[FOUNTAIN]No canned solution for spamThe Internet was invented for military purposes. In 1969, the U.S. Department of Defense established the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network, or ARPANet, to conceive a computer network for military communication that could survive a nuclear attack by the Soviet Union. It would be a system that could disseminate and receive information from any point in a network, or a web, defeating attempts to shut it down by attacks on a conventional central control center.
The computers comprising the new network system were supercomputers located at Stanford University, the University of California at Los Angeles and Santa Barbara and the University of Utah. But as the period of peace went on, researchers at these universities used the network to exchange electronic mail.
On May 3, 1978, the researchers received a strange piece of mail. It was an advertisement about the launch of a new model from a salesman with the leading microcomputer maker at the time, Digital Equipment Corp. It was the first spam mail. It wreaked havoc among the ARPANet researchers; the formal guideline for the use of the network -- that it would be limited to research and educational purposes -- had been breached. The ARPANet formally launched a complaint with the computer maker. That was a quarter of a century ago.
The term spam mail has been in use for just a decade. On March 3, 1993, a maintenance staff member of a Usenet site sent the same e-mail message to a forum’s members 200 times by mistake. The members chose to use the word spam to describe the onslaught of messages.
The word spam comes from a packaged meat manufactured by an American company. The canned meat became very popular during World War II, as it was the main dish for allied troops. Its ubiquity and uninterrupted supply, even to civilians in the war zone, during that conflict could be one way spam mail got its name.
Computer experts are hard at work to stem the flow of spam mail, exactly a quarter century after the first lone message appeared on the computer network. As serious as the problem has become, there is yet to be an effective remedy. The challenge is to stop unsolicited mass mailing of electronic advertisements while safeguarding the key concept of the Internet -- that it is a medium for free and unregulated exchange of information.
by Oh Byung-sang
The writer is the London correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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