SPAM: Tracing its journey from a “wartime delicacy” to unwanted emails

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SPAM: Tracing its journey from a “wartime delicacy” to unwanted emails

The word SPAM brings to your mind those annoying emails selling sildenafil citrate online, deposed Nigerian kings who offer you a part of their fortune for helping ship their money back, and credit card offers. But what if you were told that SPAM was a food item, a “wartime delicacy”?

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The journey of SPAM from food to email junk has its beginnings in 1937. SPAM was a brand of canned meat made by the Hormel Foods Corporation. SPAM was said to be an abbreviation of “spiced ham”, “spare meat” or “shoulders of pork and ham”. Another popular explanation was that SPAM stood for “Specially Processed American Meat” or “Specially Processed Army Meat”

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With the outbreak of war, SPAM soon became a wartime ration for US soldiers and Hormel soon expanded SPAM output to the Allied nations, including the Soviet Union. The Soviet Premier Nikita Khruschev declared “Without SPAM we wouldn’t have been able to feed our army” and Margaret Thatcher called SPAM a “wartime delicacy”.

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SPAM’s chief advantange was its affordability, accessibility, and extended shelf life, making it perfect for wartime rations. Today, SPAM has spread across many parts of the world, Hawaiians loving it the most, consuming the highest per capita quantity of spam in the United States. There is even an annual Spam-themed festival on the island of Oahu that takes place every spring, known as the “Waikiki Spam Jam. Local chefs and restaurants compete to create new Spam-themed dishes, which are then sold in a massive street fair on Kalakaua Street in Waikiki.

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SPAM has also made its way into Asia where Okinawans have added spam into a traditional dish, chanpuru.

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The Middle East developed its own version of SPAM, a kosher and halal version that was made of beef, chicken or oven roasted Turkey.

But all of this has nothing to do with those annoying emails that clog your inbox. For that you need to thank Monty Python’s Flying Circus. In 1970, the members of the Circus came up with a sketch where a customer in a restaurant desperately tries to order something that doesn’t contain SPAM, only to find it in practically every dish. The word SPAM is annoyingly repeated throughought the sketch, breaking into a song “SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, lovely SPAM! Wonderful SPAM!”

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The joke wasn’t lost on programmers. They intelligently termed annoying messages as spam, beginning with attacking computers with the intent of crashing it. “Spam the database” by creating a huge number of files or objects by a program and crash the system. nother report describes indirectly a person simply typing “˜spam, spam…’ in a Multi User Domain with a keyboard macro until being thrown off around 1985.

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Early spam messages consisted of mass invitations to parties, broad anti-war messages andd appeals for college tuition funding. Then in ’94, USENET users were warned of a “Global Alert for All: Jesus is Coming Soon” in every single newsgroup.

And since then the definition for SPAM was radically altered forever.