Spam, Lovely Spam, Wonderful Spam
Those of you who are Monty Python fans ... and I suspect even a great many who are not fans... are at least vaguely familiar with the Monty Python sketch about Spam. Spam is both ubiquitous, and inescapable... even spam comes with spam. And thus, spam has come to refer to something that keeps repeating, and repeating, and repeating, to the great annoyance of all concerned.
As the Monty Python cast informed us, Spam is a food... it's actually short for spiced ham... it's a canned, pre-cooked meat, originally introduced in the mid 1930's. Today, it comes in a wide variety of flavors, including Spam Jalapeno, Spam with Bacon, Spam with Cheese, Garlic Spam, and Spam Hickory Smoke Flavor. Over 7 billion (yes, Billion) cans have been sold .... although I'm not sure how many cans of Spam have been eaten... and Hawaii wins the prize for the greatest per capita consumption of Spam in the U.S.
Having said that, today - especially today - when we think of Spam, we think of email spam. Why? Well first of all, today (May 3) marks the 35th anniversary of the earliest documented email spam.
So -- how did this food, which then became a part of a comedy skit, come to mean the junk that clogs up our emails and other internet communications?
The Monty Python skit came out in 1970. In 1978, some guy sent an unsolicited bulk email to 600 people. Now, wipe that image of Eric idle and John Cleese standing behind the guy, singing the Spam song... no one called it Spam at the time. But marketing people quickly realized the potential... they could spend mere moments crafting a message, and then a few moments more addressing it to a gazillion email addresses (well, not really a gazillion, but a lot), and then have plenty of time to sit back and relax and enjoy their tea... well, this Spam thing caught on pretty fast. It was actually when some internet users started flooding forums with the word Spam (in reference to the Monty Python skit where all menu items - even those with Spam - came with more Spam) that this practice of drowning out normal communications on internet newgroups and in forums and on blogs and in email, with junk mail advertising, came to be known as Spam.
Today, most email providers provide spam filters. And a lot of them work quite well.
Maybe too well.
My email is processed through gmail, and I was so pleased with how well the spam filter worked, that I got lazy and quit checking the folder. And then I found out that, for some reason, all emails from my mother (who's a very nice person.. truly, she is)... were ending up in my spam folder. And I'm pretty sure she doesn't even like Spam. So I fixed that, and now I check my spam folder regularly, to make sure that I pull out anything 'good' that gets dragged in there.
Those of you who have posted comments on this blog, may have noticed that in the beginning, your comment didn't show up until I 'approved' it.. and I put that approval step in place to avoid spam. However, a few months ago, I decided to remove that step, and see how the spam filters worked. And they seem to be working quite well.. you can thank blogger and google plus for their excellent filters -- you'd be amazed at some of the stuff that shows up, except it doesn't, because it's diverted to my spam folder for me to look at, and either delete, or publish. Except that - again - I got lazy, and a few days ago I discovered that a handful of spam comments had made it through the filter. Nothing bad, or offensive about the comments... actually, they were all fairly generic.. but they each included a link at the bottom, that was an advertisement of some sort. So I deleted them, of course. It's not a problem, I just have to check my comments regularly.
So... happy 35th Anniversary, email spam. You may be an ingrained part of the internet experience these days, but I've managed to (mostly) keep you out of my life.
And I think I'll have my tea black, today... no lemon, no sweet-n-low, and definitely no Spam!