About the Talk:
Three years ago, a team of three researchers at Digital Equipment Corporation combined lots of memory, lots of compute power, and some innovative ideas about databases and the Internet to create (in four months) a search engine called Alta Vista. The primary goal was to create a public showpiece for DEC's database and Internet performance prowess. However, the Law of Unintended Consequences seems to have guaranteed an interesting life for what was originally a demo. People around the world have found all sorts of interesting uses for the search engine, the company managed to put together a business model for perpetuating the demonstration, and the spammers have made life very interesting for the production team.
This talk will have both technical and nontechnical portions. The technical portion will cover some of the details of the database, the crawler, and the front end. The nontechnical portion will cover marketing(!), and some of the unexpected social issues that the production team has encountered in operating a public service, which is used more than 90 million times per day.
About the speaker:
Paul Flaherty was the inventor of AltaVista (for some value of invention). His current work includes projects in infrared LANs and signal processing (spam filtering). For fun, he runs the domain viking.org, dabbles in ham radio, and is trying to brush up on his Danish.
Dr. Flaherty received his Masters and Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Stanford. During his eight year tenure, he worked on a diverse collection of projects, from radioscience to error coding to computer architecture and networking.