Cloud computing is the new hotness, but its roots are old.
To find out more about the history of the cloud, I delved into Wikipedia -- itself a leading cloud service.
The idea of cloud computing goes back to Professor John McCarthy, who launched time-sharing in 1957. McCarthy said in 1983 that businesses would sell resources by means of a utility model.
Early network diagrams used clouds to depict conglomerations of servers, and the Internet. "With this simplification, the implication is that the specifics of how the end points of a network are connected are not relevant for the purposes of understanding the diagram," Wikipedia notes.
That's an essential element of cloud computing today -- abstraction. You don't need to know the technical details of how your application works. You don't even need to know where in the world your services are located.
The term "cloud" appears in a 1994 Wired feature about a prototypical mobile computing company, General Magic, co-founded by Andy Hertzfeld, who was previously part of the team that designed the original Apple Macintosh.
"The beauty of [General Magic's] Telescript [scripting language]," says Andy, "is that now, instead of just having a device to program, we now have the entire Cloud out there, where a single program can go and travel to many different sources of information and create sort of a virtual service. No one had conceived that before."
General Magic's 1994 vision of a "personal communicator" eerily foreshadows the world we live in today, more than 20 years later, where cloud-enabled mobile devices are essential to our lives. Co-founder Bill Atkinson made the bold prediction that mobile devices ten years hence would be essential to users -- users would never want to give them up. People would no more leave the house without their "personal communicators" than without their glasses, watch and wallet, Atkinson told Wired.
It took 20 years, not ten, but Atkinson's vision is real today. Indeed, many people have replaced their watches and wallets with their smartphones -- and the cloud is essential to making that work.
Prototypical cloud services continued rolling out over the years, but the term -- and technology -- really took off in 2006, when Amazon introduced its Elastic Compute Cloud.
You still sometimes see people dismissing the cloud as nothing new, because it somewhat resembles virtualization and time-sharing. But all great ideas have antecedents -- few great ideas are completely unlike anything that came before. For history buffs, it can be fascinating to trace the development of ideas over the years.
— Mitch Wagner Editor, Enterprise Cloud News