Happy (Belated) 30th, Spam!

One news list that I am on with another ReveNews blogger had a message today that I thought was fairly interesting – Spam is 30 years old. The first spam message was sent on May 3rd, 1978, according to this article by Brad Templeton:


The message was sent by Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) to drum up attendance for two product presentations in California. It elicited a negative reaction from the community and apparently became a conversation piece. The post includes email commentary such as this:

I don’t see any place for advertising on the ARPAnet, however; certainly not the bulk advertising of that DEC message. From the address list, it seems clear to me that the people it was sent to were the Californians listed in the last ARPAnet directory. This was a clear and flagrant abuse of the directory!

When you go back and look at the history of companies or industries, it’s amazing to me to note that generally things started further back that you might think and that there were a lot of early companies that since fell by the wayside. For example, Mr. Templeton used to have a content site in 1989 called ClariNet.

I am reading a book right now called Founders at Work – a collection of interviews with founders and early employees at companies like Apple, Adobe, and Yahoo!. They all had competition, as early as they were, but went on to become powerful, well-known companies. Google is another example. John Battelle, author of The Search, points out that nobody thought search was what people wanted, a statement echoed by Tim Brady of Yahoo! in Founders at Work. Other companies, like Excite and Netscape, flourished briefly but are now mostly memories. Another good book (while I’m at it) on the history of the internet is Where Wizards Stay Up Late.

Not only email, but spam existed 30 years ago. Most people had no clue. I never heard of it until I went to college. It makes me wonder what other technologies might be widely in use among certain populations today that are not widely known but someday will be. And what companies will make money off those technologies by hook or by crook.

About Brook Schaaf

You can find Brook on Twitter @brookschaaf.

One Response to Happy (Belated) 30th, Spam!

  1. Evan says:

    How interesting…this is really some cool history. Nice resources also…