When your Internet cable leaves your living room, where does it go? Almost everything about our day-to-day lives--and the broader scheme of human culture--can be found on the Internet. But what is it physically? And where is it really? Our mental map of the network is as blank as the map of the ocean… More »
When your Internet cable leaves your living room, where does it go? Almost everything about our day-to-day lives--and the broader scheme of human culture--can be found on the Internet. But what is it physically? And where is it really? Our mental map of the network is as blank as the map of the ocean that Columbus carried on his first Atlantic voyage. The Internet, its material nuts and bolts, is an unexplored territory. Until now. In Tubes, journalist Andrew Blum goes inside the Internet's physical infrastructure and flips on the lights, revealing an utterly fresh look at the online world we think we know. It is a shockingly tactile realm of unmarked compounds, populated by a special caste of engineer who pieces together our networks by hand; where glass fibers pulse with light and creaky telegraph buildings, tortuously rewired, become communication hubs once again. From the room in Los Angeles where the Internet first flickered to life to the caverns beneath Manhattan where new fiber-optic cable is buried; from the coast of Portugal, where a ten-thousand-mile undersea cable just two thumbs wide connects Europe and Africa, to the wilds of the Pacific Northwest, where Google, Microsoft, and Facebook have built monumental data centers--Blum chronicles the dramatic story of the Internet's development, explains how it all works, and takes the first-ever in-depth look inside its hidden monuments. This is a book about real places on the map: their sounds and smells, their storied pasts, their physical details, and the people who live there. For all the talk of the "placelessness" of our digital age, the Internet is as fixed in real, physical spaces as the railroad or telephone. You can map it and touch it, and you can visit it. Is the Internet in fact "a series of tubes" as Ted Stevens, the late senator from Alaska, once famously described it? How can we know the Internet's possibilities if we don't know its parts? Like Tracy Kidder's classic The Soul of a New Machine or Tom Vanderbilt's recent bestseller Traffic, Tubes combines on-the-ground reporting and lucid explanation into an engaging, mind-bending narrative to help us understand the physical world that underlies our digital lives.« Less
A network of networks
The whole Internet
Cities of light
The longest tubes
Where data sleeps
The map -- A network of networks -- Only connect -- The whole Internet -- Cities of light -- The longest tubes -- Where data sleeps -- Home
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Andrew Blum’s mission to discover the physical structure of the internet started the most innocuous way possible. Having lost internet access in his home a couple years ago, he followed the technician around while he did his work. It turned out a squirrel had chewed the cable.<br /> This set off a number of questions for Blum. The internet, after all, seems so ethereal. There used to be heavy, beige desktop PCs wired to screaming modems to occasionally remind us of the physicality of the medium. Now most of us connect wirelessly everywhere we go on devices so small and so constantly with us, they’re practically appendages. The internet is everywhere. The internet is nowhere. The internet is us. At least, until squirrels happen. Then, suddenly, we’re plopped back into being ingloriously disconnected meatbags suffering phantom buzz, pining for our twitter feed.<br /> Or maybe that’s just me.<br /> I don’t think so, though, and judging by this book, neither would Andrew Blum. The more he chases the physical internet to its prime locations, the more he discovers these locations mean something important – like who gets access, how, and how quickly. Net neutrality, it turns out, isn’t just a question of policy and regulation. So much of how the internet works is determined at the physical level. Length and quality of cable, proximity to the major connection points, and even simple industry social networking determine the paths information takes on its way through the tubes. He makes some surprising discoveries along the way, too – one social networking giant was extremely open and happy to show him around their data centre. Conversely, a behemoth of search takes its data centres off its own maps and self-identifies on-land as Voldemort Industries – ostensibly to frighten off curious Muggles? I’m not even kidding. Written in plain, often humorous language, *Tubes* is highly recommended to any readers interested in issues of net neutrality and media theory, or even anyone with a simple interest in why the internet works how it does.<br />
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