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Remembering Professor John McCarthy – A Forefather Of Cloud Computing

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Professor John McCarthy recognized the potential of cloud computing more than 50 years ago – although at the time he called it “utility computing,” he was entirely correct in his predictions about how it would deliver powerful technology to countless users at a reasonable price.

The CloudJumper team is proud to start a new tradition. Every Memorial Day, we will look back and celebrate a computing legend – someone who helped pave the way for the technology we rely on every day. We begin this series by celebrating the life and achievements of Professor John McCarthy.

Predicting the future is often considered a mystical, likely impossible undertaking. However, once or twice in a generation, the right mind can see the signs, look forward and tell the world where it’s headed.

Once such person is Professor John McCarthy.

McCarthy passed away just seven years ago, but the effects of his work in computing and cognitive science will long outlive him. In addition to being one of the founding fathers of the discipline of artificial intelligence, McCarthy’s work in computer science has helped countless users around the world to access computing resources that they would not have otherwise had access to.

Foreseeing The Future

In 1961, nearly six decades ago, McCarthy predicted what we now know as cloud computing today. He did so as a matter-of-fact, recognizing the inevitability of such an industry given the similarities between telephony and computing at the time.

“Computing may someday be organized as a public utility just as the telephone system is a public utility,” said McCarthy at the MIT Centennial in 1961. “Each subscriber needs to pay only for the capacity he actually uses, but he has access to all programming languages characteristic of a very large system. Certain subscribers might offer service to other subscribers. The computer utility could become the basis of a new and important industry.”

Was he ever right.

Instead of having to invest a great deal of capital into purchasing, storing and maintaining hardware, users today can simply share a common computing infrastructure. Personal consumers, businesses and even governments have realized the obvious benefits of the cloud computing model.

Beyond how affordable it is, cloud computing is also more reliable. If something malfunctions, the applications and data are simply moved to an alternate and identical part of the infrastructure. Enterprise-grade security can be enjoyed and paid for by all users, regardless of their needs and scale.

The Road To The Cloud

Over the course of the last 57 years since McCarthy made that statement, the computing industry has slowly worked its way to where we are today. In the two decades following McCarthy’s speech at MIT, IBM and other mainframe providers began offering a precursor to cloud computing.

Known as “time-sharing,” mainframe providers could divide up a schedule for the use of their computing infrastructure among businesses that paid for the service. This was a boon to the industry at a time when infrastructure of this type was exorbitantly expensive. A vast majority of businesses would not be able to afford to invest in hardware otherwise.

However, once personal computers — or “mini” computers — hit the market, time-sharing was no longer in high demand. Computers became affordable to most companies and so there was no need to pay for server time.

Over the course of the ‘90s and early 2000s, specialized utility computing services came and went, but nothing as widely adopted as time-sharing and nothing as prevalent as what McCarthy had foreseen.

It was only recently that McCarthy’s vision was truly realized. A public computing “utility,” allowing users of any scope and scale to access the infrastructure they need – the cloud.

McCarthy’s Vision, A Reality

Today, it’s taken for granted. Dropbox, Google Drive and OneDrive have made it easier than ever for personal consumers to augment their smartphone storage and share files with one another. Music streaming services overtook the iPod as quickly as it overtook CD players.

And on the professional side, the cloud continues to grow in dominance year by year. Business owners have been freed from the expensive, energy-hog server closets they once had to hire staff members just to keep an eye on. By moving their data into the cloud, they enjoy greater productivity, scalability and security, all at a reasonable price.

If you haven’t transitioned to the cloud yet, it’s not too late. It may be 57 years since McCarthy first spoke of it, but you can still start your move to the cloud today – and we can help.

To learn more about what the cloud offers your business, get in touch with the CloudJumper team right away at hello@cloudjumper.com or (844) 645-6789. Follow us on social media: Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn.

Why We Blog

At CloudJumper, we are a team of thought-leaders, always seeking to answer, what if? That’s how we came to build the industry’s most robust and easiest VDI/WVD orchestration & management tool.

We seek to bring that same energy to our blog. Weekly, team members from across our company come here to share their thoughts, opinions, and observations about what makes the cloud go. Want to add your own opinion?

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