Spam Wars - Rise of the Spam
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Spam is one of the biggest problems to Internet users these days. It is not as malicious as other online threats, but it is very frustrating to always re-define spam filters and to delete all that unwanted e-mail. This is the first part in the series of articles, where I will try to look on the spam trough several different perspectives. For the opening article, what would be better than to talk about history of spam.

The making of Spam

SPAM is a registered trademark of Hormel Foods. The name it self came from their food product line: Shoulder Pork and hAM SPiced hAM. The biggest step in making SPAM an evil word was the legendary crew from UK's hit series Monty Python's Flying Circus. In of their cult episodes they presented The SPAM Sketch. It went something like this:

(Guy enters a dining room wanting something for breakfast)

Mr. Bun: Morning.
Waitress: Morning.
Mr. Bun: Well, what you got?
Waitress: Well, there's egg and bacon; egg, sausage and bacon; egg and spam; egg, bacon and spam; egg, bacon, sausage and spam; spam, bacon, sausage and spam; spam, egg, spam, spam, bacon and spam; spam, sausage, spam, spam, spam, bacon, spam, tomato and spam; spam, spam, spam, egg and spam; (Vikings start singing in background) spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, baked beans, spam, spam, spam and spam.
Vikings: Spam, spam, spam, spam, lovely spam, lovely spam.

From when this sketch was shown on the TV, spam started to be a substitute word for something that is always repating and in its repeating becomes boring.

If we look at Merriam-Webster dictionary for the word spam:

Main Entry: spam
Pronunciation: 'spam
Function: noun
Etymology: from a skit on the British television series Monty Python's Flying Circus in which chanting of the word Spam (trademark for a canned meat product) overrides the other dialogue
Date: 1994
: unsolicited usually commercial E-mail sent to a large number of addresses

Spam historical moments:

1) MUD

Let's do the introduction to MUD. It stands for Multi-User Dungeon, Multi-User Domain, or Multi-User Dimension. MUD is an online environment where multiple users are logged on and interacting with one and other. Brad's research of spam origins brought him to the MUD community in the late 1980's. The term spamming got used to apply to a few different behaviours in those circles. One was to flood the computer with too much data to crash it. Another was to "spam the database" by having a program create a huge number of objects, rather then creating them by hand.

The term was sometimes used to mean flooding a chat session with a bunch of lines of text inserted by a an automatic program or just using the content of the desired file.

2) DEC spam

This was the first commercial spam, and it took place in 1978. That year DEC announced a new computer entitled DEC-20. As an extension to their marketing campaign, they got a hold of great number of ARPANET addresses from the people situated on the west coast of United States of America, and sent their marketing brochure to all those addresses they had. Finally, ARPANET saw this as an offence of their policy and a message was sent out, to remind people that this is not the way and that it won't be tolerated in the future.

As I read few of the old spam related threads, there is a transcript that shows that even young Richard Stallman was defending spam in his reactions to DEC spam.

3) jj@cup.portal.com spam

This spam is noted as the first spam that hit the USENET groups. About 14 years ago (24.05.1988) Rob Noha, using the account JJ@cup.portal.com sent a message titled "HELP ME!" to a great number of available news groups. Thanks to Google, his message can be still read online:

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