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Where Did Big Data Come From?

Where did the term, “Big Data” come from? Over at the New York Times, Steve Lohr traces it back to 1989.

In 1989, Erik Larson, later the author of bestsellers including “The Devil in the White City” and “In The Garden of Beasts,” wrote a piece for Harper’s Magazine, which was reprinted in The Washington Post. The article begins with the author wondering how all that junk mail arrives in his mailbox and moves on to the direct-marketing industry. The article includes these two sentences: “The keepers of big data say they do it for the consumer’s benefit. But data have a way of being used for purposes other than originally intended.”

In terms of commercial use, Lohr thinks Silicon Graphics was probably the first company to use the term in mid 1990s. I would agree; I was part of SGI’s HPC marketing group at the time, and I remember doing the slides for our corporate overview presentation at SC96. The whole talk was centered around the slogan: “Big Compute, Big Data, and Big Visualization.”

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