Background of Spam


Background of Spam

Every day when I start my computer, connect to Internet and check my e-mail, I become really mad. I'm swearing and furiously pressing Delete. Usually people are more composed and show patience but I'm pretty sure they are also quite displeased. As you guess, this is all because of the endless stream of spam flowing day by day into millions of mail boxes all over the world.

There exist a lot of different spam control measures: from imprisonment and fines for spammers to various spam-filters. Still it does not help much. On one hand, it is not so easy to catch and punish spammers and, on the other hand, it is difficult to protect oneself from them: spam passes through filters while important letters sometimes get stuck in them. So some pessimists even forecast that quite soon Internet will be paralyzed completely because all the blocked will be blocked by spam. However, as you probably know, at the end of 19th century the same pessimists foretold that within the next few decades the cities streets would be covered with the horse-dung. Despite those forecasts the streets are clean and it is quite a surprise to meet a horse in the city. So let's hope that in the future people would be surprised to find a spam letter in the mail-box. But when did the history of spam begin? Apparently, it was the same end of 19th century, exactly 1891 - in that year American meat-packing industry manufacturer George Hormel founded Hormel Foods Company in Minnesota.

The company went down in history of spam in 1937 when the huge amount of unsold meat was accumulated in its storage facilities but Hormel Foods found a way out of the situation. They put a new product on the market - tinned meat with high content of spices and the name of it was Spiced Ham or (in abbreviated form) SPAM. The product certainly did not have a notable taste and in order to sell it Hormel Foods started a massive advertising campaign that was successful in a way that the word SPAM became associated with aggressive advertising. Nowadays, not many people remember the product, which is, by the way, still produced and sold but its advertisement remains in people's memory.

In the course of time, the word "spam" became a synonym for "paper postal rubbish" - advertising brochures that fill up the letter-boxes and later its meaning extended to unsolicited bulk e-mail. The first bulk e-mailing was in 1978 though there was neither Internet nor personal computers. One of the DEC Company members sent out the information about the demonstration of some new computer programs to all the users of the Arpanet. That delivery was not especially noticed as well as the accidental 200-addresses delivery of a private letter in 1993.

The real history of spam began in the 5th of May, 1994, when the law firm Canter & Siegel bulk advertising was taken by Usenet community as a terrible breach of the netiquette. In that non-commercial Internet it was strictly forbidden to thrust one's information on others, especially for selfish purposes. This unpardonable intrusion into Internet-community by people from outside, who cynically ignored the regulations and values of this community, produced an extremely negative reaction. However, this didn't stop spammers at all and in the 90th spam technologies was developing with furious pace. In 1995 first programs for automatic bulk e-mailing appeared, and in the next two years the volume of spam increased ten times.

As a response, only in 1999 first anti-spam filters were created to protect individual users and communities from receiving spam. Unfortunately, by means of Internet it is impossible to prevent sending out spam and this is where authorities should interfere with Internet. In March, 2000 United States Congress passed the law on fines for unsolicited bulk e-mailing and already in 2001 in USA first spammers were sentenced to imprisonment. In other countries spammers are not so severely punished yet but the atmosphere has been becoming very heated. But in spite of all the appropriate measures taken by governments, society and indignant individuals (who often try to solve the problem by hacker's methods), spam volume has been increasing 16 times during last 5 years. At a rough estimate, in 2005 about 80 % of the Internet traffic was spam, which thus can be considered as a world-wide problem. And unfortunately at the moment there's no effective way to solve it.

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About the Author: Mike Grunch, Tech Writer at LuxContinent.
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