Though spam wasn't necessarily introduced with the internet, these unsolicited messages did follow shortly thereafter. The internet began with plenty of email activity, but none carried commercial or advertising nature. Oh, how things have quickly changed.
Spam's false start
There has been much speculation about when and what was actually the "first spam." Many have declared that the first unsolicited email message was written and sent out by an employee at DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation). The employee's intent was to send the message to every email address on ARPANET, the network that eventually became the World Wide Web. Since space was limited at the time, email addresses towards the bottom of the list never received the message.
The enigma of Dave Rhodes
A man by the name of Dave Rhodes was perhaps the first to send what is known today as tasteless, offensive spam, in 1996. As the story goes, Mr. Rhodes was a college student that advertised a pyramid scheme in the email messages. The message was relayed to all newsgroups on USENET. Thousands of users were hit with a message that read, "MAKE MONEY FAST!" It's said that Dave Rhodes made a substantial amount of money from several people chasing an elusive dream.
The most interesting twist of the story is the great possibility that Dave Rhodes never existed.
The university that he supposedly attended had no records of him. Being that chain letters begin as early as the 1970's, it's very probable that someone else copied the format onto a computer and distributed it via USENET under an alias.
The outrage that created the spam terminology
In 1993, a man by the name of Richard Depew developed a new strategy called retro-moderation, a system that was supposed to add a bit of order to the USENET newsgroups. Moderators were assigned to individual newsgroups and had the ability to delete messages after they had been posted. Mr. Depew then scripted software to automatically delete the messages. Unfortunately for Depew and USENET, the program had a major bug, one that mistakenly sent two hundred messages to one particular newsgroup. To no surprise, many people were outraged by the unexpected messages. It was these recipients that were first to use the term spam, which at the time simply meant abuse of USENET.
Jesus and spam
Clarence L. Thomas IV is accused of distributing the first mass message mailing on USENET in 1994. The subject field read, "GLOBAL ALERT FOR ALL: JESUS IS COMING SOON." It's unclear what his intentions were as the message was long and boring and didn't seem to have an advertising approach.
The infamous origin of modern spam
Spam became modernized in 1994 by the infamous duo of Cantor and Siegel. They were responsible for posting the "Green Card Lottery" advertisement. The message was simultaneously distributed to 6,000 newsgroups. The two of them continued the scheme for some time, reportedly making a nice amount of money for their time and effort. While they were able to profit, the Green Card Lottery scandal made them two of the most despised individuals on the entire network.
Since then, the rate of spam has literally sky-rocketed and currently impacts millions of individuals and organizations. Some use spam to advertise, some use it to distribute viruses, while others simply use it to annoy. Regardless of the intent, spam has become more synonymous than any other trend on the internet.