Book Report: Tubes

Tubes - cover“I have confirmed with my own eyes that the Internet is many things in many places.  But one thing it most certainly is, nearly everywhere, is, in fact, a series of tubes.” (Tubes – p5)

Title: Tubes

Author: Andrew Blum

Publisher: Harper Collins

Publication Date: 2012

Origin: I popped into Chapters/Starbucks for a coffee, and saw Tubes sitting in a display area.  How could I not buy it?  I work in telecom, I’ve studied the Internet as part of my job for years, and the book is called “tubes” for goodness sake.

Summary: In Tubes, Blum takes us along on his two-year quest to discover the physical places that make the Internet real.  His curiosity piqued when a squirrel chews through his cable connection, Blum’s journey will take him to Internet exchanges, undersea cable landing points, data centers, and everywhere in between – all physical places that are at odds with our view of the Internet as a “cloud”.

So what did he find?  Well, for one he discovers that Senator Ted Stevens wasn’t too far off when he described the Internet as a series of tubes: “I have confirmed with my own eyes that the Internet is many things in many places.  But one thing it most certainly is, nearly everywhere, is, in fact, a series of tubes.” (Tubes – p5).

But perhaps more importantly, he finds that the Internet is, above all, a place of people:

“What I understood when I arrived home was that the Internet wasn’t a physical world or a virtual world, but a human world.  The Internet’s physical infrastructure has many centers, but from a certain vantage point there is really only one: You.  Me.  The lower case i.  Where I am, and wherever you are.” (Tubes – p268)

My Take: I quite enjoyed Tubes, and I wonder if the reason was that it relates to my current professional world.  Many of the places Blum visited are places not unfamiliar to me, and the technologies he describes are typical elements of telecommunications.  On the other hand, perhaps the topic would be even more interesting to someone who doesn’t already have a working knowledge of the subject?  Might a newbie find the subjects in Tubes as interesting and, dare I say, thrilling as Blum himself found?

In Tubes, Blum has taken what could be a fairly dry topic and made it come alive with vivid descriptions and a gift for conveying the human element in all his encounters.  If you want to get a sneak peak, it turns out that Blum has also done a TED talk on the subject.

Andrew Blum - TED

Andrew Blum describes his journey to discover the physical side of the Internet

Read This Book If: You’ve ever yourself wondered where your data goes, or how it gets to your home.


Lee Brooks is the founder of Cromulent Marketing, a boutique marketing agency specializing in crafting messaging, creating content, and managing public relations for B2B technology companies.

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Posted in Books
2 comments on “Book Report: Tubes
  1. […] 15 of Tubes made reference to “the cult favorite” How to Lie with Maps, and teased that “The […]

  2. […] On one of my Chapters/Starbucks visits (the same one during which I saw Tubes, actually), I spotted Scatter, Adapt, and Remember.  I’ve always been a major science nut, […]

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