On May 3rd, 1978… the very first Spam E-Mail (or just “email” for you young whipersnappers) was sent.

It was sent by a man working in marketing for Digital Equipment Corporation – specifically to promote the DECSYSTEM-20.

Some interesting factoids about this first spam:

  • The email account this was sent from was “THUERK at DEC-MARLBORO”. Note that this was back before “.COM” and other top level domain names. We're talking old-school ARPANET, here.

  • This was sent to every email address on the West Coast of the USA. Or, at least, close to it. This was much easier to accomplish back then.

  • The email addresses were all entered into the “To:” field directly. However, only 320 were allowed in a “To:"… so the rest rolled directly into the text body of the email itself. Once this was realized, the email was re-sent out to every poor soul that missed it the first time around.

  • It was all in caps. Whole thing.

This is the DECSYSTEM2020 - the specific computer being promoted in the first spam:

DECSYSTEM-2020

Image credit: Wikipeda / The Living Computer Museum

What follows is that complete spam E-Mail. Because… who doesn't want to read spam email over 4 decades old?

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 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.

A huge thank you to Brad Templeton for pulling together so many of these details. Highly recommended for further reading if you are interested in the early history of spam.

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