Antedatings of "spam"

Hugo hugovk at GMAIL.COM
Thu Sep 26 07:34:01 UTC 2013

computing "spam" (OED v. [1991], 25 July 1994)

computing "spam" (OED n. [30 Sept. 1993], 30 May 1994)

Seems to originate in MUD (multi-user dungeon) newsgroups in Usenet.


computing "spam" (OED v. [1991], 25 July 1994)

20 June 1990, Russ "Nightfall" Smith:

All I have to say:  I was phoned once long distance about some individual doing
their best to spam the database (and doing a good job of it, I might add).
Remember that next time you think that people can't get into mischief.


21 June 1990, Bryant Durrell:

  Date: 21 Jun 90 21:01:48 GMT

   OK, so why wizards? Welp, let's take it from the point of view of
   the user.  What can I, as a user who doesn't like a given
   wizardless MUD, do to that MUD?

   First thing: I can spam the database in a big way.  It is more than
   easy for me to log on, macro up cash, and dump entire files into
   the database as objects.  Or, failing that, I can simply create a
   thousand characters, using a simple robot.  Describe them all, fill
   all the available big problem there, and it'll chew up
   disk space.

   Or even easier, I can macro a thousand 512 character gripes.  You
   begin to see the problem, I trust.


And some definitions from a 26-27 September 1990 thread:

Seems I'm not hip to the lingo.  Spamming?  I see a lot of reference
to the word, but I'm not really sure what it means.  It seems to be
associtated with
1.  Entering lots of commands.
2.  Causing problems with the server. (maybe crash?)
Please explain the meaning to me.

Same etymology as "trashing." Implied definition is "Putting so much
load on the system that it crumbles into a pile of trash / Spam / other
useless substance."

For a more vivid image, imagine taking some small cute animal and
pounding it with many many bricks. The result resembles Spam. (Yes, I
know, it's gross. We're immature hacker geeks and we *think* that way.

HERETIC! Ooh, you fool! Weenie! That's most definitely not where
spamming came from. Spam refers to a Monty Python skit, where
vikings sing "Spam" at a lady who floats down from the ceiling in
a restaurant where they serve spam with everything. The verb
"to spam" would be to send lots and lots of useless information (in
particular, the word "spam") over and over to someone, thus scrolling
their screen with lots and lots of lines of "spam spam spam spam spam spam"
etc. It has been generalized to mean sending lots of crap to servers
as well as people you want to annoy the hell out of.

A man who doesn't know his Monty Python is not a man worth talking to.

- Hurin, "could I have some spam spam eggs spam bacon spam spam and
          sausage and spam and spam?" (or whatnot)

I have a friend who used to be active on the BBS scene (Hi Rich, if
you're reading!) who told me tales of social interaction in chat mode.
Often, when an annoying, usually newbie-type person (a "munchie")
arrived on the scene, they would (each!) invoke the 'spam' program,
whose function was to pipe a given file to the munchie's connection in
the BBS equivalent of a whisper bomb.  I'm told the most popular file
arguments to 'spam(1)' ( (-: ) were lpr pictures of Ferraris and so

So it seems likely that the name came from Python, but that this story
is part of the etymology of spam's use in the client/server context.


computing "spam" (OED n. [30 Sept. 1993], 30 May 1994)

30 November 1990, Finrod Felagund:

So what if Spectre makes an object that makes the Muck crash every
time it tries to dump the db?  After all, the people on the muck don't
care if they get thrown off because the mud keeps crashing.  They
don't care if their stuff doesn't get saved because of the crashes.
Nope nope nope.  Wanderer and folks didn't have to spend a good deal
of time trying to find this object that was causing the spam.  They
weren't in the least bit annoyed to discover that it was because of
someone being an idiot.  Naah, they're 'reactionary' and 'spiteful'.

1 December 1990, Finrod Felagund:

Judge Finrod sentences the d00f to death by spam consumption.


Finally, outside MUD newsgroups on 2 July 1990, someone called Eric using the name Spam Spamson posted several times to news.groups jokingly promoting the food and quoting the Monty Python sketch:!original/news.groups/fiqCMi0t-IU/gdCYMHj3IuQJ!original/news.groups/T5XqIjyaUO4/oy1ZHTOkW_EJ!original/alt.spam/FqFtyXELv2U/aYXXiXCIXU0J

Before apologising:

[Subject:] Sorry about the spam
Sorry about the spam messages.



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