Spam dates back to World War II and during the early digital age

Spam – both the food product and the unwanted digital email – have been around for decades.

The delicious pork product has been around since 1937, and gained widespread popularity during World War II. While some American GIs grew to hate the pre-cooked processed meat, it nonetheless became a popular staple in Hawaii during this period due to food rationing. Spam also became much loved in countries such as Russia and England, where it was widely distributed.

You may think that the digital form of Spam (unsolicited email messages) as something relatively new. Many think of it as a by-product of the growth of email traffic that occurred during the 1990s. But digital spam actually began in 1978.

It was this year that the first unsolicited email message was sent and received. This first spam was an invitation to a computer system demonstration sent to the few existing email addresses over ARPANET, the Internet's precursor.

It would be another 16 years before the World Wide Web took off, and unwanted emails grew along with it. In April 1994, a pair of Arizona lawyers advertised their immigration assistance services to thousands of Usenet groups. The negative blowback from spam crashed the hosting ISP servers.

At the time, only about a quarter of U.S. households had personal computers. Today, more than 85 percent are so equipped, and 80 percent access the Internet.

Concerned about unwanted emails? Travis Credit Union’s Smart Money Matters offers advice on how to protect your computer from spams, phishing scams and other information. Visit our Smart Money Matters tab on our Travis Financial Wellness blog to review current and past issues.

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