In the 1957 movie Desk Set, Katharine Hepburn plays a researcher at a TV station who feels her job is threatened when Spencer Tracey comes along and installs a computer that could spit out the answers in a fraction of the time. Ultimately, Hepburn was still needed because, of course, humans had to operate the computer.
Long-awaited and much anticipated search engine Wolfram Alpha has gone live with much of the same roller-coaster excitement seen in Desk Set. It’s trending on Twitter and causing all sorts of questions to be asked. Will Wolfram Alpha take on Google? Were Google’s announcements at last week’s Searchology an attempt to stave off Wolfram Alpha?
In the end, of course, there’s room for everyone. Wolfram Alpha is designed around good old-fashioned computing. Of course, other search engines have been computing for years. So, let’s do a little comparison. Here are various search engines for the term “population of the United States.”
Wolfram Alpha gives us the 2007 estimate plus a slew of other facts including population density and life expectancy:
Yahoo!, Google, and Ask.com provide an immediate answer at the top of the results:
Live Search, AOL, and hakia do not:
What do you think of Wolfram Alpha? Share your impressions in the comments below.