It's almost hard to remember now, but once upon a time, before its invasion of everything from World Cup stadiums to the Galapagos Islands, Google Street View was just a van with a goofy camera rolling around San Francisco. Iain McClatchie, who was hired on to the Street View team in early 2006, has a new blog post up recounting the project's early days: the government-funded research project that was a forerunner to Street View, the first turret-like cameras, and the launch of country-wide maps for Australia (traffic for which broke the site on release). There were misfires — one generation of camera wasn't approved for outdoor use — but the project's success ultimately led to near ever-growing coverage of the world and clever solutions like the Trekker. It also laid the groundwork for the radically ambitious self-driving car.
Inside the early days of Google Street View
Back before the company conquered the streets of the world