The Dancing Purple Gorilla That Ruined A Million Family Computers
Sometimes, the dawn of the internet is likened to the Wild West. As a child who spent plenty (many would say, too much) time on it, it’s not incorrect. There were shockingly few steps between logging on and seeing some deeply, deeply weird stuff. That same lack of regulation and rule also led to the Wild West internet’s own form of dysentery: what felt like hundreds of toolbars that offered, at least in theory, convenience, but were actually loaded with spyware and brought your poor Intel Celeron to a coughing crawl.
Perhaps none among them were more insidious — and felt more like a historical trojan horse — as the downloadable “helper” BonziBuddy. BonziBuddy presented it/him/themselves as a simple purple gorilla meant to be your right-hand man navigating the digital age. By his own promises, he emailed! He browsed! He searched! He even spoke to you in a stilted text-to-speech voice!
Did it work? Of course not. Bonzi took up an immense amount of real estate on your screen, and his ability to speak was also a major hindrance. Moreover, just in case you had successfully started to get used to where he was, he would suddenly swing across your screen on a vine. He would read you your emails, but in his downtime, he was endlessly changing your homepage to bonzi.com — over and over again. He would serve pop-up ads that looked exactly like actual Windows notifications with fake close buttons that didn’t work. He would ask his young, computer-loving “friends” to register in order to get updates for “lil' old me,” which included entering their home addresses.
Before long, you’d slowly realize that it was Bonzi’s computer now. Something that necessitated the download of anti-virus and anti-malware software to purge every purple strand of fur from your machine. I feel a not insignificant amount of hard drives had to be reformatted just to be sure the stench of that horrible ape was fully expunged. Computer security firms officially classified him as malware and/or adware, the equivalent of plastering his face on a wanted poster for “crimes too many to count.” BonziBuddy was officially discontinued in 2005, in what would have been a heavily attended execution should it have occurred in the flesh.
So where is he now?
Well, he's an NFT. But of course.