Pop quiz: Who invented cloud computing?

New video shows AT&T used 'cloud computing' buzzword first, but that does not equal a vision, which came years earlier

"Who invented cloud computing? Some say it was Amazon.com in 2006. Others say it was Google a few years earlier. But it's all a matter of perspective. We have video proof that cloud computing was really invented in 1994 by AT&T." Wire Magazine posted an article with a clip that clearly proves AT&T invented the cloud.

Well, it proves AT&T created a video that claims it invented the cloud. But I'm not convinced that's where the term "the cloud" was born.

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The story behind the video is that Andy Hertzfeld and Bill Atkinson, two of the original engineers on the Apple Macintosh. In 1990 they founded a company called General Magic and built a software platform called TeleScript. In 1994, AT&T was the first to license TeleScript, and this gave rise to PersonaLink Services. (I'm old enough to remember the actual events. I even did some write-ups on Telescript back in the day when I researched the use of agents in middleware.)

Of course, this is not the last word on the subject. Many believe that Western Union invented the phrase "cloud computing" in the 1960s. Those who have been in the business as long as I have can certainly remember talk of "the cloud" in the 1980s in terms of networking semantics -- and even as the punch line to a few jokes. Remember all those cloud icons in diagrams used to mean whatever was in between your local and remote networks?

In other words, "the cloud" has been around for a long time as a buzzword, well before it appears to take on a life of its own in 2006, give or take a year. I suspect the real inventor is a network engineer who is long dead and would rather not take credit if he were actually alive.

Out of all the buzzwords created in IT over the years, "cloud computing" has the most baggage. The fact of the matter is the term has evolved over time, and it is still evolving. The concept of "the cloud" is and was far different from its meaning in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s -- trust me on that one.

I don't care what "cloud" meant back in the day. What's important is what "the cloud" means today and in the future.

This article, "Pop quiz: Who invented cloud computing?," originally appeared at InfoWorld.com. Read more of David Linthicum's Cloud Computing blog and track the latest developments in cloud computing at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.


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