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Before Google became Google: The original setup at Stanford University

Since it launched in 1998, Google has become one of the true giants of the Internet. These days, Google has data centers all around the world and hundreds of thousands of servers. The sheer size of Google today makes it very interesting to look back at its humble beginnings as a small research project called Backrub at Stanford University.

Back in early 1998, the entire search engine and website ran on this setup:


Closeups and hardware descriptions available here. Note the homemade Lego disk box…

The original Google platform

The original Google platform (Backrub) at Stanford University was written in Java and Python and ran on the following hardware (shown in the pic above):

  • Sun Ultra II with dual 200 MHz processors and 256MB of RAM. This was the main machine for the original Backrub system.
  • 2 x 300 MHz Dual Pentium II Servers (donated by Intel) with 512MB of RAM and 9 x 9GB hard drives between the two. The main search ran on these.
  • F50 IBM RS/6000 (donated by IBM) with 4 processors, 512MB of RAM and 8 x 9GB hard drives.
  • Two additional boxes included 3 x 9GB hard drives and 6 x 4GB hard drives respectively (the original storage for Backrub). These were attached to the Sun Ultra II.
  • IBM disk expansion box with another 8 x 9GB hard drives (donated by IBM).
  • Homemade disk box which contained 10 x 9GB SCSI hard drives.

The Backrub website, and the first try at a Google logo

The Backrub website in 1997 showed the following description of what Backrub was. (Ironically they were having network issues at the specific time of the screen capture we found, see emphasis below.)

BackRub is a “web crawler” which is designed to traverse the web.

Currently we are developing techniques to improve web search engines. We will make various services available as soon as possible.

Sorry, many services are unavailable due to a local network faliure [sic] beyond our control. We are working to fix the problem and hope to be back up soon. 12/4/97

And the Backrub “logo”…? This, apparently, was it:

And here is what must be one of the very first tries at a Google logo, from back in 1997, a year before the actual Google website went live:

History in the making, 12 years ago…

Side note: If you like “tech history”, you might want to check out our post about how nine of the world’s largest tech companies got started, like IBM, Motorola, Nokia, etc.



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  6. [...] More Hardware descriptions are available here.The backrub Website as appeared in 1997 can be seen here.Thanks Pingdom [...]