News

Happy Birthday Spam!

| 1 May 2009 20:33

Thirty one years ago today, email spam came into existence. Is it really as bad as people think?

Back in 1978, Gary Thuerk, an aggressive DEC marketer, believed that Arpanet (as the Internet was then) was the perfect place to promote his wares; and two days later, the first message was to be sent to 600 unwilling recipients.

Why did it take two days? Well, back at that time all the email addresses had to be typed in by hand, and the poor operator wasn't quite up to date with the current technology, so the 255 character buffer didn't get all the details in the "To" box.

Or the "Cc" box.

So it flowed off into the body, cutting short the number of recipients. Replies were as you might expect:

ON 2 MAY 78 DIGITAL EQUIPMENT CORPORATION (DEC) SENT OUT AN ARPANET MESSAGE ADVERTISING THEIR NEW COMPUTER SYSTEMS. THIS WAS A FLAGRANT VIOLATION OF THE USE OF ARPANET AS THE NETWORK IS TO BE USED FOR OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT BUSINESS ONLY. APPROPRIATE ACTION IS BEING TAKEN TO PRECLUDE ITS OCCURRENCE AGAIN.

IN ENFORCEMENT OF THIS POLICY DCA IS DEPENDENT ON THE ARPANET SPONSORS, AND HOST AND TIP LIAISONS. IT IS IMPERATIVE YOU INFORM YOUR USERS AND CONTRACTORS WHO ARE PROVIDED ARPANET ACCESS THE MEANING OF THIS POLICY.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR COOPERATION.

MAJOR RAYMOND CZAHOR

CHIEF, ARPANET MANAGEMENT BRANCH, DCA

Unfortunately that didn't quite stop the spread as today 97% of our email is made up of adverts to "keep it up all night" or the ilk.

So, has there been any good to come out of spam? Surprisingly, one or two things.

The first being that Mr Thuerk has a place in the Guinness Book of World Records and now does "promotional work for anti-spam companies".

The second thing to emerge is artistry. With such a rich seam of words, there have been paintings, artwork and poetry. Or at least light verse. Which I'll share with you now.

So, it's the old spam trick: ninety-nine
new messages since you last connected.
During the scant half hour you spent offline
the tide of mail kept pouring in unchecked. It
offers strange gifts you feel you should decline,
suggests liaisons with unexpected
partners - you're promised a good time
in ways you'd never previously suspected
were possible. If you're not in your prime
they say that youth is simply resurrected
by tablets, creams or Chinese herbal wine
- any deficiency can be corrected:
"just click here".

Source: The Metro
Poetry used with permission from Gwyneth Box

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