Today Google has well over a million servers in data centers scattered across the globe, but back in 1998, the search giant consisted of little more than this makeshift data storage center cobbled together in the basement of Stanford’s Gates Information Sciences building.
Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin were both Ph.D. students at Stanford in 1996 when they began collaborating on a search engine they called BackRub. What eventually became Google required more storage space than most student projects at the time; the pair’s PageRank algorithm worked by crawling the entire World Wide Web, figuring out how popular a web page was in order to rank how high it should appear in a search. (You can read Brin and Page’s original paper on Google here, which is pretty cool.)
Brin and Page built the original storage assembly from 10 four gigabyte disk drives, giving them 40 gigabytes of space total. Fancifully, they decorated the disk box with Legos. The setup could index 24 million pages a week, according to Stanford, which at the time was a huge number of pages.
In 1998, Google incorporated and moved into Susan Wojcicki’s now famous garage on Santa Margarita Avenue in Menlo Park. Until 2010, the original storage unit was still on display in the basement of the Gates Information Sciences building, but now it’s on permanent display at the school’s Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center.
Nearly two decades later, Google’s data centers look much different. Here’s what one looks like now: