People are always asking me why I am such a fan of cloud computing and the services offered by the likes of Google. To answer this and put my enthusiasm into perspective you have to go back into the depths of time, almost before the world wide web was born and most of my initial Internet experience was through typed command line instructions!

In the early 1990s I discovered CompuServe which elevated the whole Internet experience to a new level and through my involvement with a forum dealing with telework a group of us put together a bid for funding from the European Commission for a four year project. The concept was that we were to examine the emerging Internet technologies and how they could benefit the geographically disadvantaged – EC speak for those stuck out in the middle of nowhere!

As a journalist with experience of newspaper and magazine design and the only one who knew what those magic letters HTML meant, I was given the role of looking at the WWW and creating one of the first web sites in the world. Web design was very, very basic. All sites had a grey background and the most “sophisticated” instruction you could do with text was to make it blink! There were no WYSIWYG web authoring programs like Dreamweaver, all sites were handed code using text editors.

Connection speeds were, as you would expect from an emerging technology, painfully slow but it didn’t matter. From a desk in England I was working with colleagues from Poland, Belgium, Eire and Sweden. In a private section of the CompuServe forum we planned and implemented the project – a forerunner of the collaborative services available webside like DeskAway, WizeHive and the like.

Liberation

Almost 20 years later the landscape has dramatically changed and the word I have on my lips to explain my enthusiasm is “liberation.”

No longer am I surgically attached to my desk, a PC and a small piece of three inch square red plastic called a modem. Laptops, netbooks and now tablet computers are the de facto accessory for the peripatetic web fan. Connections are through Wi-Fi links or patched through mobile phones which themselves are perfectly capable of picking up emails and browsing the web.

I remember even the pain of taking an early laptop – luggable is a better description – over to Brussels and being able to pick up email, surf the net and interact with others on early forums was exhilarating. The fact that I need steroids to haul the laptop around and have to break it down passing through Heathrow security didn’t kill the thrill.

Quantum Leap

Years later there have been quantum leaps in technology. Thanks to Google and Zoho I can access documents and spreadsheets from anywhere in the world – well, with the exception of the tiny Greek island I am taking myself off to in the next few weeks! That has only got electricity and mains water in the last 20 years and when I was there for years ago the mobile signal was distinctly suspect!

With Sugarsync and Dropbox I can easily share files with friends and colleagues. I can pay bills from a street side cafe in Paris. I can edit photographs online, link up with friends through Facebook on my mobile. I can even piss off friends by letting them know through FourSquare or Gowalla that while they are stuck at work I am sitting in a Greek taverna enjoying a cryogenically chilled beer – providing the mobile signal is better than it was!

Many people take for granted what I hold in awe but that is the nature of the beast. I am grateful that when I retire I can keep in touch with my family and friends so easily without going back to the days when mobile phone calls from Europe were ball breakingly expensive.

There’s an interesting post from Google Blogoscoped about what what accessing the Internet might be like in 2025 here.

What is your favourite aspect of cloud computing and how has it changed your life?