Happy spamversary

Spam-mail celebrates its 30th Anniversary this week. The first piece of mass junk e-mail was sent three decades ago, to the 393 users of the Arapnet system, by a marketeer named Gary Thuerk.
On a related note, it is more than a decade since I personally introduced the concept of spam e-mailing to the innocent readers of The Times:

Tackling Junk Mail – 28th July 1997
From Mr Robert Sharp
Dear Sir, Sir Edward Peck complains of junk mail via his fax (letter, July 19).
I believe the newest form of junk mail is that received by e-mail. I have been “on line” for a matter of days, yet I have already recieved 11 unsolicited e-mails.
While this type of intrusion is perhaps the easiest to dispose of, my hopes are dashed when I find that the eagerly awaited “new mail” is only junk mail from the United States, advertising, for example, sunglasses.
Yours etc
Robert Sharp
July 19

Re-reading that letter, I see no mention of any formula to “make her faint when she sees your enormous schlong,” so I suppose I must have been fairly innocent too.

4 Replies to “Happy spamversary”

  1. Ah, but Robert. You further display your innocence. Have you really no idea what is meant by the term “sunglasses”?
    I am surprised that a man as cosmopolitan and, dare I say it, widely published as your yourself should be so out of touch with popular culture.

  2. I used to feel especially annoyed to receive spam email for viagra and penis enlargements, on the grounds that they hadn’t even bothered to find out that I was female, or whether I was a child. Now though, I’ve got over that, and simply feel the same feeling that I get when I see adverts for other things I’m not in the market for, such as pot noodles.
    On reading this post, however, I can’t help wondering how male people feel when they get this type of spam. For me, the “your” clearly doesn’t refer to me, but I guess this isn’t so for the blokes. I don’t think I would like to receive unsolicited email that referred to my personal organs.
    Also, it seems to be taken as read that the war against spam has been lost, owing to sheer volume. But I wonder what would happen if spammers started blanketing the internet with ideological spam, say racism, or other forms of hate speech, or something a bit terrorist-ish?

  3. Clarice,
    An eminently sensible response to a thoroughly flippant comment from me. It’s always good to have people to raise the tone. 🙂
    As regards racism etc, it’s an interesting hypothetical. I’ll tell you WHY it doesn’t happen – money. Most spammers either want to sell stuff or to scam money out of you by pretending to sell you stuff. Further, it’s a fairly expensive business running a spambot network with sufficient volume to generate any level of return.
    Racist nastiness doesn’t have that money-generating property and terrorist nastiness is normally trying to keep under cover rather than broadcasting.
    As for the prevailing subject matter for spam, I do indeed get mightily offended. How dare they insinuate my pot noodle isn’t big or satisfying enough.

  4. Yes, you’re right about the money, but I’m sure there is big money behind a lot of ideological nastiness that would dearly love to spread itself.
    (ps sorry to hear about your pot noodle)

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