Python, Vikings and the Spam Song
Posted on 4th July 2018
To remember Monty Python being broadcast for the first time you have to be of a “certain age.” However, even relative youngsters like me are well acquainted with their oeuvre and the Spam Song is one of their most famous sketches. Briefly, for anyone not aware of what it involves, a couple are trying to order some food in a greasy café but every course contains spam. Some Vikings are also in the cafe and they frequently burst into a rendition of the Spam Song, most of the lyrics of which consist of the repeated word “Spam.”
Now I know you are wondering what on earth this has to do with IT recruitment. Stick with me though, because this gets (almost) interesting.
Spam, as we all know, is that annoying email (or other communication) that arrives unsolicited. There is such a glut of the stuff that companies make their living out of selling spam filters.
SPAM, on the other hand, is that interesting combination of pork, ham and spices, sold in tins and very popular during and after the Second World War, when it was imported in huge quantities from the USA. It’s this SPAM that features in the Monty Python sketch, and that’s where this does start to get interesting.
I am pretty sure that computer people are not great consumers of SPAM, but many of them did, and still do, have an affection for Monty Python. After all, the programming language Python was named after the TV show.
Monty Python was broadcast from 1969-74. In the early 1980s, there was an early computer “game” called Multi-User Dungeons. This had nothing to do with dragons, but rather was where clever, geeky people would show off their programs, one of which was a practical joke.
This joke consisted of a command to print the word “SPAM.” The second command was to repeat the first command, so the lyrics of the Monty Python Spam Song would be repeated ad infinitum. Over time (by about 1990), the word “spam” became associated in the computer programmers’ minds with anything that was unwanted, from which we now get the term spam for all those annoying requests to share your bank details, bequests from Nigerian princes, unlimited supplies of Viagra and fake invoices. So now you know. It’s all the fault of Monty Python and some rather indigestible pink, tinned meat.
Gareth Biggerstaff, CEO, Be-IT
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