Life isn't too bad when you go from creating printers out of Legos to playing with Legos on the cover of Time magazine. I'd heard of rumors that some of the early Google computer cases were made out of legos. Well, thanks to The Search Guy (Stephen Green at Sun), I finally found some interesting pictures of Google hardware, circa 1998.
One thing that has always impressed me about Google was what they managed to accomplish considering the meagre hardware and software contstraints. This simple lesson is one a lot of startups could learn. Do more with less. The best of the best are breed of adversity, like the Sardaukar in Frank Herbert's Dune. If you are smart and creative enough to survive the Emperor's prison planet, then you are smart, resourceful, and little compunction from killing.
Although no prison planet, Stanford's CS department certainly did not provide a wealth of free computational power. Computers and parts were reportedly borrowed, stolen, salvaged, and otherwise appropriated. Google's infrastructure needed to be robust enough to handle even the most Frankenstienien hardware and its fickleness. This robust software (TeraGoogle?) allowed Google to create a blazing fast, reliable, service out of cheap bits and bobs. Although, according to some recent reports they are going soft (Google: A behind the scenes look) with their new found wealth.
If you haven't yet, check out Stephen's Blog. It's a great read from another programmer who has been in the business longer than myself.