Alan Emtage – the Bajan who invented the ftp search engine in 1989 while a post-grad student at McGill University

Bajan Alan Emtage in 1989, aged 25, invented the first internet (ftp) search engine – Archie (Archive without the v).  At the time he was a post graduate student at McGill University working as a volunteer systems administrator for the School of Computer Science where he conceived and implemented: Archie, a pre-web internet search engine for locating material in public FTP archives.

Archie is widely considered to be the world’s first Internet search engine.

Archie (Archive without a v) – Alan Emtage’s ftp search engine from 1989

Alan says: “I wrote a piece of code that gave birth to a multi-billion dollar industry”.  In recognition of this in 2017 Alan was inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame.

Lets go back to 1989.  At that time, there was an internet, but not yet a way to search what was out there.  There was no Google!

Everything was done by using command line tools.  The ability to search this awesome new world of the internet became a game changer.

Archie was designed to provide an online index of public FTP (file transfer protocol) sites, the internet information repositories that existed before the web and home pages.

Before Archie, the only way people could find out the existence of an FTP server was by word-of-mouth or to be sent an e-mail telling where to find the information.

By 1992, Archie had catalogued over 200 public FTP sites. It is a figure that seems almost laughable by today’s standards, but back then was already beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. At its peak in 1995, 30 Archie engines crawled the Internet and had catalogued millions of pages.

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

Click on the link below so see Alan Emtage’s acceptance speech on being inducted into the the internet hall of fame in 2017:

Click here to listen to an audio interview between Tyler Reed of Vault Solution LLC and Alan Emtage.


On 26th October 2022 Bajan Alan Emtage was presented by McGill University with the highest Honour an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa (D.Sc.) presented by McGill Chancellor Emeritus The Honourable Michael A. Meighen, C.M., Q.C., LL.D.

Alan Emtage attended McGill in 1983 as an undergraduate scholarship student and left the university eight years later with two degrees and “at the same established himself as one of the pioneers of the Internet.”

Reading the citation, Professor Bruce Lennox, Dean of the Faculty of Science, McGill, said that it was Emtage who found a way to browse and access the millions of files that were now quickly being uploaded onto the Internet but for all intents and purposes, not easily accessible.

“Mr Emtage came up with the idea in 1989 to index the Internet and created a programme he called Archie. Archie is recognised as the world’s very first search engine.

“With Archie, what once took hours and hours of manual searching, could now be achieved in seconds. After completion of his MSc, Mr Emtage and his colleague Peter Deutsch cofounded the company Bunyip Information Systems, Inc. This was the first company in the world dedicated to information services on the Internet. He went on to play a leading role in web technologies.”


For further background information on Alan Emtage and Archie see:

1 thought on “Alan Emtage – the Bajan who invented the ftp search engine in 1989 while a post-grad student at McGill University”

  1. Awesome achievement! Congratulations, Alan Emtage.

    Years ago, there was a well known Peter Deutsch, who conducted a Youth Harmonie Orchestra in Denmark. Knowing it’s not the same Peter Deutsch, whom you mention in the interview. However, by coincidence they could be related, since the whole name is rather uncommon. I have a photo from Albert Hall in London, where both the orchestra with Peter Deutsch and the choir, in which I was a member and performed.

    Small World, now and then. If you had not turned out to being innovator this scale and created this fabulous ‘Archie’ system/platform and BajanThings wasn’t invented either – then not much ‘storytelling’ at all.

    Stay safe and best regards,

    LS

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