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Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet

3.48  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,170 Ratings  ·  317 Reviews
“Andrew Blum plunges into the unseen but real ether of the Internet in a journey both compelling and profound….You will never open an email in quite the same way again.”
—Tom Vanderbilt, New York Times bestselling author of Traffic

In Tubes, Andrew Blum, a correspondent at Wired magazine, takes us on an engaging, utterly fascinating tour behind the scenes of our everyday liv
Hardcover, 294 pages
Published May 2012 by Ecco (first published January 1st 2012)
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Aug 01, 2012 J rated it it was ok
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 familiar with liberal arts curriculum than anythi ...more
Jul 16, 2012 Ken rated it it was ok
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 were dressed and what they were doing and not enoug ...more
Loring Wirbel
Apr 21, 2012 Loring Wirbel rated it liked it
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. Ballard is OK when limited to once or twice in a sing ...more
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 machines. there are large transformers. dudes scuttle aro ...more
Mary Soderstrom
Aug 28, 2013 Mary Soderstrom rated it really liked it
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 wreak if Western powers follow through on their tou
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 the internet becomes a thing. This book is basicall ...more
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 internet is huge and spreads across the entire globe,
Aug 25, 2012 Matt rated it really liked it
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's Corner, Virginia, where packets were sometimes
Jan 06, 2013 Harold rated it it was ok
Shelves: science
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. Not much more interesting happens.
Matt Moyer
Jul 28, 2015 Matt Moyer rated it liked it
Shelves: matt
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 warehouses in remote rural America, Blum takes us ...more
Jul 31, 2012 Heather rated it liked it
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 of data centers in the Netherlands and sees that t ...more
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+ certification to follow him. {Tech: He briefly ment ...more
Aug 12, 2012 Julia rated it liked it
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 underground cables, and even attempts to get into ...more
Jul 02, 2012 Pauline rated it it was ok
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 for me. It read like a magazine article...that nev
Jon Cassie
Aug 21, 2012 Jon Cassie rated it liked it
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 buildings whose only purpose is to route Internet traff ...more
Jun 02, 2015 Jacob rated it liked it
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 other locations in the world. However, I suspect the ...more
Sep 28, 2015 L-ssar rated it it was ok
Poco recomendable. No es nada técnico y no se molesta en incluir ninguna imagen ni diagrama. Muy dado a usar citas de literatura que no encajan en un libro así.
Heather Gunther
Jan 04, 2016 Heather Gunther rated it it was amazing
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
It turns out Ted Stevens was right: the Internet really is a series of tubes, connecting large boxes, and usually in nondescript warehouses that look like self-storage units. Inspired by a squirrel depriving him of Internet by nibbling on his wires, Andrew Blum decided to investigate the physical infrastructure of the Internet. The journey took him across the United States and into Germany and Britain, where he discovered that the internet is corporeal. Across the world are businesses devoted so ...more
Oct 20, 2015 Nina rated it really liked it
Ross loaned me this book, and it is quite fascinating to learn about the physical infrastructure of the internet and how it works. The speed with which this enormous infrastructure was built defies the imagination. The way it in which it has taken over our lives is even more incredible, although even those of us who lived through this cultural and technological revolution don't step back and think much about it. "Almost without noticing it, we've outsourced important peripheral brain functions t ...more
Jul 01, 2015 Angela rated it liked it
Shelves: science
While I think the idea of exploring the physical infrastructure of the internet is a good one, this book is a bit drawn out and monotonous. It would have been better as a series of a few articles.

The book is almost entirely focused on the author's experience of each piece of infrastructure on the day of a particular visit, such as the drive to the location, the weather, extensive visual descriptions of each building, etc.. There is no discussion of protocols, or how any piece of equipment works
Emily Whelchel
Sep 09, 2014 Emily Whelchel rated it did not like it
What I Liked
Blum is a talented writer. His phrasing is often beautiful. For example, "There was still this gap between the physical and the virtual, the abstract of information and the damp breeze off the sea" (216). I wish he was a novelist; he understands how to word things in a compelling way.

What I Didn't Like
I read this book as an assignment for a senior-level telecommunications course... and I struggled to make it to the last page. This is a technical book. I won't go so far to call it a
Robert Dormer
Mar 30, 2014 Robert Dormer rated it liked it
Fair warning, as a professional internet geek and not-professional infrastructure geek, I might be one of the harder parts of the audience for this book to impress. It's a good book and a quick read, but it's marred by some flaws.

For one thing, the author has an english major's annoying habit of constantly quoting other authors, thinking that inserting other people's thoughts somehow adds depth, when really it just comes off as distracting and pretentious. If you were given a nickel every time h
Apr 16, 2014 Joodith rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
It's a bit like unravelling spaghetti is this book. It starts off as a challenge but actually ends up a little on the dull side, which is really rather frustrating for me as I, seriously....I really do want to know what happens when you click that Send button. Instead I got all tangled up in the trillions of miles of cables and stuff and ended up being more bewildered than ever.

I have an enquiring mind and want to know how Stuff works....okay, I'm interests me, but thi
David Roberts
Jan 31, 2014 David Roberts rated it really liked it
The book I read to research this post was Tubes: Behind The Scenes At The Internet by Andrew Blum which is a very good book which I bought from kindle. This book is several years old but was quite successful and was number 1 on the kindle computing e-book chart. It was inspired when Andrew had to call out a computer engineer to fix his internet connection outage which was because a squirrel had chewed through a wire. It got him thinking how fragile the internet is that it can be put out of actio ...more
Jan 08, 2016 Adil rated it really liked it
Tubes is a novel about Blum's travels to discover and tour the physical locations associated with the modern Internet. Like many books which focus on bringing technical topics to a general audience, the bulk of Tubes is composed of cultural and historical details about the locations which Blum visits, but the book lacks deep technical detail otherwise. This style of writing can either make or break Tubes depending upon your familiarity with the subject matter.

Blum begins by thinking about his I
Elizabeth K.
Mar 02, 2014 Elizabeth K. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014-new-reads
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 Porthcurno (the whole thing sounds delightfully mundane, ...more
May 16, 2013 Margot rated it liked it
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.
Cary Hillebrand
Mar 24, 2016 Cary Hillebrand rated it it was ok
It is hard to believe that the Internet that is so prevalent in our lives has only evolved over the course of the past twenty years. Before that, the Internet and its predecessor, ARPANET were the domain of a handfull of research and academic institutions and techie and geek hobbyists. Andrew Blum takes us on a voyage through the infrastructure that has witnessed and continues to experiuence growth and development that is both ad hoc and meteoric and introduces us to the companies and engineers ...more
Dec 03, 2014 Peter rated it it was ok
It's a great idea for a book and the author hits on many important aspects of the internet. But OMG, what a tedious slog through pretentious navel-gazing. Is the internet a thing or an idea. Ooohh, wow, how many times can he bring up that dichotomy. I am two-thirds through it and while I am learning a little I could learn about as much in a fifth of the text. This guy got a lot of money to travel the world and write about the kind of clothes tech engineers wear. I mean, that's what he focuses on ...more
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Science and Inquiry: Tubes 2 15 Oct 05, 2012 05:20PM  
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“There’s a certain amount of vulnerability involved with being a network on the Internet. When two networks connect, they have to trust each other—which also means trusting everyone the other one trusts. Internet networks are promiscuous, but their promiscuity is out in the open. It’s free love. Jon Postel, the longtime administrator of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, put this into a koan, a golden rule for network engineers: “Be conservative in what you send, be liberal in what you accept.” 0 likes
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