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THE AL GILKES COLUMN: Bajan loses out

Al Gilkes

THE AL GILKES COLUMN: Bajan loses out

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From the youngest to the oldest people in today’s computer age use search engines.
In fact, the name of the most popular, Google, has evolved into a common verb and hardly a moment goes by without somebody advising somebody else to “google it”.
The search industry currently earns about US$780 billion annually and apart from Google includes the likes of Yahoo, Ask, Dogpile, WebMD, Answers and Lycos, among scores of others.
Currently also, the biggest story circulating about search engines has to do with a claim that a Canadian-based Bajan named Alan Emtage invented the very first in the world.
However, the real story within the story is that Emtage has never earned a cent from or for his groundbreaking invention that gave birth to today’s multibillion-dollar industry.
He is quoted as saying: “We built this very simple program that allowed people to do the search themselves. The program needed a name, so we called it ‘Archie’, which is ‘archive’ without the V. ‘Archie’ used the same techniques that every current search engine uses so in that way ‘Archie’ was the great-great-grandfather of Google and all of those other search engines.”
So if all of that is true, why is Alan Emtage not reaping any of the financial benefits? He reportedly explained: “At the time, nobody was making money off the Internet and we didn’t patent any of the original ideas behind ‘Archie’. The patents would have been where I would have made the money.”
Within months of his invention, half the Internet traffic to Canada was going to ‘Archie’ but, according to the story, the self-proclaimed Bajan geek, who majored in computer science at McGill University in Montreal, claims to be completely at ease with the situation.
“I don’t feel like a father of anything,” he stated. “It’s not how I think of myself really. Every now and again, I interact with somebody who’s a real idiot and I think to myself, ‘Yeah, but you know what? I invented the search engine’.”
Now if I were his father, I would be pelting some hard lashes in his tail every day even though he is now a big hardback man.
• Al Gilkes heads a public relations firm.