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Friday, 14 December, 2001, 08:55 GMT
Digital history saved
Google headquarters
Google: Home to popular and successful search engine
Millions of messages posted on electronic bulletin boards over the past 20 years have been saved from digital oblivion.

The internet search engine Google has expanded its capabilities to include more than 700 million messages, offering a valuable insight into the history and the culture of the internet.

The messages are drawn from the Usenet discussion forum, a message board system that provided people their first opportunity to express their views electronically on millions of different topics.

"The Google Groups Usenet archive reveals a detailed view into two decades of history - that's 10 years' worth of content that existed before the birth of the web," said Google's co-founder Sergey Brin.

Vast archive

Among the postings saved for future generations are Tim Berners-Lee's announcement of what was to become the world wide web.

Sergey Brin
Brin: View into two decades of history
"The WWW project merges the techniques of information retrieval and hypertext to make an easy but powerful global information system," he wrote in August 1991.

"The project started with the philosophy that much academic information should be freely available to anyone.

"It aims to allow information sharing within internationally dispersed teams, and the dissemination of information by support groups."

Thousands of topics

Before the internet and e-mail became ubiquitous, online communication involved posting text messages on electronic bulletin boards where others could read and reply to them.

The disease sounds very frightening. I had heard about it about two weeks ago. Seems like the public should be more aware of it

Early Usenet posting on Aids
Usenet began in 1979 as a collection of these bulletin boards, now called newsgroups.

Over the years, the number of such newsgroups has grown to the thousands, hosted all over the world and covering every conceivable topic.

Through the Google archive, you can find the first mention of Microsoft in May 1981, the first mention of a compact disc and the first ever public discussion on Aids in December 1982.

"The disease sounds very frightening," reads one message. "I had heard about it about two weeks ago. Seems like the public should be more aware of it. Anybody have any info on it?"

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