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Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet

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Overview

Design Observer Best Book of the Year

Tubes looks behind the scenes of our digital lives at the physical heart of the Internet itself. 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. Sharing tales of his on-the-ground reporting, along with lucid explanations about how the Internet works, Blum's eye-opening travelogue offers a unique perspective on ...

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Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet

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Overview

Design Observer Best Book of the Year

Tubes looks behind the scenes of our digital lives at the physical heart of the Internet itself. 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. Sharing tales of his on-the-ground reporting, along with lucid explanations about how the Internet works, Blum's eye-opening travelogue offers a unique perspective on the role of technology in our lives.

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Editorial Reviews

Bella Bathurst
“At once funny, prosaic, sinister and wise . . . A beautifully written account of the true human cost of all our remote connectivity.”
Joshua Foer
“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.”
Laura Miller
“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.”
Donovan Hohn
“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.”
Tom Vanderbilt
“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.”
Paul Goldberger
“A compelling story of an altogether new realm where the virtual world meets the physical.”
New York Times
“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.”
The Economist
“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.”
Science News
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.”
Boston Globe
“Clever, enterprising . . . Tubes uncovers an Internet that resembles nothing so much as a fantastic steam-punk version of itself.”
The Guardian
“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.”
Shelf Awareness
“A fascinating exploration of the physical nature of the Internet, and how the ‘network of networks’ came to be the way it is.”
Scientific American
“A charming look at the physical infrastructure that underlies the Web.”
New Scientist
“A satisfying postmodern quest. . . . The history, in particular, is one of the best and most memorable I have ever read.”
PopMatters
“Engaging. . . . Blum is a natural storyteller.”
Guernica
“Enlightening. . . . A zippy history of a phenomenon that, as a society, captivates us, connects us, and vexes us.”
New York Journal of Books
“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.”
The New York Times
[Blum's] quixotic and winning book is an attempt to comprehend the physical realities of the Internet, to describe how this seemingly intangible thing is actually constructed…Mr. Blum is an unobtrusive writer, yet one with a knack for bundling packets of data into memorable observations.
—Dwight Garner
The Washington Post
Tubes is sprightly and easy to read…As we move into an ever-more-wireless world, it's worth remembering that so much of this system relies on cables, networks, data centers, mainframes and physical effort.
—Mark Berman
Library Journal
Here Blum (correspondent, Wired; contributing editor, Metropolis) attempts to understand the infrastructure of the Internet. He reflects on his travels and recounts conversations with people who founded, helped understand, maintained, or developed the Internet's physical presence. Blum visits Leonard Kleinrock, one of the fathers of the Internet, who wrote the first paper on packet switching—the concept that information can be transmitted in small chunks. He also meets with Markus Krisetya, a cartographer employed by TeleGeography whose work maps the Internet across the globe. Most web users rarely think about the infrastructure of the Internet, but more technically savvy readers may find Blum's reflections wear thin. VERDICT Blum might have conveyed in fewer pages his conclusion that the Internet is everywhere and is, "in fact, a series of tubes." Of interest to the general reader with a beginning curiosity about the infrastructure of the Internet, this title is not recommended for more knowledgeable readers in the history, politics, or sociology of technology and the Internet. [See Prepub Alert, 12/16/11.]—Jon Bodnar, Emory Univ., Atlanta
Kirkus Reviews
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."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061994951
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/28/2013
  • Pages: 294
  • Sales rank: 205,978
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.68 (d)

Meet the Author

Andrew Blum's writings about architecture, design, technology, urbanism, art, and travel have appeared in numerous publications, including Metropolis, where he is a contributing editor; Wired; Newsweek; the Wall Street Journal; the New Yorker; the New York Times; Vanity Fair; BusinessWeek; Slate; and Popular Science. He lives in New York City.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 12 )
Rating Distribution

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(6)

4 Star

(1)

3 Star

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2 Star

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1 Star

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Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 31, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    All the information you can get from this book can fit into two

    All the information you can get from this book can fit into two pages, the rest is overly worded filler. I kept hoping it would get better but it doesn't. There is something about a well crafted non-fiction book where it leads you on a logical journey and at the end you feel like you learned about subject that was important. This was a journey to superficial information and it seemed to take forever to get there.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 8, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    A very good book which updated my knowledge of the Internet's ph

    A very good book which updated my knowledge of the Internet's physical infrastructure. I liked the logical way the author laid out the material and took his journey. I recommend to anyone looking for a layperson's guide to the Internet's physical layout. I read in Nook format and found it easy to use.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 4, 2012

    Brought me up to date

    When the internet was in its infancy, I was busy with infants. I wanted this book when I heard Alex Blum interviewed on Diane Rhem ( I think). It was my first Nook Book and I've thoroughly enjoyed it. It's helped me understand the "magic cloud" and made my machine much less of a mystery.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 2, 2012

    So far, boring.

    I typically read through books quickly. This book, so far, is a bit scattered and tedious. Hope it gets better.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 1, 2012

    Interesting book, but.....

    I bought this e-book for over $13, planning to read it and then share it with my wife. I have a Nook, she has a Kindle. The book is "protected" with DRM encryption, and can't be shared by any other reader, even if they load Nook for PC on their computer. The only alternative would be for me to lend my Nook to my wife for as long as she'd take to read the book. So, my $13 bucks got me one read, by me.

    I do NOT recommend anyone buy this e-book - spend a few dollars more for the physical book, read it, share it, donate it as you wish.

    1 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 27, 2013

    Travel diary

    Not a bad read. Felt similar to other "travel journal" books. Nice way to learn a bit about how the internet gets from here to there.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 21, 2013

    Fascinating!

    This book is probably the best answer you will ever get to the question, "what is the internet?" Unless you happen to be a network engineer. If you've ever wondered exactly what happens when the ethernet cable leaves your house, or what goes on at the other end of the line then you'll enjoy this book.

    Written in an informal, journalistic tone, this book is perfect for readers who may have been intimidated by technology literature in the past

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 23, 2013

    boring dull sorry I brought the book

    awful awful

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 18, 2012

    .

    .

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2012

    More interesting than you can possibly imagine.

    You have no idea of the physicality of the Internet until you read this fascinating book. It will change your notions about what really is the "web", what is the "cloud" and just how NOT "wireless" our world really is.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 3, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted June 2, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews

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