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Today in History: The First Spam Email Ever Sent

On May 3, 1978, the Internet witnessed a glorious and not particularly welcome birth: The first ever spam email. Gary Thuerk, a marketer for the Digital Equipment Corporation, blasted out his message to 400 of the 2600 people on ARPAnet, the DARPA-funded so-called “first Internet.” Naturally: He was selling something. (Computers, or more specifically, information about open houses where people could check out the computers.) He annoyed a lot of people. And he also had some success, with a few recipients interested in what he was pushing. And thus, spam was born.

Here’s the text of that glorious first-ever message: (bonus points for being in all caps)

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 <PDP-10> COMPUTER ARCHITECTURE. BOTH THE DECSYSTEM-2060T

AND 2020T OFFER FULL ARPANET SUPPORT UNDER THE TOPS-20 OPERATING SYSTEM.

THE DECSYSTEM-2060 IS AN UPWARD EXTENSION OF THE CURRENT DECSYSTEM 2040

AND 2050 FAMILY. THE DECSYSTEM-2020 IS A NEW LOW END MEMBER OF THE

DECSYSTEM-20 FAMILY AND FULLY SOFTWARE COMPATIBLE WITH ALL OF THE OTHER

DECSYSTEM-20 MODELS.

 

WE INVITE YOU TO COME SEE THE 2020 AND HEAR ABOUT THE DECSYSTEM-20 FAMILY

AT THE TWO PRODUCT PRESENTATIONS WE WILL BE GIVING IN CALIFORNIA THIS

MONTH. THE LOCATIONS WILL BE:

 

TUESDAY, MAY 9, 1978 – 2 PM

HYATT HOUSE (NEAR THE L.A. AIRPORT)

LOS ANGELES, CA

 

THURSDAY, MAY 11, 1978 – 2 PM

DUNFEY’S ROYAL COACH

SAN MATEO, CA

(4 MILES SOUTH OF S.F. AIRPORT AT BAYSHORE, RT 101 AND RT 92)

 

A 2020 WILL BE THERE FOR YOU TO VIEW. ALSO TERMINALS ON-LINE TO OTHER

DECSYSTEM-20 SYSTEMS THROUGH THE ARPANET. IF YOU ARE UNABLE TO ATTEND,

PLEASE FEEL FREE TO CONTACT THE NEAREST DEC OFFICE

FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE EXCITING DECSYSTEM-20 FAMILY.

This, by the way, is what a DECSYSTEM-20 looked like:

Being on ARPAnet, that first spam message inspired a swift crackdown from the governing authorities and inspired much contemplation among the tiny community on the ‘Net at the time. Richard Stallman: “Nobody should be allowed to send a message with a header that long, no matter what it is about.” If only they knew what was in store…

(title image via Denver Post and made by Le Bakery Sensual.)

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