There is an excellent piece on the history of spam in the August 6 issue of The New Yorker. It recounts the history of unwated e-mails from the first unsolicited message that was sent by Gary Thuerk, to promote his firm the Digital Equipment Corp., back in 1978. And the name reference —I knew the Hormel reference, but didn’t realize that SPAM had flooded the market with its food trying to feed G.I.’s during WWII.
It details the rise of e-mail from an academic medium to the everyday use by everyone today and traces spam’s role through to image spam and the even more complicated versions of multi variant spam. The writer Michael Specter interviews MessageLabs, Google and Microsoft to give background on the multitude of spam filters and blocking systems out there. http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2007/08/06/070806fa_fact_specter