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Archie, the Internet’s first search engine, is rescued and running

Enlarge (credit: The Serial Code/YouTube)

It’s amazing, and a little sad, to think that something created in 1989 that changed how people used and viewed the then-nascent Internet had nearly vanished by 2024.

Nearly, that is, because the dogged researchers and enthusiasts at The Serial Port channel on YouTube have found what is likely the last existing copy of Archie. Archie, first crafted by Alan Emtage while a student at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, allowed for the searching of various “anonymous” FTP servers around what was then a very small web of universities, researchers, and government and military nodes. It was groundbreaking; it was the first echo of the “anything, anywhere” Internet to come. And when The Serial Port went looking, it very much did not exist.

The Serial Port’s journey from wondering where the last Archie server was to hosting its own.

While Archie would eventually be supplanted by Gopher, web portals, and search engines, it remains a useful way to index FTP sites and certainly should be preserved. The Serial Port did this, and the road to get there is remarkable and intriguing. You are best off watching the video of their rescue, along with its explanatory preamble. But I present here some notable bits of the tale, perhaps to tempt you into digging further.

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