As I walked into the University of Chicago computer lab one early morning in 1999, I was greeted by the familiar sight of row upon row of blue-faced students. In those days, the reigning search engine was Netscape, and the Netscape screen reflected on their faces as an eerie cerulean glow. I put down my backpack and grabbed a terminal, taking my place among the blue faces.

It was my first year of business school. Netscape, for my purposes at the time, was adequate, if a bit frustrating. It was not the only game in town; AskJeeves, AltaVista, and Yahoo! already existed. But Netscape performed best on my standard search engine test, which was to enter my mother’s name. As a renowned geneticist who shared a last name with other famous ...

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