The Algorithm Auction

The Algorithm Auction is the world's first auction of computer algorithms.[1] Created by Ruse Laboratories, the initial auction featured seven lots and was held at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum on March 27, 2015.[2]

Five lots were physical representations of famous code or algorithms, including a signed, handwritten copy of the original Hello, World! C program by its creator Brian Kernighan on dot-matrix printer paper, a printed copy of 5,000 lines of Assembly code comprising the earliest known version of Turtle Graphics, signed by its creator Hal Abelson, a necktie containing the six-line qrpff algorithm capable of decrypting content on a commercially produced DVD video disc, and a pair of drawings representing OKCupid’s original Compatibility Calculation algorithm, signed by the company founders.[3] The qrpff lot sold for $2,500.[4]

Two other lots were “living algorithms,” including a set of JavaScript tools for building applications that are accessible to the visually impaired and the other is for a program that converts lines of software code into music.[5] Winning bidders received, along with artifacts related to the algorithms, a full intellectual property license to use, modify, or open-source the code.[6] All lots were sold, with Hello World receiving the most bids.[7]

Exhibited alongside the auction lots were a facsimile of the Plimpton 322 tablet on loan from Columbia University, and Nigella, an art-world facing computer virus named after Nigella Lawson and created by cypherpunk and hacktivist Richard Jones.[8]

Sebastian Chan, Director of Digital & Emerging Media at the Cooper–Hewitt,[9] attended the event remotely from Milan, Italy via a Beam Pro telepresence robot.[10]


Following the auction, the Museum of Modern Art held a salon titled The Way of the Algorithm highlighting algorithms as "a ubiquitous and indispensable component of our lives."[11]


  1. ^ "The Algorithm Auction". Artsy. Artsy. Retrieved 22 April 2015.
  2. ^ Turner, Zeke (23 March 2015). "Beautiful Code". The New Yorker. Condé Nast. Retrieved 22 April 2015.
  3. ^ Johnson, Phil. "Coming to an art gallery near you: Software code". ITworld. IDG Enterprise. Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 22 April 2015.
  4. ^ Hotz, Robert Lee (27 May 2015). "What's Hot in the Art World? Algorithms". The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company. Retrieved 19 June 2015.
  5. ^ Stinson, Liz. "The First Auction for Algorithms Is Attracting $1,000 Bids". Wired. Condé Nast. Retrieved 22 April 2015.
  6. ^ "Anthony Ferraro – Hypothetical Beats". Artsy. Artsy. Retrieved 22 April 2015.
  7. ^ Spilka, Simone (27 March 2015). "Algorithm Auction Proves Code is Art". PSFK. Retrieved 22 April 2015.
  8. ^ "The Algorithm Auction Press Release". Artsy. Ruse Laboratories. 19 March 2015. Retrieved 22 April 2015.
  9. ^ simonsc (9 September 2013). "Meet the Staff: Sebastian Chan". Cooper Hewitt. Smithsonian. Retrieved 22 April 2015.
  10. ^ "Beam Pro Robot-mosphere". BFA. Retrieved 22 April 2015.
  11. ^ Antonelli, Paola. "The Way of the Algorithm". MoMA R&D. Retrieved 19 June 2015.