a central point for collection of information as it relates to cloud computing in the government
Cloud Computing 1965
November 30, 2009 at 9:53 am #86435
NO the year is NOT a typo!
From Rough Type, Nicholas Carr’s blog
Cloud computing, circa 1965
November 28, 2009
A correspondent pointed me to this document, dated March 30, 1965, in which an executive with Western Union, the telegraph company, lays out the company’s ambitious plan to create “a nationwide information utility, which will enable subscribers to obtain, economically, efficiently, immediately, the required information flow to facilitate the conduct of business and other affairs.”
The idea of a “computing utility” was much discussed in the 1960s, but this document nonetheless provides a remarkably prescient outline of what we now call cloud computing. Some excerpts:
Over the past century or more there have evolved in this country a limited number of basic systems serving the general public – a group generally termed “public utilities.” These utilities serve, among others, such fields as transportation; communications (telegraph, telephone, cable, radio, the broadcast services, etc.); and the energy systems, distributing power.
What is now developing, very rapidly, is a critical need – as yet not fully perceived – for a new national information utility which can gather, store, process, program, retrieve and distribute on the broadest possible scale, to industry; to the press; to military and civilian government; to the professions; to department stores, banks, transportation companies and retailers; to educational institutions, hospitals and other organizations in the fields of public health, welfare and safety; and to the general public, virtually all of the collected useful intelligence available, through locally-, regionally- and nationally-linked systems of computers. Just as an electrical energy system distributes power, this new information utility will enable subscribers to obtain, economically, efficiently, and immediately, the required information flow to facilitate the conduct of business, personal and other affairs.
There is no substantial technical bar even now to the establishment of such a nationwide information utility. Computers and associated equipment, the methodology, the storage and retrieval techniques, the knowledge required to provide the very broad bandwidth required for high-speed data transmission – all these exist today. Their harnessing into a national system presents no technical problems essentially more difficult than the strategic placements a half-century ago of steam turbines to create electrical energy, and the related building of power grids … Indeed, the computer and the turbine share a common characteristic in that (within appropriate limits of optimum sizes and capacities) the larger the unit, the more efficient it is in terms of unit-cost production … The cardinal economic principle at issue here is that an information utility serving a large number of users can provide service to each more economically than he can provide it for himself, just as a power system can provide energy to its customers at lower cost than they, individually, can generate it for themselves …
We envision, then, the expansion of the existing plant, offices, personnel, and nationwide operations of Western Union, to transform it into a national information system [that] would furnish a uniform, efficient, integrated information service to meet the needs of all types of users, everywhere …
It might be added, here, that any movement by the Bell System to substitute itself for Western Union as the nation’s information utility, as well as the pervasive, dominant power in the telephone field, would obviously create profound national concern on the score of “giantism” – since any further and large assumption of added power would bring about one entity of even more menacing size than now …
Western Union has the skills and experience that uniquely qualify if for such a role; the public need for such a new utility is growing at a rapid rate; the field is already large and the potential tremendous – probably at least as large as any other national utility that exists today.
When the history of cloud computing is written, it may be that Western Union will play the role that Xerox now plays in the history of the personal computer: the company that saw the future first, but couldn’t capitalize on its vision.
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