billions of pesky, unwanted emails are sent out weekly promising everything from free handbags, larger body parts and financial freedom... but where did it come from? Where did SPAM actually begin?
The origin of SPAM was recently traced back to 1978 and Gary Thuerk, a marketing person that really wanted to inform the public that his company, the Digital Equipment Corporation, was going to launch a new and powerful computer system.
The company operated out of an old wool mill in Maynard, Massachusetts and was well known on the East Coast, but Thuerk knew that he needed to get his message to the technology related community in California. His method was to utilize "Arpanet" a network of government and university computers that had a couple thousand users.
Thuerk compiled a list of around 600 people he wanted to send his message to and knew that it would take way too much time to send each message separately and that's when the idea hit him...
WHY NOT USE THE NETWORK TO SEND ALL OF THE MESSAGES OUT AT ONCE?
His message " We invite you to come see the 2020 and hear about the DECSystem-20 family " was prepared for delivery and as he pushed that send button... SPAM was born.
Recipients reacted similarly to how they react to SPAM today... with anger. They complained that he had abused the system and should be punished. Administrators of Arpanet did reprimand Thuerk but not before his SPAM blast helped his company sell more than 20 systems at over one million dollars each... sound familiar?
Spam has exploded since that time and has (unfortunately) become a part of almost everyone's daily experience with the internet. SPAM moguls send out billions of messages and make billions of dollars. Some are reprimanded and fined or punished in other ways but it's always too late, the damage has already been done and they've already made their money.
The sad part is that apparently, SPAM works or it would not be used so often and so heavily. For every one of us that deletes a SPAM message that promises a larger penis there are a few others that click the ad and buy the product. For every one of us that erases a message from Pakistan promising massive amounts of money in exchange for bank transfers there are several others who gladly send in their banking information, hoping to get rich.
The only say SPAM will ever stop is if we stop responding to it... and well, even then it may continue. SPAM, the digital equivalent to a cockroach that even after a nuclear war wipes out all life form on the Earth survives may be with us for the long haul... a very long, long, time.
Electronic junk mail or junk newsgroup postings. Some people define spam even more generally as any unsolicited e-mail. However, if a long-lost brother finds your e-mail address and sends you a message, this could hardly be called spam, even though it's unsolicited. Real spam is generally e-mail advertising for some product sent to a mailing list or newsgroup.
In addition to wasting people's time with unwanted e-mail, spam also eats up a lot of network bandwidth. Consequently, there are many organizations, as well as individuals, who have taken it upon themselves to fight spam with a variety of techniques. But because the Internet is public, there is really little that can be done to prevent spam, just as it is impossible to prevent junk mail. However, some online services have instituted policies to prevent spammers from spamming their subscribers.
There is some debate about the source of the term, but the generally accepted version is that it comes from the Monty Python song, "Spam spam spam spam, spam spam spam spam, lovely spam, wonderful spam…" Like the song, spam is an endless repetition of worthless text. Another school of thought maintains that it comes from the computer group lab at the University of Southern California who gave it the name because it has many of the same characteristics as the lunchmeat Spam:
Nobody wants it or ever asks for it.
No one ever eats it; it is the first item to be pushed to the side when eating the entree.
Sometimes it is actually tasty, like 1% of junk mail that is really useful to some people.