What Was The First Thing Ever Bought On The Internet? Weed, Of Course

By Jacob Shelton
(Computer History Museum)

The Internet has been a boon for commerce, but back when it was more tape and spinning reel-to-reel machines than a mysterious set of digital tubes, online shopping was a thing of the future. So what was the first purchase made online? Moon Shoes? Mariah Carey tapes? Nope. When some enterprising young people from Stanford made the first online sale in history, it was weed. This initial transaction paved the way for decades of illicit online business.

It's important to keep in mind that this first sale wasn't the score to end all scores, nor was it posted publicly on an early version of eBay. It was just a little bag of weed sold through an Arpanet account in Stanford’s artificial intelligence lab in 1972. It's not clear who was in on the sale aside from the students, but despite the underhanded nature of the deal, anyone with knowledge of the sale who wasn't a square must have been excited about the implications of this early use of the Internet.

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