In the history, the first known case of spam in its current sense – the mass mailing of advertisement message - occurred back in 1864. The Western Union, a leader in the market of international transfers, gave the go-ahead for the simultaneous dispatch of messages by telegraph to any destinations available to this technology.
One cunning man Messrs Gabriel took the advantage of the situation. He sent a message to several British politicians that his dental office would work from 10 to 17 until October. Of course, high-ranking personalities, to whom a messenger with an urgent telegram knocked at the door in the same time interval, were, to put it mildly, surprised. They expected an urgent message about, let’s say, the Queen's illness and other matters of national importance, and instead, breaking the envelopes, they received the world's first spam, although the word itself was invented much later.
SPAM Is Not What It Seems
It is hard to believe, but the word "spam" exists more than 80 years old. Its story began not with the invention of the Internet, as one might think, but much earlier – yet in 1936, when the American food company Hormel Foods Corporation registered a new trading unit called SPAM. This acronym was deciphered as spiced ham. In fact, it was nowhere near ham – this product was rather low-quality sausage meat with spices.
SPAM appeared in the diet of ordinary Americans but gained its "popularity" during the Second World War when Hormel Foods Corporation signed a contract with the US Army to supply this product to US soldiers. During the war, an enormous amount of canned food was produced which have not become too popular in the ranks of the military.
The war was over, the expiration date of SPAM was coming to an end and it was necessary to do something with its reserves. To get out of the situation without huge losses, Hormel Foods launched an advertising campaign of unprecedented scale at that time for this canned food. SPAM penetrated into the pages of all newspapers, broadcasts, and television. Huge posters with its image "decorated" the walls of residential buildings. Storefronts, boards of public transport, and even ships – everything was covered with the advertisement of canned goods of poor quality.
As a result, a more prosperous stratum of Americans was up in arms against this product. However, it found its place among war-ravaged European countries, among them were the UK. As time went on, the military wounds on the body of the society gradually skinned over, and the ubiquitous SPAM eventually got even to prim and restrained UK residents.
Is It Monty Python?
Best of all, this anger and irritation were reflected by the legendary English comic band Monty Python. In one of the sketches of their series "Monty Python's Flying Circus" in 1969, which was called "SPAM," these brilliant comedians managed to portray the whole absurdity of the situation.
The point of the sketch is that spouses, typical English, go to a cafe where almost all dishes contain the very American sausage meat. The waitress reminds visitors about this, repeatedly saying the name "SPAM." When visitors asked to bring them something "without SPAM," the waitress offered a compromise: a dish with a small amount of SPAM. The indignation of visitors is interrupted by sitting in the cafe Vikings with horned helmets that sing an improvised song consisting of the word "SPAM." In total, the name of sausage meat is mentioned 108 times during the three-minute sketch. The classic Monty Python absurdity thus became an excellent reflection of the extent to which the English are fed up with SPAM.
The Letters of Happiness
Each of us at least once (usually, much more times) received such a "letter of happiness." Details and style varied, but the plot remained unchanged: it was offered to send this letter right after reading to a few close people and then a real miracle will happen.
There were (and still are) selfish motives in letters of happiness. Some, in his own words, the African prince decided, theoretically speaking, to get closer to the people and give away his wealth to any Tom, Dick or Harry. Somehow in an incomprehensible way, he has found you and offered a million dollars. But in order to get this million, you need a mere trifle: to transfer some insignificant sum of money to a certain account. Or, for example, the tactic "help, I have cancer!" is also commonly used to evoke an emotional response.
This psychological attack on the immature consciousness of the Internet user has its roots. The pioneer of "letters of happiness" is Dave Rhodes. In 1988, he attacked users of the computer network Usenet (a prototype of the modern Internet) with his letter, remembered in the history as "Make Money Fast." At present, there is no clear information about this personality, but according to the legend, it was a student of Columbia Union College, the educational institution of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Maryland, who decided to cunningly recover his fortunes.
In the letter, "Dave" proposed a scheme of the classical financial pyramid: the text contained a list of names and addresses that had to be sent off a dollar. The system of personal enrichment was as follows: after sending money, it is necessary to replace the name and address with your own and send the "letter of happiness" to as many people as possible. Different texts of the letter of "Dave Rhodes" with the same message (get rich with the help of the financial pyramid) appeared and circulated in Usenet in huge quantities, and as a result, the users of the network compared them to SPAM. Thus, the word "spam" acquired its modern meaning.
Other two key spam incidents also occurred in the Usenet network in 1994. On January 18, Clarence L. Thomas, a system administrator in Andrews University, spammed the newsgroups of the network with a message called "Global Alert for All: Jesus is Coming Soon." It was a fundamentalist religious treatise, the point of which was that "the history of mankind came to its culmination and soon we will be able to observe the coming of Jesus Christ."
On April 12, a spam attack was already organized for business purposes. Spouses-lawyers Laurence Canter and Martha Siegel sent a mass advertisement of their own legal services for obtaining a free green card for immigrants in all news groups of Usenet. The most interesting thing is that these people indicated their real names in the spam message – they were probably proud of being the first to find out and use the commercial potential of spam for their own purposes. Roughly in this form, spam began its victorious (and notorious) procession across the planet.