Got Spam! Blame it on Gary Thurek

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Spam is the bane of internet users everywhere! The Los Angeles Times and Guinness Book of Records refers to Gary Thuerk as the "Father Of Spam". You will be surprised by his take on what is considered to be a major problem associated with the Internet

The person that The Guinness Book of Records call the "Father of Spam", Gary Thuerk, will speak at The IT Summit March 22 in Denver.

Back in 1978, when the thing we now all think of as annoying, unsolicited, inbox-clogging email was just the canned, spongy sandwich meat, one man sent an email to 400 people, marketing his company's new product.

With that one fateful move, email spam was born.

Gary Thuerk, now in sales at computer giant Hewlett-Packard Co., sent out that original spam back when the Internet was called Arpanet, and researchers and the military were the only ones using it. As a marketing manager at the East Coast-based Digital Equipment Corp. (DEC), Thuerk sent out the bulk email inviting West Coast techies to a demonstration of Dec's new Decsystem-20.

When those early email users checked their inboxes, they discovered this foreign-looking message with a cc list that took up so much room it spilled into the message's body. They simply had never seen a mass email before.

Some seemed happy to receive this nifty notification. Some people cursed Thuerk when their computers crashed. And the Defense Communication Agency scolded Thuerk, prohibited him from doing it again.

Despite the scolding, Thuerk says it was a great idea.

Industry analyst firm Ferris Research estimates that in 2003, we wasted 15 hours deleting email, compared to 2.2 hours in 2000. And MessageLabs Inc., a managed email security firm based in New York, says spam now makes up more than 80 percent of all email being sent around the world.

The government even got in on the battle this past year, passing the CAN-Spam Act. In a legislative attempt to combat what is largely seen as a digital plague, the act applies civil and criminal penalties to offenders.

In a one-on-one interview with Datamation, Thuerk says he doesn't feel any regret for starting spam. People don't throw cocktail weenies at him when he walks into a party. Instead, he says they ask for his autograph. Thuerk also talks about how successful that first spam was, how he feels about being known as the Father of Spam, and, if he had the chance, would he do it all over again.

Admission is free if you register online before March 15 at

Press is welcome, but please register


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Dr. W. Reid Cornwell