On 3rd May 1978, a marketeer by the name of Gary Thuerk unknowingly gave birth to one of the biggest annoyances on the internet: spam email.
The email was sent via the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPAnet), a precursor to the internet that actually became the foundation for what we use today. It seems we didn’t just inherit TCP/IP packet switching tech from ARPAnet, we got the spam too.
The email itself was sent to 400 unsuspecting ARPAnet users and advertised presentations of Digital Equipment Corporation’s new DEC 2020 computer.
The full text of the email has been curated by The Museum of Email and Digital Communications and you can check it out below.
DIGITAL WILL BE GIVING A PRODUCT PRESENTATION OF THE NEWEST MEMBERS OF THE DECSYSTEM-20 FAMILY; THE DECSYSTEM-2020, 2020T, 2060, AND 2060T. THE DECSYSTEM-20 FAMILY OF COMPUTERS HAS EVOLVED FROM THE TENEX OPERATING SYSTEM AND THE DECSYSTEM-10 (PDP-10) COMPUTER ARCHITECTURE. BOTH THE DECSYSTEM-2060T AND 2020T OFFER FULL ARPANET SUPPORT UNDER THE TOPS-20 OPERATING SYSTEM. THE DECSYSTEM-2060 IS AN UPWARD EXTENSION OF THE CURRENT DECSYSTEM 2040 AND 2050 FAMILY. THE DECSYSTEM-2020 IS A NEW LOW END MEMBER OF THE DECSYSTEM-20 FAMILY AND FULLY SOFTWARE COMPATIBLE WITH ALL OF THE OTHER DECSYSTEM-20 MODELS.
WE INVITE YOU TO COME SEE THE 2020 AND HEAR ABOUT THE DECSYSTEM-20 FAMILY AT THE TWO PRODUCT PRESENTATIONS WE WILL BE GIVING IN CALIFORNIA THIS MONTH. THE LOCATIONS WILL BE:
TUESDAY, MAY 9, 1978 – 2 PM
HYATT HOUSE (NEAR THE L.A. AIRPORT)
LOS ANGELES, CA
THURSDAY, MAY 11, 1978 – 2 PM
DUNFEY’S ROYAL COACH
SAN MATEO, CA
(4 MILES SOUTH OF S.F. AIRPORT AT BAYSHORE, RT 101 AND RT 92)
A 2020 WILL BE THERE FOR YOU TO VIEW. ALSO TERMINALS ON-LINE TO OTHER DECSYSTEM-20 SYSTEMS THROUGH THE ARPANET. IF YOU ARE UNABLE TO ATTEND, PLEASE FEEL FREE TO CONTACT THE NEAREST DEC OFFICE FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE EXCITING DECSYSTEM-20 FAMILY.
Something interesting to note is that, while the email was sent on 1st May 1978, folks only received said email on 3rd May. Thuerk told Computerworld in 2007 that he thought of the email as e-marketing.
“We wanted to reach as many as people as possible to let them know about our new product. It was coming out Dec. 20 of that year, and we didn’t want to send invitations,” said the father of spam.
So today we think it would be appropriate to hop into your spam email, pick one at random and send it along to a friend.
Actually on second thought don’t do that.
According to statistics portal Statista, in December 2016 61.33% of global email traffic was spam email.
So let’s rather not add to the problem then.