BitDepth 578 - May 29

After years of collecting spam, my oldest e-mail address is retired...
Bye bye to an old web ID

How would you like to have this coming at you every three seconds? That's what junk e-mails are like after spammers get hold of your e-mail address. Sometimes, the only solution is to leave a vulnerable address behind and use something a little more unwieldy but less transparent to junk e-mailers. Photo by Mark Lyndersay.

"Say it isn't so," wrote Dr Jillian Ballantyne, whose column once appeared alongside mine. I'd written to everyone in my address book to let them know, but for Dr J, along with a few others, the news had a little history.
After lingering on for three weeks longer than it should have, I finally put one of my oldest identities to rest, ending the active presence of as an e-mail address on the Internet.

It wasn't my first e-mail address, that honour goes to the old Opus Networx e-mail address that marked my first adventures on the Internet in the mid-nineties. Back then, we sent e-mails on the electronic version of a conveyor belt, the messages uploading to a bulletin board system (BBS) that Opus boss Peter Wimbourne operated which connected with the larger Internet network via a Barbados connection twice a day.

In those days, you could expect your message to get to a recipient in a day or so, with a reply coming back within 48 hours. Connections were made on modems that clocked a whopping 2400 baud, one twentieth the speed of most of the modems still in use today, so messages with attachments were frowned on when they actually transmitted at all.

I actually got my address before the service formally opened to the public. The tech community was much smaller then, and it seemed like everyone who had a connection to Opus knew each other. Chat rooms were a shaky, text only kind of contemporaneous miracle and multiplayer games relied on words, not graphics. You typed things like "I open the door and enter the room" to begin turn based actions in these games, a far cry from today's blood drenched initiations into Warcraft.

That early adopter status earned me an address that was considered something of a plum in the early days of e-mailing, a web address that was short and easy to remember. People would e-mail their friends named mark and just assume that my address had to be their buddy's, but those unfortunates would have to accept "mark2" or some lesser variant.
Then the double whammy of the commercialisation of the Internet, a web page where I posted that address in plain sight and the slow but steady growth of unsolicited e-mail began to tarnish that early allure.

Spiders, the automated agents that trawl the web for new pages and links began picking up the address and over the years, many of those spiders were agents for spammers, the scurvy pirates of bandwidth who blast billions of e-mails into in-boxes every day.
New techniques like dictionary attacks were designed to wreak havoc on naive e-mail addresses like mine. Once a spammer picks up on a valid domain, they simply tack every noun, verb and proper name they can find in front of it because the beauty of spam is that it costs nothing to miss the target and you've got everything to gain from the few isolated hits you manage to score.

By 2004, I was getting so much spam on this one e-mail address that it broke the filtering mechanism built into Mail, the Apple e-mail client that I use.
Last week spam so thoroughly clotted the database in SpamSieve, my current anti-spam software, that I had to delete the whole corpus of trigger words and start over.
Fortunately, there was a huge body of verified spam available in my in-box to begin SpamSieve's training regimen.

The e-mail address was scheduled for shutdown at the end of April, but the guy at Wow who handled the closure of my account quit, and nobody got around to turning off the spigot.
Eventually, I got tired of wading through the rising muck of unwanted e-mails that continued to flood in. When I finally called to ask after the status of the account, I was getting close to a thousand e-mails a day, none of which I wanted to see, even as a source of wry humour.

I've got my own domain now, and a few hundred potential e-mail addresses to go along with it, but it just doesn't feel the same. 
An e-mail address like "nospamplease(at)" just doesn't trip off the tongue the way the old e-mail address did, but like the old toys that gave us such pleasure in our youth, there comes a time to put away childish things.
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