Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Aargh ! Ham In My Inbox !

Vanilla : Heard of SPAM?
Miss Piggy : Me in the tin can or junky emails?
Vanilla : Both. Read this little story .
. .

SPAM existed long before the era of computer and it dated back to the 1930s. Back then, Hormel, a company selling 'Hormel Spiced Ham' was having some problems fighting for a decent market share. That was the time of the Great Depression (some say we are heading towards one now) and it was not easy keeping businesses above water.

So, Hormel had to do a little re-branding and decided to call their canned meat, SPAM. It is unclear if the name was abbreviated from "Spiced Ham" or "Shoulder Pork And Ham". It does not matter. You may even want to take it as "Spare Parts Animal Meat". As far as food is concerned, SPAM has since become synonymous to 'canned meat' or known to some as, 'luncheon meat'.

But today, we are more familiar with 'spam' as in the 'internet spam.' It is widely believed that the modern-day meaning of 'spam', was derived from a comedy series Monty Python's Flying Circus in the 1970s.

In a cafe in the spam skit, nearly every item in the menu includes SPAM luncheon meat and the waitress would repeat the word many times to describe how much SPAM there is in the menu. At the background, the chorus would go "Spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, lovely spam! Wonderful spam!" The chorus went at increasing volumes in an attempt to drown out other conversation in the cafe.

Drawing an analogy to the modern-day spam, an unsolicited email is seen as drowning out normal discourse on the Internet.

Today, email spammers push out tons of commercial emails to addresses they collected through various means. Some are 'professional' spammers who would spam for you at a fee. These emails sometimes greet you at such an alarming rate that they literally choke your inbox.

When there is a villain there will be a hero. Dozens of anti-spam companies have sprung up and thrive along side the spammers. However, it has not been easy for the anti-spammers. While they can come up with the most powerful spam filter, they constantly struggle with the definition of 'spam email'. It is a tricky balance between blocking all spam emails and letting every legitimate emails through. It is almost impossible to reconcile the two.

Some years ago, Hormel tried to take a legal action to keep its brand name from being a synonym of unwanted junk email. It was a losing battle from the start. Today, Hormel has to accept the use of the term 'spam' to describe unsolicited commercial email and it is no longer pursuing its trademark protection campaign.

To avoid confusion, SPAM in capital letters refers to meat and 'spam' in small letters refers to unsolicited email. They have one thing in common though: both are junk!

So, It's either SPAM or spam and you either clog your arteries or your inbox or both. This is it, internet spam is here to stay and you just have to learn to survive the cyber-pollution.

Well, it's time to push that 'delete all' button to rid my 2573 junk mails <~sign~>

Miss Piggy : Thank you for the little story.
Vanilla : You're welcome. Time for you to go.
Miss Piggy : Go where?
Vanilla : Into the SPAM tin.
Miss Piggy : Grrrr...

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