Monday, November 14, 2011

How I Invented Spam

Way back at the end of the last millenium, round about the time I was in middle school, my parents had a subscription to America Online. The company is called just AOL now, but back then they were the largest of two or maybe three major online services. (Bonus points if you can name the other two.) At first, they didn't even offer access through their service to the newborn world wide web. They had a self-contained ecosystem with different areas depending on what you wanted.

And AOL had chat rooms. Lots of 'em, organized by the topics that were supposed to be discussed there. A room was just a whole bunch of people all talking at once, and got real confusing sometimes. And people said whatever the heck they wanted. Some of them tried to be annoying on purpose. Especially the spammers.

Now this is where my story gets a little vague, because I frankly don't remember how we got started spamming. By "we" I mean my older sisters and myself.

If you look up the origin of the term "spam" as applied to unwanted email, you'll probably get the right story. It's all thanks to Monty Python's Flying Circus. One of their shows had a spam sketch, in a diner, with vikings. (This is all based on memory. I haven't seen it in years.) Everything on the menu has spam in it, and the vikings repeatedly interrupt other customers trying to order by breaking out into a song about lovely spam, wonderful spam.

At some point, being annoying young teenagers, we decided it was jolly good fun to do the same thing in the chat rooms of AOL.

For example:

Do you like spam?


I like spam.


I love spam.


Spam, spam, spam.


Spam, spam, spammity, spam, spam, spam, spam. Lovely spam, wonderful spam.


Well, sure, but what does that have to do with spam?

Needless to say, this really ticked people off. Good fun.

And I have no idea if we saw somebody else doing this and decided to join in the fun, (which is likely,) or if we just came up with it on our own and invented online spamming. (Highly unlikely, but fun to imagine.)

That's right, kids. I was there. I remember when typing a colon and closing parenthesis didn't automatically generate a yellow smiley face. I remember when people still wondered what it meant!

And I know the difference between config.sys and autoexec.bat.

p.s. Compuserve and Prodigy. I'm such a nerd.

7 comments:

  1. It was YOU!!!!!!!!!

    Kidding.

    That's HYSTERICAL.

    I lived in Alaska, America Online was the ONLY one available.

    ReplyDelete
  2. And now everyone is super confused when you tell them to use an AOL keyword. Also... ran across a dude the other day using some iteration of Netscape as his browser... He may have been attempting to invent a time-warp. If so, it sure worked on me.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Haha. That sounds fun. I tend to be a late adapter, which means I didn't really use the internet until 98 or 99, and then only for email. The Online Writers Workshop, which I joined in 2009 was my first experience talking to people online that I didn't already know! And I graduated in 96, so it's not like I'm THAT old. Just crotchety;) And I like to think I've caught up a little since then.

    ReplyDelete
  4. And Monty Python has been a long time unseen for me, too, but my friends and I were equally impressed with the Spam skit. My bff and I both bought Spam shirts and I took a very serious senior pic with a can of spam on the table. I need a scanner. I will find one and post it one day.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Smiles to you! You naughty spammer you,

    ReplyDelete
  6. Haha! I remember that! Exactly the way you do, in fact. Including having no idea if it was an original idea or we were copying someone else. Good times.

    ~Alberta

    PS Your blog won't let me post with my Google (or any other) account again.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Well, what do you expect, Alberta? You're an admitted spammer!

    ReplyDelete