If the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries are the age of clocks, and the later eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries constitute the age of steam engines, the present time is the age of communication and control.
Norbert Wiener (from the 1948 edition of Cybernetics: or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine).
It is unfortunate that we don't remember the exact date of the extraordinary event that we are about to describe, except that it took place sometime in the Fall of 1994. Then Professor Noah Prywes of the University of Pennsylvania gave a memorable invited talk at Bell Labs, at which two authors1 of this book were present. The main point of the talk was a proposal that AT&T (of which Bell Labs was a part at the time) should go into the business of providing computing services—in addition to telecommunications services—to other companies by actually running these companies' data centers. “All they need is just to plug in their terminals so that they receive IT services as a utility. They would pay anything to get rid of the headaches and costs of operating their own machines, upgrading software, and what not.”
Professor Prywes, whom we will meet more than once in this book, well known in Bell Labs as a software visionary and more than that—the founder and CEO of a successful software company, Computer Command and Control—was suggesting something that appeared too extravagant even to the researchers. The core business of AT&T ...