search.jpgPaul Flaherty

A computer engineer, Flaherty worked for Digital Equipment Corp. In early 1995 the company introduced its new Alpha 8400 "TurboLaser" computer, which was particularly good at manipulating data bases. As a demonstration project, Flaherty  proposed a radical new way to search the newly popular "World Wide Web". Previous "search engines" were actually hand- created directories (such as Yahoo); how about a system that actually crawled the web and created a full text index that could be searched? Flaherty, assisted by two other DEC staffers (a project manager and a marketing guy) made it happen. Within six monthsthe new search engine, called "AltaVista" ("high view") went live, indexing 16 million web pages. Astute DEC execs had it opened to the public, sending out a press release on 15 December 1995, ushering in a new era of search engines (the upstart "Google!", which later dropped the exclamation point from its name, didn't debut until three years later). Within three weeks of launch AltaVista users were doing 2 million searches per day; that grew to 22 million searches per day in less than a year. Flaherty died at his California home on March 16. He was 42.
(from Randy Cassingham)