Alex McLean 2001 is a piece of code alongside a series of outputs on paper. A forkbomb is a computer process that follows a simple procedure, initiating further procedures in sequence and simultaneously until the computer system is overwhelmed and crashes. Forkbombs are well known among programmers, who sometimes create them by accident. Equally, writing an elegant and efficient forkbomb code is a respected art. Although it is a short, ten-line Perl script code, Alex McLean’s code (shown) creates an unusually complex forkbomb. When executed it gradually overloads and disables the computer system, printing out a series of 0s and 1s that, through pattern, visualise the state of the system during its descent into disorder. Different systems create different patterns when under strain.


Perl script computer code with paper output


Thinking Out Loud
July 2016 - March 2017 at the Open Data Institute

Data Type


About the Artist

Alex has been active across the digital arts since the year 2000, co-founding the TOPLAP live coding and Algorave movements, and collaborating widely on hundreds of performances and events around the world. He is a researcher, completing his PhD…
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