IMDb.com, the 57th most trafficked site in the world, was born in the late 1980s on a Usenet board called rec.arts.movies where movie buffs swapped lists of actors, casts, directors and other trivia. But lists are only so useful.
In October 1990, someone asked the board, “Does anyone out there have a Unix or C program which can ‘interrogate’ the actor/actress files? What I want to be able to do is to type in an actor/actress’ name and get out a list of all the films which they appeared in.” Col Needham, a British film buff who regularly posted to the message board, replied, “Well I can’t provide you with exactly what you want, but I have a Unix script which might be of some use.” A month later he posted an update to a list of to the board and in that message offered the scripts to anyone who wanted them.
I have produced a set of Unix scripts to create a movie database using the information on the lists. They make it easy to search for all appearances by an actor/actress or all the cast and director of a particular movie and are available by e-mail if you missed them.
Needham would soon take his creation to the nascent World Wide Web. But until then, if you wanted movie trivia – say, for instance, a list of thousands of dead actors and the movies they were in – you signed onto rec.arts.movies and looked for a posting like this: