In the 1970s, few people who used computers were connected to other users. It was not possible for people in two locations to each call up an invoice on their computers and discuss it. Although computers were important tools for the people and businesses that had them, they were far from tools of collaboration that they are today.
Consider what sharing work or even putting programs (not apps in the late 70s or early 80s) would look like. If an office or a classroom—and often schools and colleges were some of the more likely places to find computers—wanted to have everyone with the same program(s) on their machines, each machine would have to be individually loaded. And installing programs was not easy.
Loading programs on machines could be a drawn-out process all by itself as more than one eight by eight disk would be needed. Internet access, if people had it, was dial up. A dial up computer connection was tenuous as best and slow; so slow that young people wouldn’t believe it today.
Servers help alleviate most of these problems.
There are servers that offer just about any service that users might need:
- Blade servers are generally used for one function.
- Mail servers keep track of services required for email.
- Virtual servers allow the sharing of a server, but each user seems to have control.
- File servers are what most businesses and schools are most used to using as they are responsible for the central storage and management of data files so that others in the same network will be able to access them. This is what allows people working in the same office to have access to forms, old files, old correspondence that have been stored on this server no matter who created the work.
There is no absolute consensus regarding when the first server was put into use. Was it the first use of intranet? Was it created for use in potential military applications? What nearly everyone can agree with is that in the late 1970s the United States was ahead of most other countries regarding using these newfangled computers. But as great as they were, until they could talk to each other—until they could be on the same network—they were not being used to potential effectiveness.
- Sometime between 1979 and 1981 the value of computers changed. As early as 1979 MicroNet, which later became CompuServe started hosting services on a third-party computer. This allowed people to connect with each other because they had figured out how to use a computer as a server.
- Another important development was completed by Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau at a nuclear physics laboratory owned by CERN and located in Geneva. These developers wanted to create a computer system that would allow people in different departments to share information—an important part of conducting research. They wanted a system with open design and to allow things to be distributed over their network without having to save data on a CDROM and passing it from one computer to another.
- Tim Berners-Lee then developed Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML) in 1990. This allowed the World Wide Web to be developed which was important in the rise of internet companies having servers to host the internet for their subscribers. Companies like AOL flourished after the web became more prevalent and useful.
- In 1994 Compaq released the first rack mountable servers were developed. These servers, which resemble servers most people are familiar with today and an Intel P2 Xeon 450Mhz Ram and a 24X CDROM player.
- In 2008, the Sony PS3 was released. This server had 3.2 Ghz Cell Broadband, a 60GB ATA Hard Drive, a 256MB RAM, a 550Mhz RSX Graphics Processing Unit and more.
- Beginning in 2009, the newest concept called “the cloud” became a thing. People could work (or play) using apps that ran on machines that might not be located where the computer was. Web applications and cloud computing became things. The military had used servers like this in the past, but this is the first time it became easily accessible for everyday use.
The increase in power and ease of use have changed dramatically in just a short amount of time. Even when the brilliant computer scientists Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau began their work on creating a way for computers to work together, they would have been satisfied with sharing saved information on disk of some sort and sharing it. They took us way beyond those limitations of sharing material on disks.
Servers have gone from being literal machines kept in a closet or a “server room” that had to be cooled or ran the risk of overheating, to machines that are often kept in the cloud. The change in the past 35 years has been quite dramatic and better for users as computers have gone from curiosity and vanity pieces, to real tools that allow people’s lives to improve.