Practical Technology

for practical people.

B.G. (Before Google)


I started using the Internet in the 1970s. It didn’t look anything like it does today, and our search tools were, well, awful.

Still compared to what we started with, they were great. Before I ever turned my hand to writing, I put myself through graduate school by doing research on the very first online database systems: NASA RECON, Dialog, and OCLC. These systems, which are still around, are part of what’s called the Matrix, and, no, I don’t mean the movie. The Matrix, as defined by John S. Quarterman, is the superset of all interconnected networks. Now, unlike then, you can get to these networks over the Internet, but you’ll find yourself blocked from getting very deep into them without permission.

As for the Internet itself, it didn’t really have search tools then. It wasn’t until the late 1980s that the Internet became searchable. For example, today, if you want to find a particular file, Google is your friend and sites like Mininova make finding BitTorrent files easy. When I started, we had to go through ftp file directories screen by screen and hope that the file was in there somewhere.

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