In the program "Historically yours" on Europe 1, journalist David Castello-Lopes looks back at the origin of spam, these unwanted emails synonymous with advertising or fraud.

To find the very first spam, you have to go back to 1978, in the United States. 

Every day in Historically yours, journalist David Castello-Lopes looks back on the origins of an object or a concept.

Tuesday, he is interested in the history of spam, these unwanted emails synonymous with advertising or scam.

To find the very first spam, you have to go back to 1978, in the United States. 

"I am a Nigerian prince and I inherited 100 million euros. The problem is that there is great instability in my country and I would have to repatriate these funds to France. If you agree to invest this money temporarily in your bank account, I will give you in exchange 10% of the sum, or 10 million euros. The only thing you have to do is pay the transfer fees, which amount to 500 euros . "

The Nigerian Prince Scam is one of the most famous spam emails on the internet.

The idea is that the recipient of the email sends the 500 euros ... so that the "prince" disappears immediately.

This scam is so well known that we could tell ourselves that it no longer works.

And yet ... A study conducted in the United States in 2019 showed that the previous year, Americans had together lost the equivalent of 600,000 euros through scams sent by spam.

A recipe that still works, 40 years after the very first spam.

Because to find its origin, we have to go back to the end of the 1970s. 

May 3, 1978, 12:33 p.m .: the very first spam

The first "spammer" is Gary Thuerk, an American salesman who worked at Digital, a computer company in the 1970s. At the time, the Internet did not yet exist, but Digital used its ancestor, Arpanet.

A sort of "mini-Internet" to which a few hundred people were connected.

To notify as many people as possible of a business transaction by his company, Gary Thuerk came up with the idea of ​​using this network.

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But instead of sending personalized emails to everyone he decided to send a group message.

On May 3, 1978 at 12:33, Gary sent what is considered the very first spam in human history, to 400 people at a time.

An email which earned him to appear in the Guinness Book of Records.

Half of emails sent each year

Today, spam accounts for half of all emails sent each year.

And there are all categories.

There is the prince's scam, which has become a great classic.

There are those who invite you to meet "very sexy" girls near you.

Those also who offer you many solutions to increase the size of your penis in a way "as reliable as fast".

And then there are of course all the advertising emails that you have not requested but that are sent to you anyway.

A sort of online equivalent of those letters from real estate agents that you receive in your mailbox offering to estimate your apartment for free.