In order for the internet to be of usage in the public realm, information retrieval interfaces had to be intuitive and easy to use. The first search engines in history started out on UNIX systems using TCP/IP protocol. Anyone who has worked on the UNIX systems in the 1990s knows that it was an operating system used mainly at universities, scientific facilities, and government labs. Data stores grew quite large as history shows computers became more popular and widely-used. Search engines came on the scene for finding information in this growing data population.

The Archie search engine: To respond to the need for better information retrieval, the first computer search engine in history name Archie was written in 1989. It was written by J. Peter Deutsch, Alan Emtage, and Bill Heelan who were students at Montreal’s McGill University. The name Archie was derived from the word “archive.” The main information retrieval technology used with Archie was file transfer protocol (FTP). Archie used the concept of building a database of file names from different anonymous FTP servers. Each site was contacted using FTP once a month in order extract the available filenames and build the master database. Then, the UNIX grep command was used to search the database.

Gopher technology: In 1991, Mark McCahill of the University of Minnesota developed an information retrieval protocol known as Gopher that actually indexed text documents. Information retrieval with Archie meant that the program had to log in to each individual server with FTP. This proved to be very slow and error-prone quite often. But Gopher was its own protocol intended for information retrieval and it communicated with other Gopher servers. History would show that at this point, information retrieval technology stepped up one notch. It was still cryptic but progress was being made.

The Veronica search engine: When you have an information retrieval protocol like Gopher, you need a utility program to utilize it. Veronica was developed in 1993 at the University of Nevada by Steven Foster and Fred Barrie. It was basically a program designed to search the titles of Gopher files set up for information retrieval.

The WAIS search engine: WAIS stands for Wide Area Information Server and was developed in 1991 by a company called Thinking Machines Corporation. A WAIS server was also a separate machine that you logged in to. WAIS was a step up in that it could look for keywords inside the body of documents much like looking at the index of a book.

The Jughead search engine: This was another search engine developed in 1993 at the University of Utah by Rhett Jones. It was like Veronica except that it only looked at one Gopher server at a time whereas Veronica checked all known Gopher servers.

Wanderer – the first web robot: The only way to find something new on a network is to traverse its network nodes and detect something new today that was not there yesterday. This is in simple terms the first web robot created at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology by a student named Matthew Gray in 1993. This creation in search engine history would lead to what we know today as the Googlebot that regularly crawls the web looking for new pages to index.

One thing for certain about the early search engines was that they were designed for the computer gurus of their time and not necessarily for the every day home user. Interfaces were character-based and not intuitive to follow. However in that chapter of history, they were very popular.

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