Black History Month – Meet ARCHIE, the First Search Engine

Published On February 10, 2021 | By Tom Huskerson | News and Analysis, Now You Know

What a lot of people don’t know is that many of America’s greatest achievements involve people of color in vital, even transformative, roles. The internet is no exception. Black people have participated in the building and growth of internet; history’s greatest communication and commerce technology. This Black History we look at black contributions to the internet.

The First Search Engine

We love to talk about search engines. And, in reality, search engines make the internet work. You have to use a browser, or search engine to find anything online. ARCHIE, the internet’s first search engine, was invented by a black man.

Alan Emtage

ARCHIE first appeared in 1989 and was the invention of Alan Emtage, a computer science student from Barbados studying at Canada’s McGill University.

ARCHIE was designed to provide an online index of public FTP (file transfer protocol) sites. Previous to Emtage’s invention the only way you would know of the existence of an FTP server was by word of mouth or someone telling you where to find it.

This is how disorganized the early internet was before ARCHIE. First, you had to know what was online, or know someone who knew what was online and they would email you the information and you had to know they knew it! A black man cleared all that up.

By 1992, the early days of the internet, ARCHIE had catalogued over 200 public FTP sites. Compare that 200  sites back then to the the TRILLIONS of resources online today and you would laugh at Emtage’s invention. But don’t. He started it all. By 1995, 30 Archie engines crawled the Internet and had catalogued millions of pages.

Emtage’s impact was felt around the globe as evidenced by a 1995 article in the British Medical Journal; “It is one thing knowing that millions of files are potentially available on thousands of anonymous FTP sites; it is quite another being able to locate a program or other file suitable for a particular task when you may not even know that such a program exists, or if it does, where it might be found. You could try just browsing through various anonymous FTP sites. However, sites vary in how well indexed they are and how easy it is to find applications of a given type… If you know the name of the file that you are looking for, things get easier, thanks to a utility called Archie. Archie consists of a set of computers on the Internet that continually search all the anonymous FTP sites around the world and then compile the results into a single searchable database.”

While FTP continues to be a common way to share files over the Internet, Archie is no longer used.

Now you know.

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About The Author

Tom Huskerson Bio Born in Richmond Virginia Tom Huskerson is a military veteran who settled in California after his discharge. Tom attended Santa Barbara City College where he began his writing career as a campus reporter. He worked as an intern news reporter for the Santa Barbara News-Press writing feature stories before moving on to San Francisco. At San Francisco State University Tom studied broadcast communications and began to focus on the Internet. He completed his graduate thesis on Internet advertising. Tom was the first student to ever focus on the Internet as a graduate student at San Francisco State University. After graduation he went to work for Zona Research in California’s Silicone Valley. As a research associate Tom supported senior analyst writing on the latest developments in the Internet industry. During the dot com boom Tom worked for several web businesses as a market researcher and analyst. As a writer and researcher Tom has authored various technical works including a training program for Charles Schwab security. Other projects included professional presentations on workplace violence and hiring security contractors. Tom has also written both fiction and non-fiction works and blogging for a travel website. He has published two books of short stories and completed two novels. Tom is the owner of Scribe of Life Literature and Tom is not the chief editor for the OnTechStreet. com. A news and information blog that focuses on tech news for African-Americans. The blog is the result of his desire to inform the African American community of the dangers and benefits of the cyber age. In his blog Tom reports on information security, new and analysis, scams and hoaxes, legal happenings and various topics that arise from the age of information. Tom believes that technology is a necessary tool for black people and they should know what is happening. Tom writes believing that techno speak is for the professional and that valuable information can be communicated using plain language. As a result he has embraced the motto, Less Tech, More Knowledge.

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