History Of Cloud Computing

Despite the cloud being a fairly new technological term, you may be surprised to discover that the concept behind it can be traced back almost to the very beginnings of the modern computer age.

From Cumulus to Cirrus

The considered and accepted evolution of the cloud, from concept to daily use, starts as far back as the 1950s.

1955 – According to a popular myth, John McCarthy, the computer scientist who coined the term ‘artificial intelligence’, dreamed up the concept of computing time-sharing. In those days, computing cost millions of dollars, so McCarthy came up with the idea of renting time-shared computing resources to companies who couldn’t afford the technology. This moment is regarded as the beginning of the cloud concept.


1969 – J.C.R Licklider developed ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network), a network that eventually became the basis of the Internet. Using McCarthy’s initial concept, Licklider’s vision was “for everyone on the globe to be interconnected and accessing programs and data at any site, from anywhere”.

1972 – IBM developed its mainframe VM/370, or Virtual Machine Facility/370, system in 1972. Using the Hercules Emulator program, scientists were able to access the VM/370 in multiple virtual machine states all from a single system.

1980 – 1989 – Throughout the 80s, the home computer boom and improved communications technology saw consumers and business users accessing remote resources via 300 bits-per-second modems. Ethernet was standardised, and through MS-DOS, Novell and other companies, resources housed on servers elsewhere in the world became accessible to all through Bulletin Boards and the like.

1990 – 1998 – The Internet grew exponentially throughout the 90s. As a result, the first instance of the term ‘cloud computing’ was used by a group of Compaq Computer engineers. It was in a 1996 presentation entitled ‘Internet Solution Division Strategy for Cloud Computing’, and was a vision for the company’s future business model.

1999 – In 1999, the cloud computing concept began in earnest with the launch of Salesforce.com. Salesforce used the now maturing Internet to offer shared sales information for a company, along with collaboration, storage and reporting through a web-based portal. This initiative paved the way for other companies to deliver both apps and enhanced content over the Internet.

2002 – Another significant milestone in the cloud’s history is the launch of Amazon Web Services in 2002. This service provided a cloud-based suite of resources that ticked every aspect of the cloud definition. It offered storage, computation, and virtualisation and was quickly expanded.

2006 – Expanding on the Web Services model, Amazon launched its Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) in 2006. EC2 was designed to provide scalable resources in the cloud and provided the users the ability to configure the service with minimal management.

2006 – 2012 – Google’s growth and domination of the Internet saw the company releasing its Google Apps cloud-based services in 2006. Later, in 2011, Apple announced its own cloud storage solution, Apple iCloud. And in 2012, Google Drive was launched, bringing together all the cloud definitions under a single service.

2013 – Present – The use of more powerful mobile devices, better networks and faster access to the Internet has resulted in a considerable cloud boom in recent years. Estimations put the money spent on cloud services, at the end of 2016, in the region of $1.4 trillion and that growth isn’t looking to slow down anytime soon.

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David Hayward

David has spent most of his life tinkering with technology, from the ZX Spectrum, getting his hands on a Fujitsu VPP5000/100 supercomputer, and coding on an overheating Raspberry Pi. He's written for the likes of Micro Mart, Den of Geek, and countless retro sites and publications, covering reviews, creating code and bench testing the latest tech. He also has a huge collection of cables.

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