A weblog by Will Fitzgerald

You ain't seen nothing yet

Figures from Nathan Stubblefield's patent application for a wireless telephone

Who invented the wireless telephone?

It’s been 100 years since “American inventor and Kentucky melon farmer” Nathan B. Stubblefield received the patent for the first wireless cell phone (UK Telegraph article, via Mirabilis).

Today, the company I work for, Powerset, launched its search product for general public use at powerset.com. It’s a really cool search and browsing engine for Wikipedia, with lots of information gleaned from the Freebase project as well.

Reading about Mr. Stubblefield made me want to know about other inventors who were melon farmers. Searching for “inventors who raise melons” does, in fact, return Powerset’s republished Wikipedia page about Mr. Stubblefield, with its first sentence helpfully highlighted. And, as it turns out, lots of other inventors who raised melons, including (of course) melon researchers, with nice results about watermelon, muskmelon, and galias.

Most people agree, even Peter Norvig (Google’s head of research), that search is in its early days. Google, Yahoo!, Live, Ask, and the other search engine companies have led the way, and Powerset is adding a new set of signals, based on principles from natural language understanding and knowledge representation, to the mix. (And, note, these are additional signals; no one from Powerset has ever claimed that current search signals, such as the presence of keywords or page rank, were unimportant.) These are relatively early days for Powerset, and early days for search. Early, and exciting, days.

And that makes me wonder: Who said, “You ain’t seen nothing yet?”

One response to “You ain't seen nothing yet

  1. Mark Nielsen May 23, 2008 at 9:09 am

    Congrats on the launch.

    If only we too were in our early days…

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