A Short History of Cloud Computing and Its Future

We use cloud computing on a daily basis and think nothing of it. Opening a thin client on our smartphone we instantly access the cloud when saving the document we created or opened. In fact, the process of saving happens automatically, too.

In the Beginning DARPA Created the Internet

Most of us alive and using computers or smartphones today grew up with computers and smartphones. The older people using these devices recall their invention or popularization – all ultimately stemming from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) project called ARPANET in the 1950s and 1960s.

The Personal Computer Revolutionized Individual Development

While computers took decades to go from the mainframes of that glutted businesses and research universities beginning in the 1950s, once the personal computer hit the shelves in the late 1970s, technology leaped ahead quickly. Many companies flooded the market with their version of the personal computer. You could choose from the Micral C (1977), TRS-80 (1977), or Commodore PET (1977), soon followed by the IBM Personal Computer 5150 in 1981 and IBM’s Personal Computer 5150 in 1981. The easier-to-use Macintosh computer entered the fray in 1984.

Berners-Lee Creates the World Wide Web from the Internet

It took only 12 years from the introduction of the personal computer for the invention of the World Wide Web (WWW) in 1989 by Tim Berners-Lee to occur. While DARPA’s packet-sharing idea lets researchers around the world communicate and share data, Berners-Lee worked to bring the utility of ARPANET to the masses. His WWW let any individual or organization with server space create a web page.

This revolutionary idea spawned businesses and special interest pages. The browser wars ensued with Netscape duking it out with Mosaic, Internet Explorer, and Lynx, the latter a text-only browser that only individuals with very slow connections used. We’re talking a 2400 baud modem because no one conceived of 5G or broadband at the time.

Businesses and Entrepreneurs Flood the WWW

The WWW quickly welcomed businesses, including unique notions like eBay (1995) and Amazon (1994). Both companies allowed an individual to create a listing to sell an item or items via the larger platform but under their own personal or business name. Both eBay and Amazon offered their own built-in shopping cart and a systematic point-and-click mechanism for creating listings. This qualifies both as the first service platforms. They enabled the birth of the entrepreneur in all of us and inspired the creation of platforms like TheRealReal, thredUP, Poshmark, and many others. Etsy comes from this idea, as does Shopify.

1999 Gives Birth to the First SaaS App

While most of us think of cloud computing as personal computing, the first cloud services served businesses and those individuals wanting to enter sales on a personal basis. Even the first credited cloud app, Salesforce, serves businesses.

With respect to personal or home computing, the cloud app revolution began with sites like GeoCities and AOL offering up free server space so people could create websites on any topic. Some people realized that they could upload any file to their server space, then access it at a friend’s home from their computer.

Another trick – emailing it to yourself or creating a draft with an attachment – went on for years. You could purchase space, too, from CompuServe, AOL, and eventually GeoCities, or obtain a free Yahoo email address that let you store your email online. We didn’t call it “in the cloud” at that time, but that’s what we call it today.

21st SaaS Offers Mobile Solutions

Around 2006 to 2007 an upstart called Google offered free email to compete with Hotmail and Yahoo. It also offered a unique app called Docs, which still exists. Traversing to the Google Docs website, the user can log into a word processing app that works similar to Microsoft Word and Corel WordPerfect. The popularity of Docs spawned online versions of spreadsheets programs, databases, drawing programs, and more. Competitors, such as Zoho (1996), had existed for longer, but Google used better marketing and offered an easier-to-use interface.

SaaS and Its -aaS Siblings Become Ubiquitous

Suddenly, it seemed, every business made an app and offered “a cloud solution.” True cloud solutions though require more than an app. They allow you to save your work in an online space you can access from anywhere. Most of us use a cloud app each day, perhaps without realizing it.

We open a word processor like Microsoft Word or Google Docs from a computer and it instantly connects to the cloud space connected to the account. While we once felt awed at the gift of a few free KBs of storage, companies now dole out 15 MG to a gigabyte (GB) without thinking about it. Since we can purchase a physical terabyte drive in a store or its virtual representation for less than $100, we’ve beat what many once termed “the storage problem.” Cloud computing lets us store what we need in an accessible anywhere mode.

According to DevSquad, 94 percent of technical professionals use cloud software as a service (SaaS). That shouldn’t surprise anyone. You expect computer gurus to use the latest and greatest inventions. Look at the top 75 SaaS apps as ranked by Datamation though and you learn that the most popular app falls into the marketing industry – Salesforce. One of the original SaaS apps still tops the list, followed by Microsoft Office 365, an app used for both personal and business use. Embracing personal creativity hits the list at number three with Adobe Creative Cloud because you have to edit selfies sometimes. Business use cases abound with the top five rounded out with FreshBooks accounting SaaS and Paychex, a payroll and human resources cloud app.

The ‘as a Service’ Revolution Continues

Today, cloud computing provides the online app plus a thin client that takes up only a few megabytes on our smartphone or mobile device. Those old enough to have installed a program from a collection of floppy disks or even a CD-ROM appreciate the simplicity of the cloud. It turned what once required a veritable computer genius into something children learn in pre-school. Most of us can and do use the cloud every day when we access SaaS. Even if we don’t use its more advanced forms, such as platform as a service (PaaS), Framework as a Service (FaaS), Operations as a Service (OaaS), or any of the other more than 20 and growing “as a Service” options described in the Auvik dictionary. We can appreciate how far computer science has come and its burgeoning future in the Metaverse, Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and other developing technologies.

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