Dear Spam, Happy 30th Birthday. P.S., You Suck.
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May 1978 may not seem like an important time to you, but to the multi- billion-dollar spam industry, it’s the equivalent to the beginning of time. Kurt Kleiner of NewScientistTech reminds us that it was Gary Thuerk who sent the first spam to the 393 users of ARPANET, the original version of the Internet. Either on May 2nd or 3rd (sources vary on the specific day; a Wikipedia entry says 5/2), Mr. Thuerk sent a marketing pitch for a new computer model from his employer, Digital Equipment Corporation. And then as now, people were rather annoyed by the concept of getting such an email. Yet, it apparently resulted in some sales. Thus Internet spamming was born.
So what did the first spam look like? Amazingly, Brad Templeton of the Electronic Frontier Foundation actually has it archived. You can see the entire mail, plus the reactions it generated, at his site.
“DIGITAL WILL BE GIVING A PRODUCT PRESENTATION OF THE NEWEST MEMBERS OF THE
DECSYSTEM-20 FAMILY; THE DECSYSTEM-2020, 2020T, 2060, AND 2060T. THE
DECSYSTEM-20 FAMILY OF COMPUTERS HAS EVOLVED FROM THE TENEX OPERATING SYSTEM
AND THE DECSYSTEM-10
COMPUTER ARCHITECTURE. BOTH THE DECSYSTEM-2060T
AND 2020T OFFER FULL ARPANET SUPPORT UNDER THE TOPS-20 OPERATING SYSTEM….”
Amazing to see that not much has changed in 30 years. Amazingly this one man’s concept went from one email sent to every ARPANET user to an estimated 120 billion spam mails sent a day, costing approximately $140 billion dollars a year to fight. Course, no one should expect spam to go away anytime soon. As Mashable editor-in-chief Adam Ostrowpointed out recently, spam has even come to Twitter, showing that shameless marketing always has, and always will, keep up with the times; there is really no form of technology that is safe from such infuriating machinations.