I am in the fortunate position of knowing exactly when and where I was introduced to the use of computers to search for information. The date was 23 February 1976 and the location was the Institution of Electrical Engineers offices in Savoy Place, London. The occasion was a presentation by the UK Department of Trade and Industry of a UK link to the RECON service of the European Space Agency, based in Frascati, Italy. Remote access time-share research services had been available in the USA for over a decade but access to the services from the UK was technically difficult and very expensive. The definitive book on the development of online information services from 1963-1976 (Bourne & Hahn, 2003) runs to over 500 pages on just this fairly narrow but very important period of search technology development.

The development of computer hardware and software since the 1950s has been documented in the IEEE Annals of the History of Computing and in a number of books, notably A new history of modern computing published in 2021 (Haigh & Ceruzzi, 2021). There seems to have been no history of enterprise search which covers both the development of the technology and also its commercial exploitation. This book is an attempt to provide an overview of enterprise search, starting with the adoption of punched-card systems in the late 1930s and ending with the arrival of AI/ML technology in the 2020s.


Bourne, C.P. & Hahn, T.B. (2003). A history of online information services from 1963-1976. MIT Press


Haigh, T. & Ceruzzi, P.E. (2021). A new history of modern computing. MIT Press.



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A history of enterprise search 1938-2022 Copyright © 2022 by Martin White is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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