Happy Birthday: It's The 40th Anniversary Of The First Marketing Email

Friday, May 4, 2018

Happy Birthday: It's The 40th Anniversary Of The First Marketing Email
Ray Schultz, mediapost.com

Are you the sentimental type? If so, here is something that should make you a bit misty eyed: Today is the 40th anniversary of the first unsolicited marketing email.

Media reports are saying it’s the date of the first spam email. But that first commercial email from Digital Equipment Corp. (DEC) doesn’t look like spam to us.

It was Wednesday, May 3, 1978. Jimmy Carter was President. Gary Thuerk, a marketer at DEC, sent this message to 400 addresses on ARPANET, the precursor to the internet, pitching a new computer. The all-caps email invited prospects to a demonstration. 

We don’t know how many opens it got or whether there was anything to click through to, but here it is in all its glory: 

DIGITAL WILL BE GIVING A PRODUCT PRESENTATION OF THE NEWEST MEMBERS OF THE DECSYSTEM-20 FAMILY; THE DECSYSTEM-2020, 2020T, 2060, AND 2060T. THE DECSYSTEM-20 FAMILY OF COMPUTERS HAS EVOLVED FROM THE TENEX OPERATING SYSTEM AND THE DECSYSTEM-10 COMPUTER ARCHITECTURE. BOTH THE DECSYSTEM-2060T AND 2020T OFFER FULL ARPANET SUPPORT UNDER THE TOPS-20 OPERATING SYSTEM.

THE DECSYSTEM-2060 IS AN UPWARD EXTENSION OF THE CURRENT DECSYSTEM 2040 AND 2050 FAMILY. THE DECSYSTEM-2020 IS A NEW LOW END MEMBER OF THE DECSYSTEM-20 FAMILY AND FULLY SOFTWARE COMPATIBLE WITH ALL OF THE OTHER DECSYSTEM-20 MODELS.

WE INVITE YOU TO COME SEE THE 2020 AND HEAR ABOUT THE DECSYSTEM-20 FAMILY AT THE TWO PRODUCT PRESENTATIONS WE WILL BE GIVING IN CALIFORNIA THIS MONTH. THE LOCATIONS WILL BE:

TUESDAY, MAY 9, 1978 – 2 PM

HYATT HOUSE (NEAR THE L.A. AIRPORT)

LOS ANGELES, CA

THURSDAY, MAY 11, 1978 – 2 PM

DUNFEY’S ROYAL COACH

SAN MATEO, CA

Blake Linder of Roodepoort Record writes that this email aroused the ire of the small online community at that time. Little did they know what was to come. He also reports that there were only 2,600 addresses in total on ARPANET at that time. Thanks to Blake for posting the entire email.