Just the other day, I did the unthinkable: I actually watched a pre-video advertisement. The spot, for a major bank, spent its first few minutes explaining the mechanics of credit rating. Promising useful knowledge, this bank received my attention in return — for about two thirds of the commercial, anyway. The video above, commissioned by a company called Databarracks, does much the same by offering an explanation of “cloud computing,” a concept you’ve surely heard much thrown around over the past several years. Sweetening the deal, it uses for its visuals a drawn-as-you-watch style of educational animation you may have encountered here before, and it employs as its narrator writer, comedian, and man-about-internet Stephen Fry, from whom I’ve always enjoyed a good explanation. “Today,” he begins, “we are in the middle of a revolution in business computing.”
In service of this thesis, he then goes back to 2700 BC, when the Sumerians invented the abacus, continuing on through Leonardo da Vinci’s plans for a mechanical calculator, Charles Babbage’s difference engine, Alan Turing and Tommy Flowers’ forward-looking separation of hardware from software, and Tim Berners-Lee’s realization that computers could operate on something like a neural network — something like this very World Wide Web. We then see and hear an analogy made between computing and electricity. Where once firms wanting to use electricity had to build and maintain their own burdensome power plants, now they have electricity as a utility, paying only for what they need at the time. And while firms have mainly, up to this point, purchased and operated their own stores of computing power, doing it cloud-style will free them all to pay for that, too, as a utility. A bold pitch, perhaps, but everything sounds reasonable — inevitable, even — coming from Stephen Fry.
Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on literature, film, cities, Asia, and aesthetics. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.