Spam Turns 30
May 5, 2008
Spam — the e-mail kind — actually predates the Internet. Who’d a thunk it?
Thirty years ago next week, Gary Thuerk, a marketer at the now-defunct computer firm Digital Equipment Corporation, sent an email to 393 users of Arpanet, the US government-run computer network that eventually became the internet. It was the first spam email ever.
That commercial message, sent on 3 May 1978, drew a swift and negative reaction. Recipients complained directly to Thuerk, who had made no attempt to hide his identity, and DEC was reprimanded by the Arpanet administrators.
Nevertheless, the email was a portent of things to come. Today, spam makes up 80 to 90% of all emails sent – around 120 billion messages per day – and is a multi-billion dollar industry.
Those were the days before e-mail was discovered by Nigerian princes looking for someone to help them cash their $50,000 checks. The New Scientist article also links to a blog post about Spam through the ages.