Vol. 2, Issue 24, June 15, 2004
Bloomsday Virus Inflicts James Joyce on Mobile Phone Users
The first ever computer virus that can infect mobile phones has been discovered, anti-virus software developers said today, adding that it has the potential to render many phones virtually useless.
The French unit of the Russian security software developer Kaspersky Labs said that that virus - called Bloomsday - appears to have been developed by an international group specialising in creating literary viruses that try to "show illiterate technophiles the power of the written word."
Bloomsday takes its name from the James Joyce novel Ulysses. June 16, 1904 is the day Joyce's protagonist Leopold Bloom famously made his travels through Dublin, and is celebrated annually by bibliophiles worldwide. Ulysses parallels a story about a day in the life of an ordinary Dubliner with Homer's Odyssey.
The virus was apparently released in time for the 100th anniversary of the eponymous literary holiday. It infects the Symbian operating system that is used in several makes of mobiles, notably the Nokia brand, and propagates through the new bluetooth wireless technology that is in several new mobile phones.
If the virus succeeds in penetrating the phone, it replaces the phone's address book and stored files with the entire densely symbolic novel. It is able to scan for phones that are also using the Bluetooth technology and is able to send a copy of itself to the first handset that it finds.
"I was really freaked out when I turned on my phone and found this convoluted narrative mess crawling across my screen," said Jack Clemson, a University of Washington student who owns one of the first known infected phones. ""Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed..." I was pretty sure that wasn't my girlfriend texting me about lunch."
The textual complexities and multiple editions of Joyce's novel have fueled a great deal of scholarship in the past hundred years, and this is likely to get even more complicated since an early examination of the Bloomsday virus version has revealed it does not correspond exactly to any other extant version of the text.
"Ulysses may be the zenith of modernist writing in the novel form, but it's barely recognizable as a novel or as any other kind of writing," said Francis Harrod, of the anti-virus software developer F-Secure. "Of course the same can be said of text messaging; but nonetheless I sincerely doubt America's youth is equal to the task of sudden, unanticipated confrontation with this book. It could be extremely damaging to their minds."
Anti-virus experts are warning that this mobile phone virus is almost surely just the first of many, and that there exists a plethora of densely symbolic literature that could be inflicted on an unwary mobile phone-using public.
"James Joyce is just the first salvo," warned Harrod. "Melville, Camus, Dostoevsky, Woolf... It's only going to get uglier from here on out."