This is a true story: in 1988 I single-handedly knocked AOL off the air. What brought it to mind is, I just now took my once-daily look at the junk-mail folder and wiped a few dozen pornospams with a single keystroke, and there were none in my inbox; antispam is getting good enough that I may never see another, and I remembered, lo my righteous wrath and the awful consequences when I got my first one. [Reposted for your amusement on its 20th anniversary.]
This (I’m pretty sure, maybe a year one way or t’other) would be 1988, and I was on research staff at the University of Waterloo working on the New Oxford English Dictionary Project. Waterloo’s Math Faculty Computing Facility at UW was then, and had been for years, one of the world centers of Unix expertise; we had dozens of big computers from Sun and DEC and MIPS (remember them?) supporting hundreds of Really Smart People; some had as many as 64MB of RAM, dig it. Hey, MFCF is still there.
In those days the Internet was young (we had to telnet to work and back, uphill both ways in the icy Canadian slush) but our lives were already email-centric.