The very first spam?

The first spam is generally throught to be the message that was sent by DEC saleman Gary Thuerk to 400 unsuspecting users of the ARPANET back in 1978, but the history of spam may actually go back much further than that. Apparently as early as 1864, people were sending unsolicited commercial telegrams. Here’s how The Economist described what may be first time that this was done:

ON A May evening in 1864, several British politicians were disturbed by a knock at the door and the delivery of a telegram—a most unusual occurrence at such a late hour. Had war broken out? Had the queen been taken ill? They ripped open the envelopes and were surprised to find a message relating not to some national calamity, but to dentistry. Messrs Gabriel, of 27 Harley Street, advised that their dental practice would be open from 10am to 5pm until October. Infuriated, some of the recipients of this unsolicited message wrote to the Times. “I have never had any dealings with Messrs Gabriel,” thundered one of them, “and beg to know by what right do they disturb me by a telegram which is simply the medium of advertisement?” The Times helpfully reprinted the offending telegram, providing its senders with further free publicity.

If we can actually trace spam back to 1864, the 150th anniversary of the first spam will be here in only a few years. Could this be a good excuse for a big industry-wide event to discuss the evolution of spam and other spam-related topics?

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