Here’s another “deleted scene” from our long story on the incredible comeback of Google’s visionary co-founder, Larry Page.
In 1991, Google co-founder Larry Page left the town where he grew up, East Lansing, Michigan, to go to the University of Michigan, where his brother and parents had all gotten their degrees.
At the beginning of college, Page was extremely socially reserved. But as time wore on, Page was able to connect with people over a shared enthusiasm for technology.
He joined Eta Kappa Nu, the electrical and computer engineering honour society sponsored by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, a professional society.
In 1994, Page became the editor of Eta Kappa Nu’s newsletter, EECS Speaks.
Each issue he edited has articles written by Page himself. They reveal him to be an opinionated, forward-looking thinker — and a goofball.
In one issue, Page writes at length about the sudden proliferation of Random Dot Stereograms — otherwise known as Magic Eye pictures. He explains that there’s a Macintosh program called 3D Dots, which can make the images, and tells readers where they can download it.
He gives instructions about how to see the 3-D image. Going cross-eyed doesn’t help, he writes — “a stiff drink” does. Next to the article, there’s a random dot stereogram designed by Page. In floating letters, it reads: Eta Kappa Nu.
Here’s the Magic Eye illustration that Page made:
At Michigan, Page attended a leadership camp one summer that encouraged students to have a “healthy disregard for the impossible.” This spoke to his long-felt sense that, though it cannot be seen, the future is as much of a reality as the present and the past.
Over time, the sincerity of Page’s grasp of this notion attracted people to him. In part, this is because a vision of the future would hit Page, and he’d have to share it with whoever was around him.
One time, Page was sitting in his apartment with a classmate named Eric Glover. The place was messy. There was computer equipment everywhere. Suddenly, Page started getting really excited.
On his computer, he opened a website that listed the price of hard drives. Page pointed out to Glover that, finally, you could buy hard drives for 50 cents a gigabyte.
This had Page wide-eyed with excitement. Cheap hard drives meant PCs were about to get a lot more useful, he explained.
Another time, Glover was at Page’s apartment and Page started geeking out about a new application called Hot Java — a “browser” for the “Web.”
Clicking around the application and looking at the screen, Page told Glover how this meant the Web was going to get tons more content, all linked together and accessible from anywhere.
“This is awesome,” he said.
In November 1994, Page wrote a review of another browser for EECS Speaks. This browser was a new piece of software called Netscape Navigator. Here’s that review:
Another reason Page’s visions for the future were so attractive to his fellow engineers at Michigan was how they blithely ignored the way things had been done.
By the time he was at Michigan, Page’s brain was always scanning the world for systems that needed to be tossed out. Once he bumped into one, he became obsessed with it.
For example, in September 1994, Page wrote an article for EECS Speaks proposing a radical overhaul of the University’s bus system.
His idea was that the University of Michigan should replace its buses connecting two of its campuses with a “Personal Rapid Transit” system.
A PRT, he explains, is a monorail with a car for every rider. The PRT would also have lots of stations where students could get on an off, all along the route.
Here’s Page in his own words, from September 1994:
Over his last couple of years at Michigan, Page became obsessed with trying to get the university to build a PRT. He lobbied friends and university administrators. He got a hundred or so of them to sign up for an email list. He got the Michigan Student Assembly to pass a “resolution commending the UM-Transit group.”
Signing off from his last issues of EECS Speaks, he wrote, “Thanks to everyone for the tremendous support, enthusiasm, and fun this term! … My future? I will enjoy my retirement and keep busy with UM-Transit.”
And then, in italics: “This is not the time for resting on your laurels. That time will never come.”
It hasn’t yet for Page.