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Monday, December 18, 2006

Space Act Agreement

Not quite sure what this means but, "NASA Ames Research Center and Google have signed a Space Act Agreement that formally establishes a relationship to work together on a variety of challenging technical problems ranging from large-scale data management and massively distributed computing, to human-computer interfaces." This story's currently on Techmeme and is being covered well elsewhere in the blogosphere. Seems a strange partnership - a search engine and a space agency.

NASA Moon Framed
Image Credit: NASA (Moon Framed)
When I saw this story, it reminded me of how I ended up working on the World Wide Web. In 1994, I was working for Loral Aerospace on a NASA project. The guy in the cube next to me started playing around with Mosaic, one of the first web browsers. We began tinkering with CERN httpd and NCSA HTTPd web servers and built applications to display in Mosaic. Not being a GUI developer, I thought it was great to have an easy way to build graphical applications. Obviously, this is before web scripting languages like PHP and ASP existed. We wrote CGI programs as Unix shell scripts. More than a decade later, I still write CGI scripts. For example, this search engine spider tracking tool is a shell script. The free keyword research tool is a PHP application, though. I have learned something in the interim. ;-)

Anyway, I thought the WWW was fascinating and split my time between writing Unix/C++ apps for the NASA project and tinkering with the Web on the side. I decided that the company I worked for, Loral Aerospace (since bought by Lockheed Martin) needed a home page on the WWW. So, I put together a demo and presented it to the boss of my boss. I'll never forget what he said, "Well, I don't think we need to waste our time with this kind of thing." Something to that effect. I was flabbergasted. The next day I started looking for a new job. This clearly wasn't the kind of company I wanted to work for. A few weeks later, in early 1995, I went to work for America Online, at that point in time a distant third behind Prodigy and CompuServe in online services. I initially worked on their Usenet servers in a Unix/C++ environment and later did some web development. Spent more than six years there. Had to get out after AOL merged with Time Warner and it lost that startup feel.

Well, it was nice blogging about something other than PPC advertising for a change. This whole NASA-Google partnership jogged my memory and reminded me of why I'm in the web consulting business in the first place. I'll get back to more PPCmoz-ish posts in the future. I hope you enjoyed this diversion.

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