This is a completely uninteresting post for pretty much anyone, but me, still it’s a great part of my developer life in terms of stupid mistakes resulting in a data loss of something dear to me. This is the story of ComVir.
It happened a long long time ago when I was 11 or 12 around 1994, as I was learning Turbo Pascal. I learned all I needed to write a complete computer game by myself, so I started developing. I worked many hours, drawing graphics and writing code, and it finally started taking shape. A simple action game where you controlled a red Pac Man-like computer virus against a green background, walls built of microchips, eating files and pushing floppy disks out of the way, while running from enemies like Norton Commander, Windows and a virus scanner.
After a few weeks of work, ComVir was finally finished, complete with 21 challenging levels, a menu system with password protected level selection. It was quite a fun game to play, all enemies had distinct movement patterns and you needed great reflexes (and a bit of luck) to survive some of the harder puzzles.
I couldn’t wait to show it to my best friend, so I gave him a copy on a 3.5″ floppy.
When I got home from school, I decided to trick one of my least favourite classmates. I had the perfect plan: create a little batch file which renamed and loaded a modified version of FORMAT.COM to erase his hard drive. But instead of warning you about data loss, it would ask if you wanted to play a game. Perfect!
And so I created a copy of FORMAT.COM from my DOS directory and edited it… in Norton Commander’s text editor… then I decided to test on my PC and of course, answer with no at the prompt.
The problem was that I never got the prompt. The text editor corrupted the binary program file in such an unfortunate way that it just froze my PC, but not before it started formatting it without prompting me. And there and then, I just lost all my programs, including my first ever complete and finished game.
I of course phoned my friend right away to ask him to bring the disk back to me, but as it turned out, he already erased it and copied something else on.
And the moral of the story is…
- Don’t ever edit binary files in a text editor, especially executables!
- Don’t ever test your malicious programs on your own main computer!
- Make sure you keep proper backups of important data!
- Don’t ever be as stupid as I was! ๐