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When you type something into Google Search, do you know what happens behind the scenes ? Let’s say you type ‘abc’ as shown below :

You get a list of values starting with ‘abc’ or with ‘abc’ within the text that you are trying to search. It seems so simple and straightforward, right ? But here’s what goes on behind the scenes :

In your machine

When you type the first letter ‘a’, this is what happens –

  1. Your keyboard code for ‘a’ goes into a keyboard buffer (temporary memory) and interrupts the Keyboard Support chip.
  2. This chip in turn raises an interrupt signal and this interrupt goes to the CPU which recognizes that the keyboard needs to be listened to.
  3. Now the CPU needs to display the letter ‘a’, so it interrupts the CRT controller chip (Display Chip), with the value ‘a’.
  4. The Display controller sends an ‘a’ to be displayed at the current cursor location. This travels through that cable which is attached to your Display, or in the case of a laptop, tablet or phone, to the display directly. The display chip is sometimes referred to as GPU (Graphics Processing Unit).

Behind the Google Search

As the Google Search is within the browser, here’s what happens.

  1. Javascript (Display programming language) accepts the input (‘abc’ in this case) and sends this input to the Google Server which is nearest to you. Note that the browser understands the Javascript language.
  2. The input now is given  to the browser, which in turn gives it to the operating system (OS) like Windows.
  3. The OS in turn will send this input to your network support chip or your network controller.
  4. From there this input (‘abc’) travels all the way to the Google servers (through wire or wireless).
  5. These servers are in a datacentre (a huge cluster of parallel servers) and the nearest server which is free to service your request will take it up.
  6. The cluster (group of servers) has a list of your previous searches and will try to return values which are closest to the input that you gave (‘abc’).
  7. This list of values is given back to your client through the same network.
  8. Once the values arrive at the client, a popup box opens up, to display all of them. This is also done in Javascript.
  9. What makes this feat possible is something called AJAX (Asynchronous Javascript and XML), a technology where a list of values is sent back as XML (Extensible Markup Language) through an asynchronous connection. (this means that the server will serve this request when it’s free)
  10. As shown in the above diagram, this is what happens behind the scenes. All of this in a jiffy. So much of data travelling from the innards of your machine to the server. So how is this possible without any delay ? The answer is Google Servers in the thousands that are responsible for delivering a swift and efficient connection.
  11. Sometimes you see a Google Server page without a network connection also. This is made possible by a local cache (local memory) which is used by Google.
  12. The server that services your request is called as an Edge Server (the server that’s closest to you geographically)

What does it mean ?

Our brains also work in a similar way, except slowly and fast. Slow – because our brains work at 50-500 bits / second, whereas the communication that we saw above happens at least at a speed of 1 Mb/ second. Fast – because our parallel neurons are much more complex than the Google data centre. Today, we learn about something called Deep Learning (a type of machine learning) which works like our brain. In Deep Learning, you emulate a neural network of say 10-20 layers. However, this is not even close to our brain, which is inherently and simultaneously parallel. But great progress is being made by advances in the field of Computer Science and sooner or later, machines will catch up with us. 15-20 years from now, give and take a few, machines will exceed a human brains capacity. No alarm bells here. Machines will be complementing us and replacing us in jobs which they do better than us. This means that we will have more time to spend on things we love to do – like say being with nature or maybe scuba diving. How the economics will work out – we do not know. But one thing is for sure – we will have a lot of time for ourselves – which means we can explore our spiritual / emotional dimensions and maybe discover that one alluring thing that evades us so subtly – our search for our Self.


Inside Google Search
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