How did spam mail come to signify junk mail? And why it is called spam mail?
Some have suggested that it is because SPAM, the Hormel meat product, is sometimes ridiculed as fake meat. Thus, spam mail is fake mail, which is why it is called spam mail. But the genuine origin of the term originates from a 1970 “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” skit. In this skit, all of a restaurant’s menu items include SPAM. Whenever the server repeats the word “SPAM,” a group of Vikings in the corner sing about SPAM. It overwhelms other conversations until they are told to stop.
Exactly how this spread as web messages of varying kinds, such as newsgroups, chat messages, and so on, isn’t exactly known. It sort of happened everywhere in a very short span of time, at least as far as the name is concerned. It is documented that users spreading these first messages picked the word “SPAM” to post repeatedly, referring to the Monty Python sketch where singing about SPAM overtook other conversation. “SPAM” was thus undesirable and springing up everywhere, which is why it is called spam mail.
There are a few cases of these first instances of why it is called spam mail:
The first recorded case among Usenet users was March 31, 1993. This is often stated to be the first usage of the term "spam" as referring to spam mail. This first Usenet case was when Richard Depew was playing with moderation software. He wound up posting around 200 identical messages in succession to a news.admin.policy newsgroup. The first individual to call this spam is believed to be Joel Furr, on March 31, 1993. Depew himself, when he apologized for what he had done, referred to his messages as spam mail. That’s why it is called spam mail.
An almost-certain first use of the word spam referring to certain electronic messages comes from Multi-User Dungeons (MUDs). That’s why it is called spam mail. This was a kind of multi-person, real-time shared environment. In it, users could interact and chat with other people. They could also make objects and share them with the group.
The name MUD came from the way that it reminded individuals of certain parts of the game, Dungeons and Dragons. Spamming was used here to refer to various things. These included spamming the database by flooding it with new objects, flooding the PC with random information, and flooding a chat session with a huge amount of undesirable content. It was anything that had to do with filling other members’ records with unwanted electronic garbage. That’s why it is called spam mail.
One of the earliest documented uses of the word "spam" from MUDders originates from 1990. They were examining the origins of the word "spam" as referring to electronic junk messages. That’s why it is called spam mail. Undocumented sources say that it had been around way before the MUDders. This is proved by the content of the documented message.
Others say that the expression began on Bitnet’s Relay, which was a very early chat system during the 1980s. Users would come on and disturb other users with undesirable content. That’s why it is called spam mail.
Another similar chat system on the TRS-80 also revealed a similar phenomenon, and that’s why it is called spam mail. Both these two chat system origins are not documented. Various previous users of these systems have expressed that they remember this term among users of these systems.
At the beginning of the web, spam mail was more irritating than it is today, not because of the absence of powerful spam filters in those days, but because of the slow internet connections. Even an ASCII art spam picture sent a couple of times in a row could take an enormous amount of effort to download. It has no real route for the end user to get around this, but to endure it or disengage. That’s why it is called spam mail.
Likewise, at the beginning of chat rooms, it was a typical strategy among chatters to use enormous blocks of trivial content to annoy different groups. That’s why it is called spam mail. For instance, Avengers chatters would attack a Justice League chat room and post large amounts of random text. It made it impossible for the Justice League people to talk.
At the same time, the term spam became prominent among Usenet groups. It also spread to refer to email spam, which ruled the world of spam then and has continued to do so to this day. Early spam bots reaped emails from Usenet newsgroup messages and gave them large email lists to work from. That’s why it is called spam mail.