Modern life — internet life — centers around finding information via search engines. Without clever algorithms searching and sorting ever-expanding web content we’d be figuratively in the dark. Research on “Black History Month” — as most topics — was done through several search engines. We owe the ubiquitous utility of search to Alan Emtage, from Barbados.
Whether your first search engine experience is Google, Ask Jeeves, Alta Vista, Yahoo!, Jughead, or Veronica, all of these owe their existence and success to Alan Emtage, a computer scientist who created Archie, a tool for discovering materials in the pre-web File Transfer Protocol (FTP) space of 1989; the World Wide Web wouldn’t be birthed until 1991.
Born in 1964, Mr. Emtage attended Harrison College in Bridgetown, Barbados, until 1983. Two years earlier he got his first computer, a Sinclair ZX81. After moving to McGill University in Montreal, Canada — where he took both undergraduate and graduate degrees in computer science — he was part of the team that brought the Internet to eastern Canada.
The First Search Tool — Archie
It was in 1989, while working as a systems administrator at the university, that Mr. Emtage conceived and implemented Archie. (The name derives from the word “archive” — dropping the letter “v” — and not from the Archie comic book series.) Archie searched for filenames. (Content inside the files came late, with Gopher.) Archie could be accessed directly (through telnet), with a graphic client (such as xarchie), and even by sending email queries.
In 1992 Mr. Emtage (and Peter Deutsch) started Bunyip, the world’s first company founded for providing Internet information services (through a licensed commercial version of Archie).
Co-chair of the Group Which Created URLs
Mr. Emtage was a founding member of the Internet Society, went on to create and chair several Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) working groups, and co-chaired the Uniform Resource Identifier working group which created the standard for Uniform Resource Locators (URLs), ubiquitous today in your web browser; think “https://…”
In 2017, he was inducted into the Internet Society’s Internet Hall of Fame. Two years later he received an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Science from the University of the West Indies. He is currently the chief technical officer at Mediapolis, a Web engineering company, in New York City, NY, USA.