From the very early history of computing, efficient and quick text indexing and information retrieval have always been a challenge. Computers held so much promise in the 1960s as a way to store massive information but that could not become a reality until the information retrieval methods advanced. So you can really begin search engine history with the introduction of computers and the developments all the way to the Internet we know today.

Search engine history includes Dr. Gerard Salton who was born in Nuremberg, Germany and had to leave the country during World War II. He received his education in America ending with receiving his PhD at Harvard University. He was an instructor at Harvard between 1958 and 1960 and professor there between 1960 and 1965. History would show that he also was among the first programmers to work on the Harvard Mark IV computer.

Salton is credited in history with developing Salton’s Magical Automatic Retriever of Text (SMART) and the Vector Space Model (VSM) for information retrieval. Initially, the VSM was not articulated as an information retrieval for search engines model but rather for performing specific mathematical calculations. In the late 1970s was when Dr. Salton started to present this as a model for computer information retrieval. He started publishing more about the VSM in the late 1980s.

The overall definition of the VSM is that it allows humans to insert search requests in natural language. Once the search request is entered, the content of the candidate documents is analyzed and retrieved. The idea is to retrieve as many documents as possible with the best match to the search query. One can see in this history how this was the seeds of today’s search engines.

Development of search engine and information retrieval technology was just one aspect of developments taking place in history. The Internet as we know it today has its roots in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). In 1962, a paper was written describing a global network of interconnected computers available to anyone. The authors of this paper were J.C.R. Licklider and Leonard Kleinrock. Licklider was the first head of DARPA. Between 1961 and 1964 Kleinrock developed technology known as packet-switching. History would show that packet switching lead to the development of the first wide area network (WAN) and the connection of two remote computers: a TX-2 at MIT and a Q-32 in California.

What is significant about Licklider was his vision of what this global network would someday be. In 1965, he published a book name “Libraries of the Future” that contained discussions about how information could be stored and retrieved electronically thus creating a global library that could be accessed by all.

So you have the history of a global information retrieval system being put in place. There was research taking place on how to quickly search for and retrieve information that would later be used in the search engines we know today. You have the research in data packet transmissions taking place so that the information can be delivered long distances at great speeds. And you have the interconnection of computers being studied in this history. Kleinrock would then chair a group that would later submit its finding to then Senator Al Gore who would in turn develop and see passed the High Performance Computing and Communication Act of 1991. At this point, development of the Internet steps up one level and search engines really become very crucial to its success.

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