Words-Worth: The cloud

Hosting data online is nothing new - nor, actually, is our figurative use of the word 'cloud'.

by MT Staff
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013
Have you heard of 'the cloud'? The word went mainstream with recent ads by Microsoft. A young lad wanted to share a home video with his grandad in another town. A harassed mum wanted to put a family picture online. 'To the cloud,' they said, and magically it was done. Microsoft is using the trendy concept of 'the cloud' to encapsulate the experience of sharing media over the internet. But 'the cloud' or 'cloud computing' goes further than that. It means a way of using computers in which software and data are held not on machines at fixed locations but on shared servers somewhere up there in cyberspace. The phrase took off when Google CEO Eric Schmidt used it at a conference in 2006, but it seems to have originated in telecoms in the 1990s. It comes from those diagrams in which individual PCs are shown in a ring around a fluffy cumulus shape representing the internet. The word 'cloud' has been used since the 14th century to mean a mass of water vapour. But it has long been used figuratively, to suggest something beyond ordinary understanding - and 'the cloud' is certainly that.

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