Monday, March 21, 2011

Carl Page, Larry's father, presaged Google long before its inception

Watched a surprisingly accurate 2004 documentary about Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page today on Biography. They got all the essential facts right.

They emphasized that as Stanford grad students Larry and Sergey had to scrimp on hardware and develop superior algorithms.

While telling this story to a friend I recounted how Larry's dad, MSU computer science prof Carl Page, gave a lecture probably sometime in the 80s where he said his best time at MSU was the year he took a sabbatical at Stanford.

Soviets were great at software and algorithms because they worked with horrible computer hardware. They had to write great software and use the available cheapest hardware because they had no choice.

I wish I could recall the exact year of the lecture.
Larry's insight was to use cheapest hardware and superior algorithm and softwware. Hmm, ring a bell? I wonder what conversations Larry and his father had that influenced Larry as he and Sergey built Google.

Think about it.  Dr. Carl Page, respected computer scientist, said his best year was in academe was at Stanford.  That's where Larry went to grad school, and where he met Sergey. (The documentary claims that Larry and Sergey didnt't like each other at first.  No clue if this is true.)   Dr. Page recognized you could make up with cheap hardware and excellent software what others tried to do.

Those two instincts: to use superior algorithms, and to use the cheapest hardware, may have come from Dr. Carl Page's insights. 

It never occurred to me until today, but I think Carl Page Sr. may be Google's grandfather.  A fitting thing to realize, as Dr. Page died of a cruel illness, Post-Polio Syndrome, just before his son fathered Google.