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For days, they looked for flaws in the code, immersing themselves in its logic. To venture into the bottom of this structure, where the software meets the hardware, is to turn away from the Platonic order of code and toward the elemental universe of electricity and silicon on which it depends.On their fifth day in the war room, Jeff and Sanjay began to suspect that the problem they were looking for was not logical but physical.They converted the jumbled index file to its rawest form of representation: binary code.They wanted to see what their machines were seeing.He’d followed a colleague of his—a rangy, energetic thirty-one-year-old named Jeff Dean—from Digital Equipment Corporation. Jeff and Sanjay began poring over the stalled index.
One day in March of 2000, six of Google’s best engineers gathered in a makeshift war room.
Wires wore down, hard drives fell apart, motherboards overheated.
Many machines never worked in the first place; some would unaccountably grow slower. When a supernova explodes, the blast wave creates high-energy particles that scatter in every direction; scientists believe there is a minute chance that one of the errant particles, known as a cosmic ray, can hit a computer chip on Earth, flipping a 0 to a 1.
Although users could still type in queries at google.com, the results they received were five months out of date. Google’s co-founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, were negotiating a deal to power a search engine for Yahoo, and they’d promised to deliver an index ten times bigger than the one they had at the time—one capable of keeping up with the World Wide Web, which had doubled in size the previous year.
If they failed, would remain a time capsule, the Yahoo deal would likely collapse, and the company would risk burning through its funding into oblivion.
In a conference room by a set of stairs, the engineers laid doors across sawhorses and set up their computers.