Search Engines


When was the first time a well-known word or phrase was used in print? explores the history and origins of famous people and places, and of popular phrases, companies,
brand names, products and ideas, along with familiar words and sayings.

The FirstMention of the phrase search engine dates back to 1986 and no, it wasn’t from the founders of Google, AltaVista, Yahoo, Lycos, or any of their Silicon Valley cronies.

Actually, there were two FirstMentions from 1986, and they both stem from the Patent Office, in one way or the other.

The first FirstMention goes to Advanced Micro Devices for a patent with an original application date of May 7, 1986.

The second FirstMention belongs not to a patent, but to the Patent Office itself, for its innovations in data management and retreival, as written up in PC Week magazine on July 8, 1986.

Patented Method

…When workers search for patents using the new system, they will be using “smart terminals,” which will search through an index in the department’s IBM mainframe, looking for key words and key phrases that fit the patent in question.

“Once they find the label and index pointing to the actual files containing the information they’re looking for, the process returns to a search engine that goes out to the distributed optical database,” Wolfson said.

“Each compressed, stored image that’s close to the patent in question, including text, drawings and the first page of the patent document, is pulled back to the user’s screen within 10 seconds after he’s made the request.”

PC Week July 8, 1986

Ten seconds!!!! That’s, like, an eternity, man. Talk about the Dark Ages.

Here are a few links to some good overview sites on search engines, covering search tools, how-to guides, history and latest search news:

Search engine — a quick look from Wikipedia at how search engines work, and the history of their development, with links to most major search engines.

Pretty good search engine tutorial from the UC Berkeley Library, with detailed comparisons of Google, Yahoo Search, and

Search Engine Watch is the premier online source for search-related news and insights. Some excellent articles, newsletters and RSS feed tools can be found here.

We all know who the best search engine is…wink….wink…so why not give some of their coolest free products a try.

Know of an earlier FirstMention? Drop us a line at