In hacker jargon “forkbomb” refers to a piece of code that operates through a “fork reaction” where one running process generates other running processes and so on ad infinitum. Eventually the processes will overload the operating system which they are working on, bringing it to a halt, similar to when the common user runs too many applications at the same time and ends up with a frozen screen. For hackers it is an art – and a sport – to write elegantly, i.e. simple and effective code and the forkbomb is one of the most popular “genres” in that regard. With its just 13 characters (including spaces) Forkbomb shell by Jaromil written for the UNIX terminal is a piece of code poetry continuing rebelious literary traditions and activities of structural subversion within a free software context. It is if not the shortest forkbomb possible, certainly an easy-to-apply script. Unlike the majority of the viruses permeating the Internet, anyone – also common users without profound knowledge of operating systems or computer networks – can type in the characters and experience the effect. To spread the word beyond the specialised circles of hacker culture Jaromil has distributed his forkbomb in “off-line” space, for instance using viral distribution strategies involving t-shirts, but also presenting it as a wall painting.
Read jaromil's own text on the work - jaromil.dyne.org/journal/forkbomb.html
Image: Jaromil. Forkbomb shell