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39 Years Ago The World's First Spam Was Sent (mercurynews.com) 60

An anonymous reader write: Wednesday was the 39th anniversary of the world's first spam, sent by Gary Thuerk, a marketer for Massachusetts' Digital Equipment Corporation in 1978 to over 300 users on Arpanet. It was written in all capital letters, and its body began with 273 more email addresses that wouldn't fit in the header. The DEC marketer "was reportedly trying to flag the attention of the burgeoning California tech community," reports the San Jose Mercury News. The message touted two demonstrations of the DECSYSTEM-20, a PDP-10 mainframe computer.

An official at the Defense Communication Agency immediately called it "a flagrant violation of the use of Arpanet as the network is to be used for official U.S. government business only," adding "Appropriate action is being taken to preclude its occurence again." But at the time a 24-year-old Richard Stallman -- then a graduate student at MIT -- claimed he wouldn't have reminded receiving the message...until someone forwarded him a copy. Stallman then responded "I eat my words... Nobody should be allowed to send a message with a header that long, no matter what it is about."
The article reports that today the spam industry earns about $200 million each year, while $20 billion is spent trying to block spam. And the New York Times even has a quote from the DEC employee who sent that first spam. "People either say, 'Wow! You sent the first spam!' or they act like I gave them cooties."
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39 Years Ago The World's First Spam Was Sent

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  • by twdorris ( 29395 ) on Saturday May 06, 2017 @01:01PM (#54368213)

    [quote]Thuerk prefers to receive e-mail from people he has cleared first.[/quote]
    Funny that.

    • by twdorris ( 29395 )

      [quote]Thuerk prefers to receive e-mail from people he has cleared first.[/quote]
      Funny that.

      LOL...even better that I screwed up quoting it.

  • Maybe I've been watching too many WolfePit videos, but I wasn't thinking email.

    • Why would anyone mod this down as overrated? Slashdot's getting creepy as hell lately.

      • Maybe they didn't want any off-topic cultural references? Perhaps it simply shows the quality of your character.

        If I was modding, I'd mod down your whine, too. Never whine about mods.

        • When I was told in 2012 that Slashdot's dying, I didn't believe it. I do now...

          Fark takes the lead then.. ew.

          • You're just a new kid, how would you have any idea if the slashdot culture had lived or died?

            There was a time before you were born when we would have downvoted that shit just for mentioning a video and not a manual, book, or transcript. But even now we're at least sophisticated enough to downvote a reference to some pop culture shit that you point at to try to look cool.

            You didn't even say wtf your stupid video is about. So don't talk about it. Don't make hanging references to pop culture bullshit because t

            • Jesus you're still here? I was looking for advice and you puked all over the dining table. Your sub-100K UID and a dollar will buy you a Coke.
              Spam the meat came before spam the junkmail term and I was referencing that, Senor Me-too. May you live forever.

              • Sorry, while you were busy throwing up you must have clicked on the wrong reply link. You didn't ask for advice, you only made a stupid comment about slashdot dying. Which was an old, tired thing to say before you ever signed up.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Sounds like a business model only anti-virus vendors would love. Or Republicans.

  • 200M vs. 20B (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gweihir ( 88907 ) on Saturday May 06, 2017 @01:18PM (#54368273)

    One of the best definitions of "evil" is to accept a large damage to somebody else for a relatively small personal gain. Why are we tolerating these people on this planet again?

    • by sexybomber ( 740588 ) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <oniliccob>> on Saturday May 06, 2017 @04:06PM (#54368857)

      Your post advocates a

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

      approach to fighting spam. 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 a bad federal law was passed.)

      ( ) Spammers can easily use it to harvest email addresses
      ( ) Mailing lists and other legitimate email uses would be affected
      ( ) No one will be able to find the guy or collect the money
      ( ) It is defenseless against brute force attacks
      ( ) It will stop spam for two weeks and then we'll be stuck with it
      ( ) Users of email will not put up with it
      ( ) Microsoft will not put up with it
      (x) The police will not put up with it
      ( ) Requires too much cooperation from spammers
      (x) Requires immediate total cooperation from everybody at once
      ( ) Many email users cannot afford to lose business or alienate potential employers
      ( ) Spammers don't care about invalid addresses in their lists
      (x) Anyone could anonymously destroy anyone else's career or business

      Specifically, your plan fails to account for

      (x) Laws expressly prohibiting it
      ( ) Lack of centrally controlling authority for email
      ( ) Open relays in foreign countries
      ( ) Ease of searching tiny alphanumeric address space of all email addresses
      (x) Asshats
      ( ) Jurisdictional problems
      ( ) Unpopularity of weird new taxes
      ( ) Public reluctance to accept weird new forms of money
      ( ) Huge existing software investment in SMTP
      ( ) Susceptibility of protocols other than SMTP to attack
      ( ) Willingness of users to install OS patches received by email
      ( ) Armies of worm riddled broadband-connected Windows boxes
      ( ) Eternal arms race involved in all filtering approaches
      (x) Extreme profitability of spam
      ( ) Joe jobs and/or identity theft
      ( ) Technically illiterate politicians
      ( ) Extreme stupidity on the part of people who do business with spammers
      ( ) Dishonesty on the part of spammers themselves
      ( ) Bandwidth costs that are unaffected by client filtering
      ( ) Outlook

      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 practical
      ( ) Any scheme based on opt-out is unacceptable
      ( ) SMTP headers should not be the subject of legislation
      ( ) Blacklists suck
      ( ) Whitelists suck
      (x) We should be able to talk about Viagra without being censored
      ( ) Countermeasures should not involve wire fraud or credit card fraud
      ( ) Countermeasures should not involve sabotage of public networks
      ( ) Countermeasures must work if phased in gradually
      ( ) Sending email should be free
      ( ) Why should we have to trust you and your servers?
      ( ) Incompatiblity with open source or open source licenses
      ( ) Feel-good measures do nothing to solve the problem
      ( ) Temporary/one-time email addresses are cumbersome
      ( ) I don't want the government reading my email
      (x) Killing them that way is not slow and painful enough

      Furthermore, this is what I think about you:

      (x) Sorry dude, but I don't think it would work.
      ( ) This is a stupid idea, and you're a stupid person for suggesting it.
      ( ) Nice try, assh0le! I'm going to find out where you live and burn your
      house down!

      • It could work without most of those problems if he was willing to sacrifice himself for the good of the many.

      • Classic, and well played.

      • by gweihir ( 88907 )

        Well, funny. Except that you did not read (or maybe did not understand) what I wrote. For example, I nowhere advocate a "vigilante approach".

        • Well, funny. Except that you did not read (or maybe did not understand) what I wrote. For example, I nowhere advocate a "vigilante approach".

          What you said was:

          Why are we tolerating these people on this planet again?

          How were proposing to remove them from the planet? Or in what other way were you suggesting we not tolerate them?

  • Hey RMS!

    How did your point number 4 work out for you?

    Thought so.

  • Die Spammer DIE!!!

  • If I post a comment about IT or Trump, the asshats act like I gave them the cooties. If I post a comment on any other topic, everything is fine. Go figure.

  • by CustomSolvers2 ( 4118921 ) on Saturday May 06, 2017 @03:24PM (#54368689) Homepage
    ... and, some years ago, I was seriously thinking that should fight it, that I could contribute towards its eradication. How could a stupidity-based method succeed?

    I was sooo naive and spammers were way ahead of me in the adequate understanding of the sad real nature of most of people: they are intrinsically idiots; idiots who feel safer among idiots and idiocy; idiots who prefer to complain about not understanding, being afraid, being fooled, etc. than making the slightest effort to actually understand.

    Now, I do understand stupidity much better than before. That's why I also understand why spam (and many other things) exist, will continue existing and I shouldn’t spend even a second of my life by trying to change that reality. I will always fight for what is right, but stupidity-related stuff isn’t a concern for me anymore. Now, I plainly accept it, its unfixable essence and, eventually, enjoy it.
  • by shanen ( 462549 ) on Saturday May 06, 2017 @04:02PM (#54368833) Homepage Journal

    Not sure what is supposed to be the point of this article. A celebration of human failure? A monument to how a small amount of greed can drive a YUGE scam-and-anti-scam industry? Okay, $200 million sounds like a lot of money to you or me, so maybe the greed seems justified, but that $20 billion on the other side is just plain insane.

    Causes:
    (1) SMTP ignores accounting
    (2) "Live and let spam" is a bad business model

    Solution:
    Let's work together to break the spammers' business models. That means the email providers AND the victims of the spammers. Not just the obvious victims like the suckers who lose money or the corporations that suffer damage to their reputation or the customers of those corporations who are victimized through their (dying) trust in those corporations, but even the MILLIONS of little suckers who lose some time whenever the spammers can steal a bit of their attention.

    Obviously filtering has failed. How about an iterative analytic approach where we, the victims, would help identify the problems and countermeasures of each spam message. Also would allow for prioritization of the proper countermeasures along with better targeting.

    Trivial example for a phishing scam spam. Even the google is not smart enough to know all my bank accounts (at least I hope so), but I would be able to say "Whoa. That's a GREAT looking phishing scam. Almost makes me sad that I've never had an account at that bank." Working together to share that kind of information would allow Gmail to stomp on it more quickly.

    Yeah, I know no one is listening and Slashdot is pointless, but I'll still close with the joke: "Lots more details available upon polite request." I know that because of prior reactions and replies, but before you waste your keystrokes let me say:

    (1) I'm quite willing to answer questions, including for clarifications where I'm too terse.
    (2) If you want to defend spammers, then I think you are (a) insane, (b) a spammer, or (c) worse.

  • by Gravis Zero ( 934156 ) on Saturday May 06, 2017 @04:27PM (#54368921)

    The way our email protocols were created show a total lack of consideration for this type of bad behavior. If it happened on Arpanet, it should have been fixed by the time it became Darpanet. This shows a real lack of foresight in the creation of SMTP (in 1982).

  • I sent the message to his network administrator and then even phoned the guy demanding to know what the heck he was doing polluting my in-box.

  • Turns out theirs was the first big Usenet spam, not the first ever.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

  • Dear NYTimes,

    Clearly you have no interest in people linking to your content.

    This is demonstrated by your page source looking like diarrhea under high magnification.

    Let me tell you about a href html page jump tags href="#blahblah". I think you will find them very useful, and they have widespread browser support due to their pre-Jurassic era creation date.

    Regards,
    ihateyouverymuch.


    Dear Slashdot readers,

    If you too want to experience the pain of finding TFA, please follow the link to James Come
  • Maybe that's when the first e-mail spam was sent, but according to this link, the first record of spam [computerhistory.org] being sent was back in 1864, via telegraph.

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