few coding errors turned his program into a self-replicating killing machine, and Cold War paranoia swiftly followed. Listen to this Boston evening news reporter explaining this fearsome new threat to an innocent world:

It's not really a virus, it's a code, a set of instructions. An act of sabotage that started on a floppy disk. This virus spreads by disk and by telephone, it's just a call away, and like a virus it replicates like crazy.

All of this seems quaint now, of course — today, an unintentionally-created virus that only spread to 6,000 computers would hardly warrant reporting. But whether or not he intended it, Morris and his worm brought computer virus phobia to the general public. Considering how often a new virus comes along and flares up our collective paranoia, it's safe to say this fear will never be cured. [Mashable]