Early cloud computing was like borrowing a book from the library
Before the internet, there was ARPANet, an experimental government-funded prototype for a connected communications network of computers.
But before ARPANet, there was another technology called time-sharing. It was a glimpse of our own connected future—well before the dawn of the personal computer, the smartphone, or even the web.
Time-sharing was a way of computing where a user would type into a typewriter-like terminal connected to a phone line. That phone line would connect to a larger computer somewhere else in the US. The code typed into the terminal would be transmitted to the larger computer, which would run the code and then send the output back through the phone lines to the user.
The computers that we use today are far more powerful than typewriters, but it’s a similar idea when we’re typing into a program like Google Docs. We type, the data get sent to Google’s servers, and we get a response in the form of words on a digital page. Software has become more complex over the years, requiring more processing power and storage. And while computers have also gotten faster, there remain tasks that are just too difficult for a single computer to run. As a result, technology companies offer cloud computing, where data are crunched or stored by massive computers, which ends up being far more cost-effective for businesses than buying, running, and updating the databases and software on their own.