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Early technology memories

Discussion in 'The Coffee Shop' started by amusicsite, 1 Jun 2019.

  1. amusicsite

    amusicsite dn ʎɐʍ sᴉɥ┴ Staff Member

    Recently there seems a spate of tv shows set in the 80/90 tech boom era and it's made me think of some of my early memories, which I have a lot off. So thought I would start a tread to start putting some down.

    I'll going to start with one of my favorite, search engines. Now I was lucky enough to have a play around on the web before it went public. Back then you had to know the address of anything to find it. Mostly I hung around in early chat rooms often getting into trouble but that's another story.

    I can't remember the first search engine I used, probably something running on the university computers that linked to research type stuff. You mainly got addresses from magazines, adverts or word of month. One thing that really made me chuckle was I went to one university site, again I can't remember which but it was Sussex or Essex or something like that. The first thing on the homepage was a big sing saying something like "This is a university website and has nothing to do with sex"

    Obviously someone had written a bad search engine that was sending lots of people there when they searched for sex. Which fyi has always been in the top 10 of search results, though most listings filter this out.

    Not long after this I remember reading about this new upstart called Google that had fixed the problem with a very simple system... The results were ranked by the number of external websites linking to a sit. Genius for the time. Out of the box it worked really well and I knew then it was a game changer.

    Obviously there were some issues. Football for example was full of that game the Americans play rather than the European version as there were more Americans online than most other countries. This was fixed when they started using tricks like working out the lactation of your ip address and the roll out of the .co.uk version.

    There was a fun period when it was a bit of a game trying to find a search term that would return only one result and some funny quirks like the famous French military victories. Which if you don't know the story someone gamed Google so it showed a page of all their defeats. For years if you searched it and used to old I'm feeling lucky option you would end up there.

    The other problem, once it started getting popular was people gaming the system. To start with all you had to do was set up a few dozen websites all with links back to your site. This I believe was fixed with website ratings type thing. Get a mentioning on cnet or one of the popular sites and it counted much more than little sites. Though this also had problems. I used to have a profile on cnet and a lot of other sites but I had to remove it because when I launched my own site, with the same name as my profile name, my bloody cnet profile page would rank higher than my own website. I lived with it for a bit thinking "they will fix it soon" but eventually got bored of seeing it show up higher and just deleted the user account, which I was not using much anyway.

    I remember the different engines you would get. The closed listings ones more like yellow pages, who got into the game way too late. Then you had the open directories which were a bit like Wikipedia in that the users added stuff and voted it up or down. There were lots of random link sites like stumble that would just give you daily rabbit holes to explore. Then there were the top 10 sites, often with the promise of giving you the best in any category but often ended up with just the first 10 companies stupid enough to pay to get listed. Then you had the gateway sites like Excite and eventually Yahoo who would give you news, sports and stock type stuff. Basically teletext on steroids but as they typically gave you free email address too, you would be logged on so they could track you and you could customise how it worked a bit.

    Google have had nice things come and go. Like there used to be a not interested thing where you could remove search results you did not like. Not sure why they removed the function but I'd guess it's a mixture of people accidentally clicking on it and never being able to find it again or because everyone blocked the advertisers that where making them money. They also had a period where it was fairly obvious that sites which carried Google advert boxes ranked very high.

    Now obviously Google is king but it was not that way from day one. You had Ask Jeeves, Lycos, AltaVista, Teoma, HotBot and Go. Most of which got bought up or went bust.

    Then of course you had the walled gardens of AOL and CompuServe where you could search things posted by other users.

    It was not till the privacy thing grew that we saw a new wind of engines like Start Page and Duck Duck Go.

    Microsoft have always had a search engine be it MSN, Live or Bing but never really seems to have gotten it working, even though the have the advantage of pointing people there from Windows.

    I do find the whole history of search fascinating and you have to say that Google have done a fantastic job of getting them working really well.
  2. Yellow Fang

    Yellow Fang Veteran Geek

    My colleague used to swear by the WebWeasle search engine. I think it was actually a search engine that employed other search engines. I cannot remember what search engine I used before google.
    amusicsite likes this.