Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet (英語) ハードカバー – 2012/5/29
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“Andrew Blum plunges into the unseen but real ether of the Internet in a journey both compelling and profound….You will never open an email in quite the same way again.”
—Tom Vanderbilt, New York Times bestselling author of Traffic
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.
“Fascinating and unique. . . . [A] captivating behind-the-scenes tour of how (and where) the Internet works. . . . [Blum] has a gift for breathing life into his subjects.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))
“Every web site, every email, every instant message travels through real junctions in a real network of real cables. It’s all too awesome to behold. Andrew Blum’s fascinating book demystifies the earthly geography of this most ethereal terra incognita.” (Joshua Foer, bestselling author of Moonwalking with Einstein)
“Tubes is an absorbing tale of this new technology, as well as a wonderful account of the Internet’s growth and the people who made it possible.” (Science News)
“Clever, enterprising . . . Tubes uncovers an Internet that resembles nothing so much as a fantastic steam-punk version of itself.” (Boston Globe)
“Engaging. . . . Full of memorable images that make the internet’s complex architecture easier to comprehend. . . . Blum leaves readers pondering questions that would not have occurred to them before and better informed about an innovation most of us take for granted.” (The Guardian)
“A charming look at the physical infrastructure that underlies the Web.” (Scientific American)
“A satisfying postmodern quest. . . . The history, in particular, is one of the best and most memorable I have ever read.” (New Scientist)
“Blum paints a vivid picture of the Internet, and gives a sense that it is more than just the mysterious interstitial digital space between your computer and mine. It is, increasingly, the backbone that supports our daily life, and Mr. Blum is an able anatomist.” (New York Journal of Books)
“Quixotic and winning. . . . Valuable, comic. . . . [Blum has] a knack for bundling packets of data into memorable observations. What makes Tubes more than an unusual sort of travel book, is [Blum’s] sense of moral curiosity.” (New York Times)
“Ingeniously beguiling. . . . Blum is a smart, imaginative, evocative writer who embraces the task of making his readers feel the wonder represented by these unprepossessing objects.” (Laura Miller, Salon)
“An engaging reminder that, cyber-Utopianism aside, the internet is as much a thing of flesh and steel as any industrial-age lumber mill or factory. It is also an excellent introduction to the nuts and bolts of how exactly it all works.” (The Economist)
“A fascinating exploration of the physical nature of the Internet, and how the ‘network of networks’ came to be the way it is.” (Shelf Awareness)
“Engaging. . . . Blum is a natural storyteller.” (PopMatters)
“Enlightening. . . . A zippy history of a phenomenon that, as a society, captivates us, connects us, and vexes us.” (Guernica)
“With infectious wonder, Blum introduces us to the Internet’s geeky wizards and takes us on an amiably guided tour of the world they’ve created, a world of wires and routers through which most of us daily wander . . . but which few of us have ever really seen.” (Donovan Hohn, author of Moby-Duck)
“Compelling and profound. . . . For the first time, Tubes brings the ‘network of networks’ into stirring, and surprising, relief. You will never open an email in quite the same way again.” (Tom Vanderbilt, bestselling author of Traffic)
“A compelling story of an altogether new realm where the virtual world meets the physical.” (Paul Goldberger, author of Why Architecture Matters)
“At once funny, prosaic, sinister and wise . . . A beautifully written account of the true human cost of all our remote connectivity.” (Bella Bathurst, author of The Lighthouse Stevensons)
I like Andrew Blum's remarks on how Internet "tubes" strongly depend on world's geography and existing infrastructure. Cables are placed along roads, the largest Internet exchanges are placed in cities which already were commerce hubs, undersea cables originate and end near ports. Data centers are built in cold places with abundance of cheap electricity. The Internet, commonly perceived as ubiquitous, at its very core (the backbone network) is running over a not-that-large set of routes, governed by a handful of companies. Also appealing to me were the attempts to capture the atmosphere (the nature) of visited buildings and people; probably a bit stereotypical (all network engineers wear hoodies), but enjoyable.
The author's penchant for expressing philosophical remarks (mainly on how virtual relates to physical) was annoying a few times but, OTOH, they make it a book which tries not only to convey Internet's architecture, but also its idea. A pleasant read, IMHO even for die-hard network specialists.
This book appeals to two kinds of audiences:
** 1. If you don't know anything about the internet. This book is the best, most easy introduction to get. That's good, because it's also one of the only introductions that's not a textbook. You won't learn everything, because that's a lot of computer science algorithms, but you'll have the best overview from this book. The stories are good, but not excessive like in Malcolm Gladwell's books.
** 2. If you are under 35 and work in technology, no matter how technical your role. This is because so much of the technology you use now is virtual...software defined networking, virtual machines, virtual routers, VLANs, VPCs, AWS, etc. The internet is still a very very physical place, made up of hundreds of thousands of miles or wire, giant internet exchange centers (like the kind Facebook runs out of Nebraska that you'll never see), $80,000 routers made by Brocade that people like Verizon buy, etc. If you want to know how the internet works in the same way that you can open your car and know how everything works (as opposed to just buying a Tesla), get this book.
P.S. If you are now pretty technical and want to move beyond the algorithms and other important-but-not-real-world kinds of learning, I suggest you check out Network Warrior: Everything You Need to Know That Wasn't on the CCNA Exam.
There were two chapters that were really great: one concerned Andrew Blum's meeting with Leonard Kleinrock, who in some ways "founded" the Internet when he established the first inter-network link in the original Arpanet. Hearing one of the Internet's founders explain all the things he did and didn't envision for it was fascinating.
The most interesting chapter is the second-to-last, in which the author observes the laying of an undersea fiber-optic cable in Portugal, which will connect it to the Azores and Africa. The nitty-gritty details of forming the physical interconnections between distant points are described here in an up-close way that I found far more satisfying than the detached, tourist-like point of view that the author takes in most of the book.
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