Cloud computing: a history

Posted by: Schepisi - Tuesday, June 10, 2014

While cloud computing and technology has exploded in the tech scene over the past few years, did you know that the fundamental idea of the cloud has actually been around for more than half a century?

The history of cloud computing.

The early days

In 1950, Herb Grosch, noted scientist and author of Grosch’s Law (an observation of computer performance), proposed that “the entire world would operate on … terminals powered by about 15 large data centres”.

In the early 60s, JCR Licklider, an American psychologist and computer scientist shared ideas that foretold of digital software that would exist on a network and “migrate wherever it was needed”.

Then, in 1961, came this:

“Computation may someday be organised as a public utility.”

This phrase was uttered by computer scientist John McCarthy in 1961 (that’s right, 53 years ago!) at a speech he gave at the Massachusetts institute of Technology. He suggested that computing can be sold as a utility, much like water and electricity.

McCarthy is observed as the first person to suggest publicly the notion of storing data for the purpose of multiple user collaboration and contribution. This is the very notion that cloud computing technology is based on today.

1970-1990: The idea of cloud computing greatly fades

During the 70s, Microsoft, Apple, and Oracle are founded, while in the 80s there was a worldwide boom in computers. McCarthy’s idea was popular during the rest of the 60s, but faded considerably until 1989, when Tim Berners-Lee created the first page on the World Wide Web.

cloud computing services

The Internet Age:

So now we find ourselves in 1990, where the Internet Age has just begun. The internet has just become an easily accessible network and computer ownership and usage has rapidly increased.

The World Wide Web has been developed, and, in 1991, it’s introduced to the world:

  • 1991: WWW introduced to the world.

  • 1992: “Surfing the internet” is coined by John Armour Polly.

  • 1993: ‘Mosaic’ is credited as the web browser that popularised the World Wide Web.

  • 1994: Netscape Navigator is a new browser was released in 1994 and became the most-used web browser in the world.

  • 1995: Windows 95 is released.

  • 1997: Professor Ramnath Chellapa is credited as the person who coined the term “cloud computing”. It’s noted that the first scholarly use of the term was in a 1997


Prof Chellapa defined cloud computing as the new “computing paradigm where the boundaries of computing will be determined by economic rationale rather than technical limits alone”.

During the second half of the 90s, companies begin to understand the benefits cloud computing can provide, and major companies began delivering cloud concepts.

  • 1997-2000: The dot-com bubble, where stock markets saw considerable growth and equity increase due to the growth of the internet, peaked on 10 March 2000.

2000-today: cloud computing services

Cloud computing services have been modernised and become more efficient, while the financial savings associated with the cloud are enticing. 

The enormous rise in smartphone usage over the past few years means data is more accessible now than it has ever been and is being accessed from many more devices, in many more locations.

Why “cloud”?

It’s widely believed that the term “cloud” derived from the depiction of ‘the internet’ or ‘networks’ in textbooks and diagrams as early as 1994.

The history of cloud computing is a fascinating one, especially when we reflect on how vastly technology has evolved throughout half a century. We can only imagine what the next 50 years will achieve!

To talk to a Telstra cloud expert about your cloud strategy, contact Schepisi today!

Schepisi is an Australian Telstra business partner with offices in most capital cities.