August 12, 2013

Why the Spammers Are Winning

Oliver Burkeman, The Guardian

AP Photo

One Sunday evening in the spring of 1864, messenger boys employed by the London District Telegraph Company appeared on the doorsteps of several MPs and other prominent figures across the capital. Each boy carried a telegram in a sealed envelope, and an urgent message, at so late an hour, naturally prompted alarm. "Having only arrived from the country on the previous day," one recipient later recalled, "I feared that a fire or some other casualty had occurred subsequent to my departure." But there was no fire, nor any national crisis. As Matthew Sweet tells the story, in his book Inventing The Victorians, the telegram was from Messrs Gabriel, a sketchy firm of dentists and purveyors of a tooth-whitening powder "as used by Her Majesty".

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