Les Paul’s Electric Guitar & Unified Information Access: Two Platforms of Innovation

Les Paul. Source: Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Without Les Paul (1915-2009), it’s safe to say that rock and roll as we know it would not exist. Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988, Les Paul was a virtuoso guitarist and pioneer in the development of the solid-body electric guitar. His innovations helped make the unforgettable sound of rock and roll possible.

There are some interesting analogies between Les Paul’s modern electric guitar, which ushered in a new era of modern music, and unified information access, modern technology enabling a new era of deeper analytic insights well beyond what traditional tools can offer.

Early in his musical career, Les Paul found his acoustic guitar was drowned out by the other instruments in a band. The acoustic guitar was simply too quiet. In its own way, text-based unstructured information (documents, wikis, email, social media) has also been too “quiet.” Quickly drowned out by more easily accessible structured databases, unstructured content was largely ignored by data analysts for decades.

Early efforts to use a microphone or an amplifier with a hollow-body acoustic guitar in Les Paul’s day resulted in poor sound quality and feedback. Similarly, unstructured content also defied initial efforts to integrate it with other information sources, such as trying to store it within relational databases. Unfortunately, most database methods do not perform full-text searching of content, and those that do require the content to be stored and organized in database tables. Effective textual searching requires linguistics and text analytics is commonly found not in relational databases, but in enterprise search technologies.

The methods for accessing unstructured content and structured data remained divided for decades: enterprise search engines being used for finding unstructured content and relational database systems for retrieving structured data.

Applying his musical talent and inventor’s mind, Les Paul built one of the very first solid-body electric guitars, culminating in 1952 with the classic Gibson Les Paul guitar. Thanks in large part to Les Paul, the guitar was definitely no longer the quietest instrument in the ensemble!

Les Paul with his Gibson Les Paul solid body electric guitar and 8-track tape recorder. Source: les-paul.com

Between his electric guitar and breakthroughs in multi-track sound recording, Les Paul created a platform of innovation that enabled entirely new types of musical expression that were previously impossible. Indeed, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame rightly honored Les Paul as an architect of rock music.

Similarly in the business world, we have seen unified information access – a new technology platform of innovation – enable new ways to inform, educate and entertain people, through a single interface, portal, website or device, replacing what used to be dozens of individual products or standalone software packages.

UIA is helping transform businesses by freely integrating, joining and presenting all related enterprise information – structured and unstructured, internal and external alike – and building amazing new business applications no one has ever seen before.

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