There's been a fair bit of discussion recently about Wolfram Alpha's upcoming launch of what they are calling their "computational knowledge engine." 

The Independent wrote a lengthy article on the capabilities of the new search tool, suggesting that it is "an invention that could change the Internet forever." They summarize what they consider to be the major milestones of the Internet with Wolfram Alpha's launch as one of seven events that are remarkable.

Worldwide network: A brief history of the internet (source: The Independent, May 3, 2009)

  • 1969 The internet is created by the US Department of Defense with the networking of computers at UCLA and the Stanford Research Institute.
  • 1979 The British Post Office uses the technology to create the first international computer networks.
  • 1980 Bill Gates's deal to put a Microsoft Operating System on IBM's computers paves the way for almost universal computer ownership.
  • 1984 Apple launches the first successful 'modern' computer interface using graphics to represent files and folders, drop-down menus and, crucially, mouse control.
  • 1989 Tim Berners-Lee creates the world wide web – using browsers, pages and links to make communication on the internet simple.
  • 1996 Google begins as a research project at Stanford University. The company is formally founded two years later by Sergey Brin and Larry Page.
  • 2009 Dr Stephen Wolfram launches Wolfram Alpha.

Other's haven't lacked opinions and reviews of the service. Cnet's Rafe Needleman and Stephen Shankland got an inside look and have given their thoughts in this article and in this one, as have ZDNet's Sam Diaz and Larry Dignan.

Just when everyone had become overly fixated on who would acquire Twitter, along comes a company from Champaign, Illinois, to shake things up. For those under the age of 25, Champaign is home to the University of Illinois and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), where the NCSA's Marc Andreesen and Eric Bina created Mosaic, considered to be the first popular graphical browser for the World Wide Web.

Wolfram Alpha published a blog post today outlining the two companies they are working with to bring their new service to market. R Systems Inc. has built the 44th fastest supercomputer (per the June 2008 TOP500 list) known as the R-Smarr powered by a Dell Data Center Solutions (DCS) server solution. Dell DCS also provided another supercomputer based on quad-board, dual-processor, quad-core Harpertown servers for their data center.

There are many more details on Wolfram Alpha to come soon.