cloud---a hunch

Subject: cloud---a hunch
From: Tom Little <LITTLE_TOM_H -at- OFVAX -dot- LANL -dot- GOV>
Date: Tue, 10 Jan 1995 13:31:00 MST

Just a hunch, but I suspect the cloud metaphor may have come from quantum
physics by way of the folks who design microelectronics.

In quantum mechanics, the electrons in an atom do not have definite locations or
states of motion; rather there is simply a certain probability that an electron
may be detected at any given location. To convey this situation, physicists
sometimes refer to an "electron cloud" surrounding the atom's nucleus.

With this background, I read "cloud of computers" to mean a set that is in
constant flux. One doesn't know from one moment to the next which machines are
actually connected, or what the geometry of all those connections are...and one
doesn't care. In other words, it would be improper to diagram the arrangement
with a graph, since this would imply that the machines and their links are
static and precisely known.

This was a meaningful metaphor for me (but I may be reading a meaning the author
didn't intend); however, I have a background in physics. For an audience of
nonphysicists, I would say it's jargony, pretentious, and not very

Tom Tadfor Little | This
Technical Writer/Editor | sig
Los Alamos National Laboratory | wastes
little_tom_h -at- ofvax -dot- lanl -dot- gov | bandwidth

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