When the 20-somethings (now the 60-somethings) invented the Personal Computer they had no "language" to work with except the one they had -- English. So, they simply captured and cannibalized existing words to express technology of which no one could have dreamed the day they were born.
Out of this we got words now used in everyday speech, "Mouse," "bug," "keyboard," etc. One of these usages of words which came a bit later (as the result of their success, actually) was "virus."
"Virus" came into common usage because of guys working in their mother's basement wanting to prove they could destroy other people computers by creating a small piece of software which could be transmitted from one PC to another to many, many more. Thus with usage the term "virus" came into our lexicon.
Interestingly, when our son Nathan started Computer Central here in Brazil, a computer "virus" still made the news. There was a national story about some poor guy in Malaysia or some such place that the FBI tracked down. He created a virus which had done a lot of damage, and the FBI always gets their man.
By the beginning of 2013 creating a computer virus no longer makes the news, and guys in their mother's basements have found ways to make millions by sending this stuff out into the ether-land and waiting for that 1 in 10 million who will ignorantly send him money.
For your information, in our 10 years of service the Computer Central "record" for viruses on one computer is 40,796!
As with all evils going forth in the land, the good guys developed weapons of warfare to combat the spread of viruses (weapons they could sell and make them some money). These weapons are called Anti-Virus Software programs, and there are an abundance of them. So many, in fact, that if you ask 10 computer geeks which one is best you're likely to get 9 different answers -- the tenth guy is busy writing his own virus.
When it comes to Anti-Virus Software, these are some Facts to keep in mind:
If you're on the Internet you need one! You may not have gotten a flu shot and you may not get the flu as a result. But, if you don't have an Anti-Virus, you will get a computer virus sooner or later. And, like a vaccine, it won't help to get the shot once you've got the virus.
Never have more than one on you computer. Two or more (we've seen as many as five) simply fight against each other and slow down the computer.
Be sure it's kept up to date. Many people don't realize that if you don't pay every year you lose your protection.
For the past 2 years Nathan has been installing and recommending Microsoft Security Essentials as the best preventative. MSSE is free and can be set for automatic updates. But, whatever you use, you can still get the flu even if you get the "shot".
With all computer viruses there is something of an "incubation" period between when that guy in that basement can come up with a new way to get to your PC and when the Anti-Virus people can insert a "cure" into your computer. As with most things, the best defense is a good offence -- always keep your computer up-to-date with both Microsoft and your anti-virus supplier.
Finally, once you've got the bug in your computer no Anti-Virus Software yet made can remove it. Like real-life flu, you'll have to get the cure administered externally before you can prevent the next epidemic.
David L. Lewis is an observer and commentator on life who may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org