When former Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska famously described the Internet as “a series of tubes,” he seemed hopelessly, foolishly trapped in an old way of knowing the world. But he wasn’t wrong. After all, as Blum writes, the Internet exists: for all the talk of the “placelessness” of our digital age, the Internet is as fixed in real, physical places as any railroad or telephone ever was. It fills enormous buildings, converges in some places and avoids others, and it flows through tubes under ground, up in the air, and under the oceans all over the world. You can map it, you can smell it, and you can even visit it—and that’s just what Blum does in Tubes.
From the room in Berkeley where the Internet flickered to life to the busiest streets in Manhattan as new fiber optic cable is laid down; from the coast of Portugal as a 10,000-mile undersea cable just two thumbs’ wide is laid down to connect Europe and West Africa to the wilds of the Pacific Northwest, where Google, Microsoft and Facebook have built monumental data centers—Blum visits them all to chronicle the dramatic story of the Internet’s development, explain how it all works, and capture the spirit of the place/
Like Tracy Kidder’s classic The Soul of a New Machine or Tom Vanderbilt’s recent bestseller Traffic, Tubes combines deep reporting and lucid explanation into an engaging quest to understand the everyday world we live in.
In Tubes, Andrew Blum, a correspondent at Wired magazine, takes us on an engaging, utterly fascinating tour behind the scenes of our everyday lives and reveals the dark beating heart of the Internet itself. A remarkable journey through the brave new technological world we live in, Tubes is to the early twenty-first century what Soul of a New Machine—Tracy Kidder’s classic story of the creation of a new computer—was to the late twentieth.