Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet (Blum, 2012) takes readers on an expedition that explores the physical infrastructure of the internet. The book is supposedly inspired by a squirrel whom had successfully chewed through a fiber optic cable outside of the authors house, thus disconnecting him from the interconnected matrix we are encompassed by (known as the internet). Traveling to various locations (i.e., Amsterdam, London), Blum initially takes readers on a technical history of the internet (chapters one through three) by discussing its origins and founders. The remaining material in the book describes what the internet has come to be today and its prospected future directions.
Written in first person, the book seemed to have a sense of identity confusion as to its genre. The underlying basis of the book was to teach readers about how the internet works. In doing this, Blum incorporated a significant amount of bias personal experience and philosophy. Although this was employed to help readers who have no knowledge of the internet be able to grasp the concept, he frequently wondered so far off topic that it would take an entire page to describe something that could be written in one sentence. The vast number of quotes from individuals not related to technology was overwhelming. Furthermore, he made so many comparisons that I frequently forgot what he was initially attempting to describe. Perhaps Blum should stick to what his degree entails (humanities) and less about being technologically and instructionally informative.
Prior to reading the book, I had always wished our school textbooks had more similes and comparisons that I could relate to my personal life. I wished they be more interesting and less direct- for I thought that would help me in gaining a better understanding of the overall concept. However, after reading Blum’s (2012) novel, I now understand why textbooks don’t stray far from what needs to be taught; because of the potential to go off topic. This book was a clear cut example of that.
To me, reading the book was an endless cycle of boredom and frustration. I was interested in what the author was attempting to convey, but I just wished he would get to the point!! The authors style of writing would have been better if he wasn’t trying to explain such a technical topic. Because of this, I would hesitate to recommend this book to a friend who wanted to learn about the internet. Having said all that, the most significant thing about the book was that it viewed technical concepts from multiple perspectives that related to humanity and sociology. For example, in chapter four when visiting Amsterdam’s Internet Exchange (AMS-IX), he talked about how company was shaped around the country’s culture and belief system. Furthermore, he questioned the ethics of Google and why they were so secretive when it came to sharing information (although there was much bias in the section). Google seemed like the only company out of all of them that acted like the author was more of a nuisance than anything else (which is kind of scary, beings how colossal they really are). I also thought it was interesting when talking about why the internet started on the west coast as opposed to other geographical locations (because the west coast was more open minded).
In an effort to be more interesting and appeal to the general audience, Blum made some statements that are not true. Blum makes the statement, “every IP address is by definition public knowledge; to be on the Internet is to want to be found.” Although IP addresses are public knowledge, you do not have to have a want to be found to be on the internet. Perhaps the author does not want to go into detail about TOR, Orbot, and other IP-hiding devises that are sketchy but have hit the mainstream.
Although I admittedly did a lot of skimming during the last 75 or so pages due to being bored and frustrated with reading mundane and pointless information (i.e., how international airport hotels look and feel), I thought the introduction about the startup of the internet (chapter two) was the best, easiest, and most interesting part of the book to understand. Perhaps it could have been because we already discussed it in class, but by the end of chapter two I had a good understanding of what, and the original intentions, of the ARPANET and IMP-1 were. Although I just discussed how the book had too much involvement in humanities, I thought it was interesting how UCLA students had no interest in the first IMP even though it was just in the other classroom. This displays that today’s generations have little interest in the past, even though it created what is going on today. I think this way of thinking may be partially due to how the internet has caused people to not see the bigger picture of things, and simply focus on what is interesting at the present time. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interface_Message_Processor does a good job at helping gain a further understand of the installation of west coast IMPs, and how and when they communicated amongst each other. Furthermore, the website describes the 24-bit error detection method, and a number of other ‘state of the art’ features the mechanism had. Who would have known in 1969 that Kleinrock log that stated “talked to SRS host to host” would come to be what it is today?
In conclusion, I did not enjoy reading and learned little from Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet. I think the authors global ventures to see the physical structures of the internet first hand may be more interesting than the book itself. However, I did learn about how the internet is an actual thing that circumferences the globe, and how it all interconnects to bring us together. One of the most interesting things in the book was that the intentions of the original innovators was to connect person to machine. However, although this has been accomplished, the internet’s most prominent feature is that it connects person to person.
Blum, A. (2012). Tubes: A journey to the center of the internet. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers.
Interface Message Processor (n.d.) In Wikipedia. Retrieved April 3, 2017, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interface_Message_Processor