May 22, 2008
Spam Celebrates Three Decades of Demeaning SPAM’s Brand Naming
This month we celebrate the 30th anniversary of spam. No, not SPAM the (SP) iced (h)AM in a can, I’m talking about the annoying emails that can crash your computer.
Spam mail takes up 80-95% of all email sent and what's even more surprising is that we know who the first spammer was and what his first spam message said: “DIGITAL WILL BE GIVING A PRODUCT PRESENTATION OF THE NEWEST MEMBERS OF THE DECSYSTEM-20 FAMILY; THE DECSYSTEM-2020, 2020T, 2060, AND 2060T . . .” sent by Gary Thuerk in 1978 over the Arpanet, a government run ancestor of the Internet. Gary was a marketing guy (who else) that worked for the Digital Equipment Corporation, now part of HP. Thanks, Gary!
I have always wondered what the holders of the 71 year-old SPAM trademark, Hormel, think about its brand name being used to denote something we all hate. Turns out that they’re pretty darn civilized about it.
One Hormel spokesperson recently told Snugglenet that “it was best to be dignified and gracious about the entire issue . . . The company decided that instead of turning the lawyers loose we’d just assume that people can tell the difference between good canned meat and bad e-mail and that people wouldn’t confuse the two. All Hormel asks is that people not use uppercase letters when referring to spam e-mail. SPAM — all uppercase letters — is our product.”
The name spam, by the way, did not come from the Monty Python skit where a bunch of Vikings repeat the name over and over until told to shut up. According to Brad Templeton the predecessor to Thuerk’s first official spam was sent in 1971 via an ancient MIT network that read : THERE IS NO WAY TO PEACE. PEACE IS THE WAY. A far better spam mail, in my opinion, than Thuerk’s.
But in 1993, Joel Furr was the first guy to call “a spam a spam,” for a mistaken mass newsgroup posting. The name stuck, even though it had been used by other computer geeks in the MUD community (Multi-User Dungeon or more simply, a multi-player computer game) for years before that, to essentially refer to any unsavory communication floods.
So there you have it. Spam, alas, is here to stay, as is SPAM, the SPiced hAM.
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