Recently it was recommended to me to read Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet by Andrew Blum and I was instantly curious. I’ve used the Internet for years and thought I had a good conceptual grasp of the Internet, but I’m always curious to learn a different perspective.
“For all the talk of the placelessness of our digital age, the Internet is as fixed in real, physical places as any railroad or telephone system ever was. In basest terms, it is made of pulses of light. Those pulses might seem miraculous, but they’re not magic. They are produced by powerful lasers contained in steel boxes housed mainly in unmarked buildings. The lasers exist. The boxes exist. The buildings exist. The Internet has a physical reality, an essential infrastructure, a ‘hard bottom,’ as Henry David Thoreau said of Walden Pond. In undertaking this journey, I’ve tried to wash away the technological alluvium of contemporary life in order to see—fresh in the sunlight—the physical essence of our digital world.”
—from the Prologue
What I got was definitely a renewed perspective of what the physical internet looks like in context of the world. The excitement that Andrew shares in his hunt to find the various places of the Internet around the world is fascinating. Now on my daily walks when I glance up at the sky, clouds, and sun I also occasionally look around for signs of the physical Internet around me.
While definitely not a book to give a deep technical understanding of networks, it does give a decent broad stroke explanation of the pieces of the Internet. So you can read this and not feel overwhelmed by acronyms like DNS, IP, TCP/IP, or FTP and still learn a general explanation of the Internet. If this piques your interest there are plenty of good networking books and courses to take!