On an evil day, 35 years ago today, a sinister pair of hands typed and sent out the first ever unsolicited bulk commercial email message—later to be known as “spam.” Gary Thuerk, then a marketing manager for the now defunct computer company Digital Equipment Corporation, sent out a single mass email to 393 recipents on ARPANET (an earlier version of the Internet), promoting his company’s new computer model.

Reaction from the ARPANET community was rightfully negative, and Thuerk was reprimanded by the network’s administrators (although, for reasons unknown and mysterious to me, they did not have him put to death). Tragically, Thuerk’s spam did produce some sales, because human beings are stupid and terrible.

The inspiration for using the term “spam” is thought to be the following Monty Python sketch in which a group of Vikings drown out all other discussion in a restaurant by singing a chorus about Spam, the processed meat food thing:


If you'd like to help CJR and win a chance at one of 10 free print subscriptions, take a brief survey for us here.

The Editors