1st spam email is sent, May 3, 1978

-May 03, 2017

The first unsolicited bulk commercial email (commonly known today as “spam”) was sent by a Digital Equipment Corp marketing representative to every ARPANET address on the west coast of the United States on May 3, 1978.

The message promoted the availability of a new model of computer and was sent by Gary Thuerk to 393 recipients. Thuerk asked his assistant to send the single, mass email, opposed to sending a separate message to each person. Reaction from the recipients was reportedly negative, but the spam did generate some sales.

The first known electronic chain letter, with the subject header Make Money Fast, would invade inboxes 10 years later in 1988.

In 2009, the majority of spam email sent around the world were in the English language. According to a 2011 Cisco report, the highest volume of email spam originates from India (at about 13%), followed by Russia (9%), and Vietnam (8%).

The term “spam” in connection with Internet abuses is said to be tied to a 1970 Monty Python's Flying Circus sketch based on a café that served SPAM, the canned spiced ham, to patrons whether they wanted it or not.

Hormel Foods Corp, which first sold SPAM in 1937, has taken some companies to court over their use of the term “spam,” but overall does not object. The company has, however, asked that SPAM in all capitalized letters be reserved for its ham product. 

For more moments in tech history, see this blog. EDN strives to be historically accurate with these postings. Should you see an error, please notify us.

Editor's note: This article was originally posted on May 3, 2013 and edited on May 3, 2017.

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