Captivating behind-the-scenes tour of how (and where) the Internet works.
When an errant squirrel disrupted his Internet connection, Wired correspondent Blum embarked on a journey to discover the roots and structure of the Internet. Taking its title from former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens' much-ridiculed 2006 description of the Internet as "a series of tubes," this debut deftly combines history, travelogue and jargon-free technical explanations. Blum begins by chronicling the birth of the Internet in the late 1960s. He traveled to UCLA to see one of the first networked computers and meet 75-year-old professor Leonard Kleinrock, one of the fathers of the Internet. From there, Blum visited the companies that form the Internet’s “backbone”: hubs of networked servers where billions of bits of data zip through every second. Travelling around the world, the author was surprised to discover that “the Internet wasn’t a shadowy realm but a surprisingly open one.” Nearly everywhere he went, he was offered a tour by people happy to share their work and expertise (Google’s data center was the lone exception). While Blum occasionally gets bogged down by the technical ins and outs of servers and cable routing, which may not interest some readers, he has a gift for breathing life into his subjects, including Eddie Diaz, an electrical worker the author followed as he installed thousands of feet of new cable under the streets of Manhattan.
A fascinating and unique portrait of the Internet not as "a physical world or a virtual world, but a human world."