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Spam Communications The Almighty Buck

How Spam Was Done 70 Years Ago 79

bitrex writes "Modern Mechanix recently ran a reprint of a 1934 article describing the problem of offshore pirate radio stations broadcasting advertisements and drowning out local, licensed radio programs. 'The primary purpose of the unlicensed broadcast station was to advertise the gambling, liquor, and other dubious pleasure activities of the ship upon which it was built ... they found other sundry rackets, such as a fortune telling program ... After numerous unsuccessful attempts of a local nature, the floating broadcasting establishment was silenced, but only after the state department at Washington, D. C, had made diplomatic representations which forced a Central American country to cancel the ship's registry.' The article also has a great artist's conception of what might be called a machine age 'data haven' bobbing in international waters in the Gulf of Mexico."
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How Spam Was Done 70 Years Ago

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  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <> on Thursday February 14, 2008 @10:12AM (#22419422) Journal

    The primary purpose of the unlicensed broadcast station was to advertise the gambling, liquor, and other dubious pleasure activities ...
    Fine, I don't need the FCC! I'm going to start my own radio station ... with blackjack ... and hookers. In fact, forget the radio station!
  • What is it about spammers and tropical areas?
    • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

      by YrWrstNtmr ( 564987 )
      What is it about spammers and tropical areas?

      If you were starting a 'business' that had no need to be near any natural resources, other manufacturers, or a financial hub, where would YOU put it? Buffalo/Cleveland/Toledo/Detroit, or somewhere warm?
      Additionally, bribes are quite a bit cheaper and easier 'down south'.
    • They're sane (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Mr. Underbridge ( 666784 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @10:27AM (#22419590)

      What is it about spammers and tropical areas?

      If you have to relocate to international waters, and you have a choice of tropical paradise or freezing your ass off somewhere in tbe North Atlantic, that's not a really tough call.

      Also, from a practical standpoint, there's just a ton of countries bordering on the Gulf/Caribbean and finding one sympathetic to your plight (or more likely, one who will take some of your money in exchange for looking the other way) shouldn't be hard. On the other hand, in the North Atlantic or in the Pacific offshore of the US all you've got is Canadia and Mexico, our good NAFTA buddies who wouldn't foster such shenanigans. At least, not for the relatively paltry sums that spammers have at their disposal (compared to, say, oil companies).

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Yvanhoe ( 564877 )
      This is the new Piracy. Spammers of the Spanish Main! Yarrrr!
    • What is it about spammers and tropical areas?
      Subtropical actually. I live less than 2 miles from the Gulf of Mexico. Hint: Highs near 80 over the weekend. What's your weekend weather look like? :-D
      • How's it in the summer? Here in central California, 80 is nice weather most of the year.
        • highs in the lower-to-mid 90s are typical. Lots of really cool lightning storms, too, but they usually only last an hour or so. There's always A/C. :-D

          • When I say 80's is nice weather, I mean that everybody is wishing for it to get down that far. High 90's and triple digits are the norm. At least it is dry heat, usually.
            • Sometimes we get a dry heat, but not usually. Humidity is somewhere in the 50-60% range, sometimes higher. At least there's a sea breeze.

              BTW--it's the storms here that make it cooler. We'd be in the triple digits if weren't for those.

    • Where else do they grow bananas? []
  • And before that (Score:5, Interesting)

    by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Thursday February 14, 2008 @10:15AM (#22419458) was done with printed playbills. That's why so many cities had to pass playbill laws to keep every huckster from posting flyers on every surface (you can still see the fading "Post no bills" paint on many old city walls).

    There is nothing new under the sun. You can always find "people being people" throughout history. And bad people are always looking for some angle to exploit the masses.

    • by sm62704 ( 957197 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @11:22AM (#22420294) Journal
      (you can still see the fading "Post no bills" paint on many old city walls).

      I need to put that on my mailbox.
      • by Mashiki ( 184564 )
        If you live in Canada you can sign up for a program called "Red Dot", postal carriers will no longer put junk mail in your box and you'll be removed from regular or in most cases most junk snail mail. []

        I'm not sure if there's a US version of this, maybe someone south of the border can post it. You do however have the DNC List which I'd be happy to have.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Justus ( 18814 )

          As far as I know there's no universal "don't send me junk mail" program, but there are a couple lists you can sign up for that will dramatically reduce the amount of junk mail you receive.

          To get rid of most "pre-approved" credit card offers, there's an official opt-out program []. This is free and it does, in fact, work.

          To get rid of a bunch of other junk mail (like catalogs etc), you can add yourself to the Direct Marketing Association's opt-out list at their website []. This used to cost a small amount ($1,

    • by UbuntuDupe ( 970646 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @12:12PM (#22421014) Journal
      Your post advocates a

      ( ) technical (X) legislative ( ) market-based ( ) vigilante

      approach to defeating the menace of playbills. Your idea will not work. Here is why it won't work. (One or more of the following may apply to your particular idea, and it may have other flaws which used to vary from state to state before FDR passed a new law.)

      ( ) Bill posters can easily use it to harvest better locations
      ( ) Billboards and other legitimate posters would be affected
      (X) No one will be able to find the knave or collect the money
      ( ) It is defenseless against brute force attacks
      ( ) It will stop playbills for two weeks and then we'll be stuck with it
      ( ) Users of large surfaces will not put up with it
      ( ) Sears will not put up with it
      ( ) The police will not put up with it
      ( ) Requires too much cooperation from playbill posters
      ( ) Requires immediate total cooperation from everybody at once
      ( ) Many postboard users cannot afford to lose business or alienate potential employers
      ( ) Playbill posters don't care about unusable surfaces in their plans
      ( ) Anyone could anonymously destroy anyone else's job or business

      Specifically, your plan fails to account for

      ( ) Laws expressly prohibiting it
      (X) Lack of centrally controlling authority for flat surfaces in public view
      (X) Undocumented aliens who post the playbills
      ( ) Ease of searching tiny set of all flat surfaces in the area
      ( ) Men of ill repute
      (X) Jurisdictional problems
      ( ) Unpopularity of fanciful new taxes
      ( ) Public reluctance to accept fanciful money not backed by gold
      ( ) Huge existing capital investment in buildings
      ( ) Susceptibility of buildings without flat surfaces to collapse
      ( ) Willingness of users to read playbills whilst passing by
      (X) Legions of unattended buildings
      ( ) Eternal arms race involved in all mointoring approaches
      ( ) Extreme profitability of playbill posting
      (X) Forgery of others' names
      ( ) Politicians ill-informed of new-fangled devices
      ( ) Extreme foolishness on the part of people who buy from playbill advertisements
      ( ) Dishonesty on the part of playbill posters themselves
      ( ) Labor costs that are unaffected by careful monitoring
      ( ) Tacks and glue

      and the following philosophical objections may also apply:

      (X) Ideas similar to yours are easy to come up with, yet none have ever been shown workable
      ( ) Any scheme based on requirement to leave the program is intolerable
      ( ) Legislation of bold message headings is not Constitutionally authorized
      ( ) Blacklists are humbug
      ( ) Whitelists are humbug
      ( ) We should be able to talk about alcohol without being censored
      ( ) Countermeasures should not involve wire fraud or check fraud
      ( ) Countermeasures should not involve sabotage of public areas
      ( ) Countermeasures must work if phased in gradually
      ( ) Posting messages should be free
      ( ) Why should we have to trust you and your file warehouses?
      (X) Jolly-good measures do nothing to solve the problem
      ( ) Temporary/one-time postal addresses are cumbersome
      ( ) Killing them that way is not tortuous enough

      Furthermore, this is what I think about you:

      (X) Sorry friend, but I don't think it would work.
      ( ) This is a confounded idea, and you're a confounded person for suggesting it.
      ( ) Nice try, knave! I shall find out where you live and burn your rental down forthright!
    • it was done with printed playbills. That's why so many cities had to pass playbill laws to keep every huckster from posting flyers on every surface (you can still see the fading "Post no bills" paint on many old city walls).

      In the UK the wording was slightly different, leading to fear and uncertainty for a few unfortunately named individuals []

    • You had people chiseling graffiti into things. I have a photo (sadly, not yet in digital format, otherwise I'd gladly post it) from the top of Notre Dame, I think, with a rough sketch of what looks like a hat, and the date, 1698! Chiseled~!
  • by techpawn ( 969834 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @10:22AM (#22419538) Journal
    I guess that gives a literal meaning to the term "pirate radio" eh?
    • I guess that gives a literal meaning to the term "pirate radio" eh?

      It seems to be a generational thing.

      This is radio clash on pirate satellite
      Orbiting your living room,
      Cashing in the bill of rights
      This is radio clash on pirate satellite
      This is radio clash everybody hold on tight

      A-riggy diggy dig dang dang

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      That's where the phrase comes from.
    • I guess that gives a literal meaning to the term "pirate radio" eh?

      It's probably the origin of the term, though I think it was popularised more by the likes of Radio Caroline, which broadcast to London from offshore in the sixties.

  • by JoeD ( 12073 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @10:28AM (#22419592) Homepage
    "New Deal Government Jobs!"

    I want me one of them.
    • Starting at $1200 a year, 3 days on and 3 days off. How can you go wrong? Maybe we're approaching this economic revival plan all wrong. Why give the people free money when we could make them work it off :)
    • by mamono ( 706685 )
      Me, too. I want to be an "Immigrant Inspector" at make $3000/year. Of course, when I first saw the ad I thought it was one of those "Work from home and make $2000/week." Then I looked again and noticed it was $2000/year. Funny how inflation changes the way you think.
    • Yeah, and back in those days the ads were for products to add inches to your chest and arms; certainly a different target from today's spam.

      Those old-time bodybuilding courses are both funny and surprisingly informative at times. You can see the "Moulding a mighty " booklets they're selling on the last page of this reprint at Sandow Plus [].
  • by Mickyfin613 ( 1192879 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @10:29AM (#22419602)
    As per Futurama - In the future, SPAM will be broadcast directly into our dreams. "That's awful!" says Fry. "It's like brainwashing." "Didn't you have ads in the 20th century?" asks Leela. "Not in our dreams!" replies Fry. "Only on TV and radio. And in magazines. And movies. And at ballgames. And on buses. And milk cartons. And t-shirts. And bananas. And written on the sky. But not in dreams! No sirree!"
  • dubious? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Quiet_Desperation ( 858215 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @10:30AM (#22419610)

    gambling, liquor, and other dubious pleasures
    There's nothing dubious about them.

    • Re:dubious? (Score:5, Funny)

      by UncHellMatt ( 790153 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @10:46AM (#22419802)
      Yes, but can you imagine what spam could be like back then, if combined with current methods?

      "L00k at th3se Ankl3s!"
      "H4wt babe shoz her SH0ULDER!"
      "Get UR sn4k3 0ilz heer. CH3APZ!"
    • Liquor? I hardly know her!
    • by sm62704 ( 957197 )
      What puritan modded that insightful comment as "funny?" I'll show you funny []. Oh, sorry, I forgot. You want this [].


      In Soviet slashdot, joke laughs at YOU
      • Puritan? I was arguing the exact opposite. They aren't dubious pleasures, they're great pleasures! Add in hookers and I'm in heaven!

        I really have to remember that the average IQ of Slashdot has fallen in recent years, and that I need to add explanatory supplements to every little quip.
        • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward
          It's quite funny that you comment on the falling intelligence of Slashdot users, right after you fail to understand the post you replied to!

          Lets see what mcgrew said, shall we?

          What puritan modded that insightful comment as "funny?"

          Now from this a few things can instantly be understood. mcgrew thought your comment was insightful, and he disagrees with the funny mod. A fraction of second thought would lead you to the conclusion that he believes that whoever modded your comment funny did so because he thought it was a joke and not insightful. That's why mcgrew

        • by sm62704 ( 957197 )
          Er, well, I don't have to comment since this guy [] said it well. You might want to reread a comment before before flaming the poster.
  • That's not spam (Score:1, Interesting)

    by sm62704 ( 957197 )
    Unlike spam, It's not written. Unlike spam, it cost them money to do. Unlike spam, it was illegal.

    Junk snail mail is more spam-like than what the article is about.

    • Oh contraire!

      I'll give you that, unlike spam, it's not written.

      Costs money? To send spam, you need a computer and an Internet connection -- to send spam effectively, you need tens of thousands of computers with Internet connections. Sending spam costs spammers money -- the returns far outweigh the costs in either case.

      Illegal? "pirate radio", as referred to in the article, is and was legal. Once you leave a country's territory (territorial waters), you are no longer subject to that country's laws.

      • by sm62704 ( 957197 )
        you need tens of thousands of computers with Internet connections

        Each and every one of which is absolutely free, thanks to the storm worm, other worms, viruses, and malware, and thanks to Microsoft's incredibly bad OS that makes such shitware easy to write.

        I'll agree that unsolicited ads are spam-like, but who solicits advertising anyway?
    • by Tablizer ( 95088 )
      Unlike spam, it was illegal.

      Note always true. English-speaking radio stations were often set up in Mexico near the US border using more power than allowed in the states, and Mexican radio laws were more lax back then than US laws.
      • by ObitMan ( 550793 )
        We heard The Mighty 690 from Tijuana up in Big Bear when i was a kid.
        I'm sure the signal was heard further north.
  • by davidwr ( 791652 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @10:50AM (#22419856) Homepage Journal
    With apologies to Billy Joel []

    Green Cards [], Spamford [], Snake Oil [], these guys [],
    Michael Lindsay [], Nigeria [], Get Rich Quick Today [].

    We didn't start the fire...
  • Spam is eternal (Score:5, Insightful)

    by El Yanqui ( 1111145 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @11:04AM (#22420034) Homepage
    The Economist had an article a month or so ago about spam over the new invention of the telegraph. Several wealthy men in London were awakened late one evening by a telegram. Believing it to be of importance, after all only something important would be sent so late, they anxiously read it.

    It was from a dentist. It was advertising his services.

    The men were outraged, obviously and started the first campaign against spam. The point is that this is hardly shocking. It's always been around, but is simply much more prevelant now with the ease of email. I remember being a kid before caller ID and call blocking and getting lots of telemarketer phone calls at our house. Sometimes we got the door to door salesmen. Times change, spam doesn't.

    I'm sure eventually we'll all get email spam problem licked. Then we'll have to deal with ads for Lightspeed Briefs beamed directly into our dreams.
    • by eln ( 21727 )
      Personally, I can deal with spam a lot easier than I can deal with junk mail, telemarketers, or door to door salesmen.

      As for eventually getting the spam problem licked, I doubt we'll ever be able to get rid of it completely. Right now, for most people it's basically reduced to the status of background noise, and I'm fine with it being there. My bulk mail folder gets hundreds of messages a day, but I only see 2 or 3 a day in my main Inbox, and that's on a Yahoo account that I've had for like 9 or 10 years
      • by knarf ( 34928 )

        Personally, I can deal with spam a lot easier than I can deal with junk mail

        Junk mail is easy. Just get a wood-burning stove and start the fire with it. If it were not for the obvious environmental negatives (both related to burning the glossy crap they throw in my mailbox as well as the transport and manufacture costs) I'd just put my address on every crap mailer's list I can find to find my winters' supply of fuel delivered for free by the mailman. Use a briquette compactor to turn the crap into nice bri

  • by LoadWB ( 592248 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @11:07AM (#22420068) Journal
    Screw the technology of broadcasting, I want to know how these pirates steadied a piano and a full lounge on a floating radio station. This design would not "float" these days: no cubicles and no manager's office.

    I notice that there are also no engineer or crew quarters. Fun lot, these pirates! And what, no Marconi and cross-bones flag?

    This seems as outlandish as some of the scare tactics used now to "warn" us about terrorism. I bet people were just as gullible then as they are now. Really, just stick to the facts, and stop making sh!t up, please.

    Not to mention the method of nailing domestic "radio pirates." The pirates claim that their meager 5w output does not cross state lines. The government uses super-high-sensitivity detection equipment to prove that the signals do indeed cross state lines. Seems a bit nit-pickish to me, as the average Joe Radio would pick up more powerful stations. But, as Bureaucrat Number 1.0 says, "you are technically correct - the best kind of correct."
    • For the obvious...and also, from the looks of it, for the use of landlubbers who haven't yet "found their sea-legs".

      "The weather started getting rough, the tiny ship was tossed..."
  • by SEWilco ( 27983 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @11:10AM (#22420120) Journal
    This is also how Wolfman Jack became famous, blasting across the Mexican border with 250,000 watts [] (legal, but five times more power than U.S. clear channel stations could use).
  • Thankfully, the power of the state has eliminated spam from the airwaves and made radio safe... for advertisers that pay better. Wait. Damn. In all seriousness, this is basically the story of how the spammers with influence over state power drove out the spammers without such influence. Is control of EMI [] really worth control by EMI []?
  • I for one would enjoy Terry Gross [] trying to sell me penis enlargement pills. In other news...
  • Heck with that, give me the pirate radio of Sealab 2021!
  • by BCW2 ( 168187 )
    Most of you youngsters never heard of Wolfman Jack but he had a show out of an outlaw AM station with offices near San Diego and the transmitter in Mexico in the 50's to avoid FCC power regs. Big force behind rock and roll. If you ever heard the ZZ Top song "I heard it on The X", that's about XROC 80 out of Juarez that gave them their first airplay. It was an overpowered FM station that had the best music in the area in the early 70s.
  • Abusing an information channel, established for other purposes, to deliver information that, eventually, could cause harm to those that established the information channel in the first place (if this is what spam is, I've just made the definition up) is what viruses have been doing with DNA for ever.
  • because according to their broadcasts, these guys had perfected a way to increase penis size with nothing but radio waves
  • Watch out for the outlaw booger on page 5!
  • A while back, the FCC almost legalized mass-band broadcasters if the range was under 50 ft. What this meant was that anyone could broadcast on all frequencies, as long as it was less than 50 ft. Now, imagine if every billboard had a built-in broadcast of the product it was trying to sell. Exactly.
  • the click-through rate was also much higher
  • This reminds me of the stories of "Border Blasters" (stations just inside Mexico) that used to crank out signals (usually directional) aimed at the United States. This was also a popular thing to do in Europe too.
  • Pirates weren't the only ones that spammed... governments spam us with numbers [] and sometimes they interfere with normal radio as well.
  • What? Illegal? The law aughta be changed i tellsya!
  • Related Links: Compare prices on Spam Software Like an antenna?

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