(+) What is the Cloud and Why Should I Care? – Part 2

The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

Last week I published Part #1 of this article and it is still available at http://eogn.com/wp/?p=31142. Part #1 provides an explanation of cloud computing. In this new article, I will provide a bit of history of cloud computing and then will focus on genealogy-specific uses of the cloud.

In the beginning…

When home computers first appeared in the late 1970s, they were free-standing devices. Home computers in those days typically did not communicate with other computers. If you wanted to get information out of your computer, you or someone else had to first put the information into the computer and store it. In those days, information was usually entered from the keyboard or from audio cassette tapes that had been recorded on another, similar computer. In the early 1980s, floppy disks started to become common.

By the mid-1980s, modems became popular, and a home computer user could dial the modem to connect to another computer. We could even transfer files over the telephone lines. Using the 300-baud modems that were popular at the time, transferring an entire book might require several hours. Compare that to today’s high-speed broadband Internet connections where the same book can be transferred in a few seconds!

Of course, files were not the only thing stored on computers. We also stored programs that would allow our computers to perform various tasks. In the early days of home computing, programs were always stored in the local computer.

Time marched on, and online computer-to-computer communications improved rapidly. In place of 300-baud modems (many with rubber cups where you inserted the telephone handset), we now accept broadband communications as “the norm.” By 2012, access to the Internet via broadband was available to 94 percent of Americans homes, according to an article in the Christian Science Monitor at http://goo.gl/q426F. These broadband connections usually are “always on” connections. That is, as long as the computer is powered up and running, the Internet is always connected. The combination of constant access, high speed connections, and ever-improving software provides capabilities unheard of a few years ago.

Then there was a puff of a cloud…

Probably the first cloud application to appear was email service.

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