Practical Technology

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How search worked before Google

When I started using the Internet in the 1970s, it didn’t look anything like it does today, and our search tools were primitive. But when all you have is stone knives and bear skins, you make do.

Before I ever turned my hand to writing for a living, I put myself through graduate school by doing research on the very first online database systems: NASA RECON; Dialog, now ProQuest; and OCLC. These systems, which are still around, are part of what’s called the Matrix—and, no, I don’t mean the movies. The Matrix, as defined by Carl Malamud, is the superset of all interconnected networks. Today, you can get to ProQuest and OCLC over the Internet, but you’ll find yourself blocked from getting very deep into them without permission.

As for the pre-Web Internet itself, at first it didn’t have search tools. It wasn’t until the late 1980s that the Internet became searchable. When I started using it, we had to go through FTP file directories screen by screen and hope that the file we wanted was in there somewhere.

Then came Archie and Veronica

How search worked before Google. More>

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