When a squirrel chewed through a cable and knocked him offline, journalist Andrew Blum started wondering what the Internet was really made of. So he set out to go see it — the underwater cables, secret switches and other physical bits that make up the net.
For his new book, Tubes, Andrew Blum visited the places where the internet exists in physical form: the cables and switches and servers that virtually connect us.
In his book Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet, Andrew Blum wanted to capture the “spirit of place” of the Internet. Because as far-reaching and virtual as our connection to the Net is, the signals travel on good old-fashioned cabling, glass fibers jacketed in polymer, running through conduit under streets. The immaterial Internet runs on a very material, industry-like infrastructure. So that when Alaska senator Ted Stevens called the Internet “a series of tubes” … well, he was kind of right, and he did inspire the title of this utterly fascinating book, which explores the switches, data centers, sea crossings and many, many tubes that make up our online reality.
Blum is a writer for Newsweek, and has written for Wired, Popular Science, Metropolis and more.
Learn more about Tubes:
Browse book club materials (from the Amherst Reads book club)
Listen to Andrew Blum’s audio interview on Fresh Air