When Andrew Blum's Internet service stopped working a few years ago, he was told it could be the result of a squirrel chewing on the fiber lines running into his neighborhood. Though the connection eventually returned, Blum was left with nagging questions about the physicality of the Internet: How could something so ethereal, so intangible, be impacted by something so physical, so mundane? And so began Blum's journey to the center of the Internet, as detailed in Tubes.
Blum begins with the creation of the Internet, noting that despite the groundbreaking nature of the moment, it was actually a little-understood moment in technological history. Like oxygen, the Internet is not something we question, but something we take for granted. Tubes, with its detailed account of everything from the physical structures of the network to the practicalities of laying fiber underground, changes that, giving readers a newfound appreciation of the networks that have changed our way of life to the very core. Blum's uncovering of the physical nature of the Internet also gives readers new insight into how it came to be the way it is: why Google has buildings in certain locations, why collaboration is so critical to the Internet's continued success or why one woman with a shovel can accidentally take the entire country of Armenia offline.
Tubes is fascinating reading for anyone with even a passing interest in the Internet--and if you're reading this online, you're likely one of those people. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm