There are varying opinions as to when Cloud computing was invented. Some sources indicate that the concept began in the 1960’s, but other accounts have it as being launched for regular consumers in 2006 by Google (http://www.technologyreview.com/news/425970/who-coined- cloud-computing/). Computer Aided Translation (CAT) tools have been around since the late 1980’s, beginning with German-made Trados, which was acquired by SDL in 2005 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SDL_Trados#cite_note-GALA_Report-4).
Cloud technology has had a huge impact on CAT tools, much like it has with many other things. These first CAT tools came out as desktop software; on disk or download for freelance translators. The programs were large, expensive, and time consuming to learn and set up, as the buyer/translator had to create their own term bases. If a translator worked for clients in a variety of industries, the saved term bases or glossaries might not be of much use for subsequent clients. CAT software was, and is probably most useful for translators with ongoing clients in the same industry.
Between 2010 and 2013, the face of CAT tools was changed when combined with cloud technology. This impacted all aspects of the tools; for translators, agencies and clients. Agencies can purchase cloud CAT tool licenses and then offer the desktop version to their linguists for free, or, maintain an entirely cloud-based tool that linguist log into to perform their work. This benefits both the agency and the linguist, apart from price, in that linguists can collaborate in the agency’s cloud database and avail themselves of the shared term bases and translation memories created by other linguists on the same job. For the client, this greatly improves the overall quality of large jobs with several linguists and steps involved.
Some of these software programs were prohibitively expensive at first and some still are, and sometimes too large for a home computer. But with the advent of the cloud, even a freelance linguist can purchase a license rather than a download at a much lower cost. Some cloud CAT tools even have limited licenses that are free to freelancers. Although machine translation alone has its problems, cloud licenses also make it so that the linguist can use machine translation to create term bases in the translation memory, rather than creating these from scratch.
While CAT tools have been around for many years, the increased availability of cloud technology has had an enormous and positive impact on their use and availability.