04 September 2015

Google As I Say, Not As I Do

I was a hypocrite.  There was something I used to forbid my students from using.  Then, one day--you know where this is going!--one of my students caught me red-handed with it.

If you guessed that thing is a smartphone, you'd be on the right track.  I'm talking about something people often use on their phones--and tablets and laptops.

It's the conduit that led some of you, my dear readers, to this blog.

You guessed it:  Google. 

Larry Page and Sergey Brin, its creators, formally incorporated their company on this date, 4 September, in 1998. 

I learned of Google's birthday, if you will when I was--of course--Googling something. 

(What kind of role model am I?  I teach students not to verb nouns.  And I said I was "googling" something!)

It's quite a coincidence-- isn't it?--that Google's birthday is the day after that of eBay, which turned 20 yesterday.  It wasn't the first Internet search engine, but it was probably the first to offer access to so much of the worldwide web in a format that most people can easily use. 

Google's webpage, 1998

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, eBay seems to have been tailor-made for cyclists, especially those who are looking for parts and accessories, even bikes, that are no longer made or are simply difficult to find.  Google, I believe, has been a boon for cyclists in a similar way:  It has given us access to all sorts of information about bicycles and cycling. 

Cyclists have been using Google to look for assembly or repair instructions, check parts compatiblity , find bike clubs and rides, learn about an obscure bike brand and search for all sorts of other cycling-related information for more than a decade now.  All sorts of bicycle catalogues, manuals, brochures and magazines have been scanned and posted to various sites on the web, nearly all of which can be reached by Google. 

Messrs. Page and Brin certainly chose quite the date to turn their Stanford research project into one of the world's great cash cows.  Here are some other interesting and important events that took place on 4 September:

  • 475 --Romulus Augustus, the last Emperor of the Western Roman Empire, was deposed when Odacer proclaimed himself "King of Italy".   According to many historians, this event effectively ended the Roman Empire.
  • 1781--City of Los Angeles was founded.
  • 1870--Emperor Napoleon III of France was deposed and The Third Repubic was declared. (This is the reason why Paris and other French cities have streets called "rue 4 Septembre".)
  • 1888--George Eastman registered the trademark "Kodak" and received a patent for his camera, the first to use roll film.
  • 1951--The first live transcontinental television broadcast took place in San Francisco. 
  • 1972--Mark Spitz became the first competitor to win seven gold medals in a single Olympiad.
And...in 1957, Ford Motor Company introduced the Edsel. Oh, well.

Fun fact:  Have you ever noticed that the letters of the Google logo are blue, yellow, red and green?  Those just happen to be the colors of Lego blocks--which were used to build the enclosure that housed the first Google computer at Stanford.



  1. I love to verbify nouns. Though, to verb them works too. Actually, I have no qualms about using Google as a verb -- it's just another example of how our language is constantly evolving. In fact, I recently talked about that phenomenon with my communications classes, and how when I was their age, the expression "to google something" would have been impossible to comprehend. And if someone said that he "googled himself" we probably would have thought it was something private that we normally don't bring up in polite conversation. (Too much information!).

    I hadn't thought about the Google logo colors before, but now I can't help but notice that the eBay colors are also red, blue, yellow and green. The Lego connection is a fun fact - I never would have guessed.

  2. Brooks--I also like to verbicate nouns. And, yes, I've googled myself. Don't tell anybody: That's our little secret! ;-)

    You made an interesting point with your students about "googling something." I wonder what expressions will be used in the future that will make no sense to our younger selves.

    Now that you've mentioned the eBay colors, I've tried to find out whether Pierre Omidyar was a Lego aficionado, or whether there's any other connection to the famous toy. So far, I haven't found any.