Tubes by Andrew Blum


When your Internet cable leaves your living room, where does it go? Almost everything about our day-to-day lives—and the broader scheme of human culture—can be found on the Internet. But what is it physically? And where is it really? Our mental map of the network is as blank as the map of the ocean that Columbus carried on his first Atlantic voyage. The Internet, its material nuts and bolts, is an unexplored territory. Until now.In Tubes, jou...

Details Tubes

Release DateMay 29th, 2012
GenreNonfiction, Science, Technology, Computers, Internet, History

Reviews Tubes

  • J
    An ambitious attempt to balance a technical, psychological and sociological examination of the "Internet." Ultimately, the book fails to advance any meaningful analysis. Blum's self-imposed task was to find physical infrastructure components of the global internet, but instead he drowns us in aspirational language more concerned with the wonder of modern inter-connectivity than the task at hand. Fancy literary references make it seem Blum is more...
  • Ken
    Overall, this was a disappointing book. The author had a technical subject matter -- the book could have read like a technical manual, though it didn't -- but in trying to make it accessible, I think he basically ended up skipping the subject matter. The book is supposed to be about the internet. Really though, it's more about the author's quest to see the internet. As such, he spent (in my opinion) too much time talking about how people he met w...
  • Loring Wirbel
    If I was to rate this on the quality of writing alone, Blum could win a high 4, maybe a 5, for the richness of his descriptive passages, particularly in the parts on the cable landing stations in Cornwall or the modernization of The Dalles in Oregon. Let's face it, Blum can write well and engagingly. Nevertheless, even in the writing style there are a few nagging problems. His tendency to use quotes from literary sources like Emerson or J.G. Ball...
    You can tell the author writes about architecture and it helps. The internet isn't just wireless and ubiquitous. It resides in data centers, fiber optic cables, and internet exchanges. There are places you can actually touch it and that knowledge makes TUBES worth the read.As a side note Google is totally like the book The Circle. Everywhere the author went was open, transparent, and teeming with information; except Google.
  • Nick Black
    this book could have dialed back on the childlike whimsy and wonder, preferably replacing it with some cold hard technical facts. for someone who knows absolutely nothing about internetworking, this is perhaps a good follow-on volume to Where Wizards Stay Up Late, but it's not even as good as that bit of pop computer science. and don't get pissy with us not letting you into the Dalles datacenter, blum! i've been in there. it's a bunch of machine...
  • Harold
    Tubes is a description of the infrastructure of the internet -- the wires, the buildings, the cables. Unfortunately, it isn't more interesting than that. There are wires, buildings and cables. Some are messy. Most are in buildings that just happened to be there -- perhaps in your neighborhood In Los Angeles, where I live, One Wilshire is apparently such a building. Wires stretch under the sea, all over the world.There. I just saved you 250 pages....
  • David
    The factual information was interesting, but the non stop poetic waxing about the physical geography of the internet got really old really quickly. I pretty much vowed I would not read any more articles this guy ever wrote.
  • Mary Soderstrom
    What the Internet Is: Fragile or Robust?As I write this, The New York Times has been off-line for about 18 hours here. Some stories are being posted on the newspaper's Facebook page, but because of a hacker attack the main website remains down. This is a warning shot, according to some observers. Syrian hackers or hackers sympathic to the Syrian regime (and who call themselves the Syrian Electronic Army) are demonstrating what havoc they could wr...
  • Christoph
    The internet is a thing, not an idea, not the virtual, not psychology, not a medium. All these tropes have been exhausted in all the other similar inventions preceding it such as radio, phones, TV, or satellites. As a matter of fact some of those infrastructures that comprise the other objects at one time or another were justified by acting as a means to transmit the internet. But Andrew Blum in Tubes diagrams and explains all the ways in which t...
  • Bookworm Smith
    Following that cord from your computer to the 'internet' is the general idea behind this book. What would it look like? How does it actually work? Good idea, me thinks. Andrew Blum does a great job at describing it all. But, (yes, a big but)...this would have made a lovely magazine article. As it turns out making a book about it was taking it just a few steps too far.Overall, there is very little to the 'internet'; little variety that is. The int...
  • Matt
    I found this book to be engaging and informative, but I would have preferred more description and less philosophizing.An errant squirrel chewing through Mr. Blum's cable wire launches him on a journey to understand the physical nature of the Internet. This takes him from a key site in the origin of the academic internet (Len Kleinrock's IMP at Berkeley) through its transition to anarchic commercial interconnections at sites like MAE East in Tyson...
  • Margot
    An interesting topic, but it's told in a travelogue style, with far too much personal experience tossed in with the relevant historical context. It felt very happenstance, as if readers could be missing a whole part of the history of the physical structure of the internet just because maybe somebody didn't return a call from Blum.Didn't finish completely.
  • Fred Platten
    wow, this is bad. I thought this was a book about the internet, but it's about the author who injects himself in the narration way too much. Goes on for pages about his hotel rooms and looking things up on the internet. Unbelievable. I think this book falls under "literary" non-fiction. I really hate those books.
  • Pamela
    Informative account of how some of the physical aspects of the internet works. There's a slight amount of history of the beginnings, as well as a little with communications overall. The book is very much a travelogue of the author searching for the pieces that make the internet. I was surprised to learn it's way more centralized than I believed, mostly for the router network switching points. This was written by a non-computer science person for ...
  • Lucy
    Taková geekovská historie internetu. Nejsem expert, takže polovina věcí mi vůbec nedávala smysl.
  • Laura
    Poorly written in every way.
  • Eric Spitler
    Blum makes an entertaining travelogue out of a map and history of the internet. Other reviewers are dissatisfied with the depth of detail. I think Blum meant to provide a sense of what the internet means to humanity along the way of explaining what it actually is.
  • Heather
    Around Chapter 4, when Blum visits the Amsterdam Internet Exchange, the book got significantly more interesting to me: where in earlier chapters Blum was focused a lot on background/history and the various things he learned from various key people, the focus here shifts to what he sees. In Amsterdam, it occurs to Blum that he could/should see things in a bit of a different way from the corporate-approved tours he's been getting. He's found a map ...
  • Julia
    Tubes is an eye-opening page turner about the cables, routing stations, and data centers that make up the internet. From the non-descript routing stations on the edges of suburban towns to vast lengths of cable strewn along the sea floor, the author shows that this ethereal internet, 'the cloud', is actually very tangbile and human. In the book, the author takes you on a journey to these router stations, introduces you to the people that lay the ...
  • Nicholas
    This is a solid book with good journalism about a piece of our information infrastructure that is vital, but poorly understood and frequently ignored. Andrew Blum sets out with a project: follow the cable out of his house back to the physical structure of the Internet. What follows is a interesting and personable exploration of global networking. Blum avoids technical talk, I didn't have to use much of what I learned getting an ancient Network+ c...
  • Elizabeth K.
    This was very exciting, in an armchair tech sort of way. The author goes out and visits various physical places where "the internet" happens, like major switching hubs, content storage, and the points where submarine communications cables COME OUT OF THE OCEAN LIKE A KRAKEN. As you can probably tell, the last one was a special geeky thrill for me, because that is still something that boggles my mind, and now I want to go on a field trip to Porthc...
  • Pauline
    This is quite the interesting subject matter that Blum tackles here. The internet is prevalent through all aspects of our life and many cannot even imagine life without it. How and where does this all begin? This is the question that Blum discusses throughout this informative book. It is quite well written and researched and was a good history lesson on the creation and development of what we now know as the internet. However, it fell a bit flat ...
  • Jonathan Cassie
    I liked "Tubes," but in fairness, I wanted to like it a lot more. Blum asked the kind of question I bet a lot of us have asked - exactly where is the Internet? A fair question, and one that most of us don't know the answer to - particularly if we mocked Sen. Ted Stephens' infamous "it's a series of tubes comment." Turns out, Stephens was largely right. The question of where the Internet is got Blum to range far and wide and to visit strange build...
  • Matt Moyer
    Blum's journey to find the physical presence of the Internet was very enlightening. Our default perception of the infinity of the online world is juxtaposed with the real-world tracing of the tubes that make our world-wide connections. From his own couch to the networking hubs of Palo Alto and MAE-East, onto the worldwide internet exchanges in Amsterdam, Frankfurt and London, under the sea with the tubes connecting continents, or even to the data...
  • Jacob
    This is a mildly interesting idea for a book: the author gets it into his head that he needs to understand the physical structure underlying the Internet and writes a book about his experiences. I understand the basic underpinnings of the Internet in terms of routers, fiber, and data centers, so to me this is much more a travelogue of places the author went and people he met. It's readable and interesting if you like reading or watching about oth...
  • Kent Winward
    An amusing diversion of a tech book exploring the hard realities of the internet infrastructure. Yet, the title is misleading, since the "I"nternet is really centered on you in sort of a Ptolemaic reversal where the user is the center of a diversified mass of cables, routers, blinking lights and desktops. If Alice goes down the Internet rabbit hole, she gets broken into packets, re-routed and reconstituted wherever she is called. Blum tries to in...
  • Ankit Mittal
    Good introductory book to understand and appreciate what exactly is internet. Not for people who already work in internet related industries.
  • Peter
    a lyrical book about the physical internet ... at times it felt like he was adding travel fluff to lenghten the book, but overall smooth and impressionistic, with interesting history and explanations ... more later
  • Nooilforpacifists
    Blum tries to define the Internet without a diagram: by description alone. Great writing; flawed concept. But, having been to some of the places he discusses (the carrier "hotel" at 60 Hudson St., NYC, and the cable landing station in Land's End, England), he's vividly accurate.
  • Heather
    A most unique travel book! Gives one a new respect for "cable dawgs""Where telephone wires and cables unite to make neighbors, nations"@ 32 Ave of Americas