Cloud computing is not quite as omnipresent as the computer in Star Trek, but…give it time. Cloud computing, or “the cloud,” is an interconnected group of powerful computers that collectively store data redundantly, host various services, and provide security. To the geospatial community, the cloud has already proven itself by acting as a password-protected hub that offers various services to companies of all sizes. In a few years, the cloud has improved communication among all project team members and streamlined common workflows that are critical for the construction, surveying, and mapping industries.
But, how did we get here?
To give perspective on the benefits of the cloud, a quick review of the past 60 years of technological evolution can provide the backstory to how the cloud came to fruition and provide insights for what it can offer.
Dial back to the 1960s, which is when modern commercial computing was born. Giant mainframe computers filled an entire room or data center. There were no monitors, not even a computer mouse, and there definitely wasn’t “an app for that” back then. Data was stored and fed to the mainframe through magnetic tape drives and thick decks of punch cards that needed to be in precise order to work.
In 1977, Apple introduced the Apple II home microcomputer, which started the migration of computers from the workplace into homes.
In 1982, the Commodore 64, which took its name from its 64 kilobytes (65,536 bytes) of RAM, was introduced and became the highest-selling single computer model of all time. Independent estimates place the actual number of C64 computers sold were between 10 and 17 million units. At $595 each, the Commodore 64 not only ended up in more homes, it expanded the technological revolution because peripherals like printers and disk drives could be connected to them.
Then technological advancements in the 1990’s began to permeate everyday life. From the comfort of their homes, people could effortlessly and instantly communicate with other computers in other homes through the Internet. This was a huge leap forward–smaller, better, faster computers–and most of them interconnected. Looking back, the decade of the 1990’s clearly brought the greatest and fastest advancement in technology in the history of humankind.
The first decade of the 2000’s rushed in even smaller and more powerful laptops, USB flash drives on key chains, hand-held music players, wireless Wi-Fi Internet connectivity, and convenient smartphones. By this time, the global society became completely comfortable with technology. In fact, it has permeated both business and personal lives.
In the current decade of the 2010’s, there is a slower yet more consistent stream of new products entering the marketplace. Sleek and powerful smartphones are used less for actual phone calls and more for quick text messaging, quality photo and video capturing and instant global sharing, as well as the ability to visually navigate step-by-step to favorite restaurants. Simply amazing.