To Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the www.

From Ivor Catt 29july00

Search engines.

I had world patents on the Kernel Machine (Electronics & Wireless World march89), but they have long lapsed with time.

The Kernel Machine has one million processors in a 2D array with rapid local intercommunication between processors. N. Bruce Snyder saw Kernel as a valuable search adjunct to the www, and his company put money into maintaining my patents until the patents ran out.

Searching the www is not one of the applications listed in my mar89 Wireless World article, only because Kernel pre-dates the www. However, my 1978 article "The Rise and Fall of Bodies of Knowledge", available on my website, points towards the www. This shows that I was thinking around these themes very early. However, what is missing from www discussion is fear of censorship by a central control body. A system like the current www, having a central control (your committee), is bound to be captured at some point, censored, and then go into decline.

The problem of capture is heavily linked with the problem of search. I cite A W Holt; "Without barriers to communication, there can be no communication". Search has to keep up with attempts to censor, for instance censoring by spamming. Totalitarian censorship will somewhat resemble spamming. More efficient search makes it possible to communicate with a smaller signal-to-noise ratio. I think totalitarian attempts to control, or censor, confront greater difficulty if search engines are more powerful.

My New Scientist 6mar69 article "Dinosaur among the data?" shows an early concern for the problem of search, discussing how to use the relatively primitive technology then available to improve search. In the succeeding thirty years, technology has not been exploited to expedite search. The von Neumann Bottleneck has been retained.

I have just been watching a repeat Open University programme about search on the www in which you appeared. It discussed "meta-data", which would help search engines. Discussion seems to be trapped into the idea of using existing computers, not developing hardware for www search applications. In view of the enormous value of the www, for instance the market value of Yahoo, this is wrong. Censorship was not seen to be a problem.

I have said that if Yahoo had a Kernel Machine, its stock market valuation would go up by ten times. The whole Kernel project (see my website), leading to five functioning machines, was costed at 60 million dollars, perhaps one per cent of the valuation of Yahoo.

My earlier WSI invention, "Catt Spiral" (Wireless World july81), was taken up by Clive Sinclair. Sixteen million pounds was invested in the successful project, and working product came to market in 1989, and was used in Tandem Corp. computers. Thus, the technology aspects of my proposals have a track record of success.

I will put this email onto my website.

Ivor Catt 29july00