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I am old enough to remember an internet without spam. I was online a good two years before the Green Card spam first hit the newsgroups in 1994.

This means that I remember when you didn't get any email, except from people who had something to say to you. They might be complete wierdos wanting to pick an arguemtn, , but they were an individual, sending you something personal. This was before companies really discovered the internet, so I wasn't even getting emails from Amazon, as they didn't come into existence until 1995.

Anyway, nowadays a vast amount of my email is spam. I don't both to keep track of it, and thankfully I'm sitting behind a series of filters - spamassassin throws away anything it scores over a 10. Anything scored 5-10 gets passed on to me with ****SPAM**** in the subject line. And then Thunderbird's adaptive filter has a go at what's left.

This kills off 95%, leaving about 20 a day to delete by hand. The vast majority of which are part of a fascinating development in spam - one which has stymied the majority of spamfilters - putting the text into an image.

Embedded images along with random text make it almost impossible for the content to be scanned. Some spam filters have started putting OCR in,to catch this - but then the spammers are altering the text enough to make it extremely hard to OCR it. It's entirely possible that this escalating warfare between spammers and spamfilterers will end up finding new wrinkles in OCR technology and visual perception, in their attempts to produce text that can be read only by people/produce code that can read said text.

Eventually I expect spam to consist of magic-eye pictures, where you haveto stare really hard at swirls of pseudo-random text until the name of the stock they want you to buy appears. Only three percent of the population will be able to actually see these messages, but these will also be the three percent of people who both have loads of money, and are entirely gullible about the stock market.

October 2017

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