1. Technology
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Radio Was In the Cloud Before the Cloud Was Cool

Opinion

By

The other day I was watching TV when a commercial came on for a product called "PCMatic" which claims it can "repair" your computer by wiping away viruses, cleaning up useless files, and helping it run faster. In my experience, all those things can be done with free utilities readily available on the Internet. But, that wasn't what rankled me. Toward the end of the commercial the announcer happily stated that it does all that "in the cloud."

Wow. That changes everything. I'm sure somewhere prior to creating that commercial some marketing wonk did a focus group and found out that most television-dazzled computer users think mentioning "the cloud" helps sell software products. It's a big buzzword these days but buzzwords come and go. I suspect that someday, "the cloud" will be as relevant as "The Information Superhighway."

Remember that?

Why have I even brought this up? Because when the PCMatic commercial played "the cloud" card, I immediately thought to myself, "Hey: radio has been 'in the cloud' ever since Guglielmo Marconi sent his first radio signal in 1895. (I know other researchers should also receive credit for radio's development but this is not the article to pose that.)

Yes, radio - modern radio - as we know it was "in the cloud" before being "in the cloud" was in vogue. As far back as 1867, James Clerk Maxwell was the first to predict the existence of radio waves as waves of electromagnetism and he did it through mathematical equations. (I'm sure he was the life of the party.)

Ether vs. Clouds

Although radio and radio waves have always been in the clouds, there was a time during the 1800s and early 1900s when some scientists thought entities like radio waves traveled through something known as "the ether." Let me clarify, in the event someone wants to debate me on whether radio was originally "in the ether" and then only later "in the cloud." The short answer is "no."

"The ether" - also known as "luminiferous aether," and "aether" - was thought to be the medium which allowed for the propagation of light and radio waves. In short, radio was never in the ether. This "ether" idea was dismissed when Albert Einstein came on the scene with his revolutionary theory of relativity and quantum theory.

Basically, before Einstein scientists thought radio waves traveled through some invisible goo that was painted across the Universe like a can of interior flat Sherwin Williams paint. Granted, I'm taking a few liberties in dumbing this all down - mostly for my own good.

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.