Recently, Motherboard published an article on the surprising amount of time the concept of the cloud has been around. Given its rapid rise into mainstream public consciousness, one may think that the cloud is a recent technological development, but it’s actually much older than most believe. The article noted that the very first cloud computing demonstration took place in September of 1940, meaning the cloud just celebrated its 76th birthday. To celebrate 76 years of cloud technology, let’s take a look back at the technology’s beginnings, and how far it has come.
Motherboard credits George Stibitz as the person responsible for the idea of remote, multiple access points to a computer – an idea that would later evolve into the cloud that we are familiar with today. On September 11, 1940, during an American Mathematical Association meeting, Stibitz arranged for his Complex Number Calculator, a machine in New York that was able to solve complex mathematical problems, to be connected to a teletype machine a few hundred miles away in New Hampshire via telephone lines. Then, in New Hampshire, an operator entered a series of mathematical equations into the teletype machine, which was then sent by phone lines to Stibitz in New York – the first demonstration of remote computing. Although Stibitz’ demonstration foreshadowed today’s era of remote computer access, another demonstration of this type was not repeated for several years.
Taking a look back at the history of cloud computing, we recognised several milestones as a turning point in the industry. In the 1960s, J.C.R Licklider introduced the idea of an “intergalactic computer network.” His vision called for “everyone on the globe to be interconnected and accessing programs and data at any site, from anywhere.” However, because the Internet didn’t have significant bandwidth until the 1990s, rapid cloud technology development did not begin for another three decades.
Once development began, it took off rapidly. In 1999, Salesforce.com became the first company to deliver enterprise applications over the Internet through a simple website, paving the way for software firms everywhere. In 2002, our partners over at Amazon Web Services developed a suite of cloud-based services including storage and computation through the Amazon Mechanical Turk, and in 2006 the company launched Elastic Compute Cloud, a commercial web service that “allowed small companies and individuals to rent computers to run their own computer applications.” This marked the first time a cloud computing infrastructure service was made commercially available. Then, in 2009, Google and other technology giants like Microsoft started to offer browser-based applications, through services such as Google Apps and Office 365.
Today, hosting IT infrastructure in the cloud has become the industry standard. IT professionals recognise the benefits the cloud can provide in terms of increased storage, flexibility, and cost reduction. Hesitation to migrate to the cloud due to concerns over security and network performance are fading as the industry continues to work to address these issues, bringing enormous benefits to IT users. Cloud technology truly has come a long way since that first demonstration in New Hampshire, and with the rapidly changing nature of the technology today, it’s clear that the best days for the cloud are still ahead. As cloud technology changes and advances, we’ll be right here to break it all down for you.