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A Brief History of Big Data

Many believe Big Data is a brand new phenomenon. It isn't, it is part of an evolution that reaches far back history. Here are some of the key milestones in this development.

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A Brief History of Big Data

  1. Big Data A Brief (ish) History of…
  2. C 18,000 BCE • Humans use tally sticks to record data for the first time. These are used to track trading activity and record inventory.
  3. C 2400 BCE • The abacus is developed, and the first libraries are built in Babylonia
  4. 300 BCE – 48 AD • The Library of Alexandria is the world’s largest data storage center – until it is destroyed by the Romans.
  5. 100 AD – 200 AD • The Antikythera Mechanism – the first mechanical computer – is developed in Greece
  6. 1663 • John Graunt conducts the first recorded statistical-analysis experiments in an attempt to curb the spread of the bubonic plague in Europe
  7. 1865 • The term “business intelligence” is used by Richard Millar Devens in his Encyclopaedia of Commercial and Business Anecdotes
  8. 1881 • Herman Hollerith creates the Hollerith Tabulating Machine which uses punch cards to vastly reduce the workload of the US Census.
  9. 1926 • Nikola Tesla predicts that in the future, a man will be able to access and analyze vast amounts of data using a device small enough to fit in his pocket.
  10. 1928 • Fritz Pfleumer creates a method of storing data magnetically, which forms basis of modern digital data storage technology.
  11. 1944 • Fremont Rider speculates that Yale Library will contain 200 million books stored on 6,000 miles of shelves, by 2040.
  12. 1958 • Hans Peter Luhn defines Business Intelligence as “the ability to apprehend the interrelationships of presented facts in such a way as to guide action towards a desired goal.”
  13. 1965 • The US Government plans the world’s first data center to store 742 million tax returns and 175 million sets of fingerprints on magnetic tape.
  14. 1970 • Relational Database model developed by IBM mathematician Edgar F Codd. The Hierarchal file system allows records to be accessed using a simple index system. This means anyone can use databases, not just computer scientists.
  15. 1976 • Material Requirements Planning (MRP) systems are commonly used in business. Computer and data storage is used for everyday routine tasks.
  16. 1989 • Early use of term Big Data in magazine article by fiction author Erik Larson – commenting on advertisers’ use of data to target customers.
  17. 1991 • The birth of the internet. Anyone can now go online and upload their own data, or analyze data uploaded by other people.
  18. 1996 • The price of digital storage falls to the point where it is more cost-effective than paper.
  19. 1997 • Google launch their search engine which will quickly become the most popular in the world. • Michael Lesk estimates the digital universe is increasing tenfold in size every year.
  20. 1999 • First use of the term Big Data in an academic paper – Visually Exploring Gigabyte Datasets in Realtime (ACM) • First use of term Internet of Things, in a business presentation by Kevin Ashton to Procter and Gamble.
  21. 2001 • Three “Vs” of Big Data – Volume, Velocity, Variety – defined by Doug Laney
  22. 2005 • Hadoop – an open source Big Data framework now developed by Apache – is developed. • The birth of “Web 2.0 – the user- generated web”.
  23. 2008 • Globally 9.57 zettabytes (9.57 trillion gigabytes) of information is processed by the world’s CPUs. • An estimated 14.7 exabytes of new information is produced this year.
  24. 2009 • The average US company with over 1,000 employees is storing more than 200 terabytes of data according to the report Big Data: The Next Frontier for Innovation, Competition and Productivity by McKinsey Global Institute.
  25. 2010 • Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google, tells a conference that as much data is now being created every two days, as was created from the beginning of human civilization to the year 2003.
  26. 2011 • The McKinsey report states that by 2018 the US will face a shortfall of between 140,000 and 190,000 professional data scientists, and warns that issues including privacy, security and intellectual property will have to be resolved before the full value of Big Data will be realised.
  27. 2014 • Mobile internet use overtakes desktop for the first time • 88% of executives responding to an international survey by GE say that big data analysis is a top priority
  28. 2015 • The data volumes are exploding, more data has been created in the past two years than in the entire previous history of the human race.

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Many believe Big Data is a brand new phenomenon. It isn't, it is part of an evolution that reaches far back history. Here are some of the key milestones in this development.


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