When their Web crawler crashed, there was no informative diagnostic message—just the phrase “Whoa, horsey!
” Early employees referred to Big Files, a piece of software that Page and Brin had written, as Bug Files.
One day in March of 2000, six of Google’s best engineers gathered in a makeshift war room.
When Google was still called Back Rub, in 1996, its map was small enough to fit on computers installed in Page’s dorm room.
In March of 2000, there was no supercomputer big enough to process it.
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.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.