The history of cloud computing: A timeline of key moments from the 1960s to now

We look back to the rise of cloud computing from when the term was first coined to its modern-day ubiquity


The term 'cloud computing' dates back to 1996, when it was used in a Compaq internal document. Before this, however, the term 'cloud' dates back even further in its previous guise as distributed computing, as it was pioneered by Apple spin-off General Magic in the early 1990s, and stretching back into academia before then.

The computing concept has come a long way since J.C.R. Licklider set out his vision for an 'intergalactic computer network' during his work as the first director of the Information Processing Techniques Office at the Pentagon's research unit ARPA in the 1960s.

Cloud computing has gone from being a buzzword to accepted as a ubiquitous concept, with the on-demand delivery of compute power, database, storage and applications over the internet becoming the de facto mode of computing today.

This has naturally led to a changing of the guard in the technology sector. Forrester Research estimates that the global market for cloud computing will exceed over $241 billion in 2020, with companies like Amazon Web Services and Salesforce quickly becoming global leaders in their fields.

Here we have put together a brief timeline of the history of cloud computing, from its origins in academia to readily available cloud computing services today.