Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Blog #1: Understanding the Concept of the Internet

In Andrew Blum's Tubes, he started off in the prologue by discussing how the Internet, this massive yet abstruse thing, was acting up at his home. The Internet itself wasn't down, yet his personal connection to it was not functioning. The moment that him and the tech support worker noticed the squirrel by the electric cords intertwined with a pole in his backyard, it had sparked the dawn of Blum's curiosity of the Internet, and how it actually works. I related with Blum as I was reading the prologue. I know I too have these distinct cords and electrical boxes around my house that I don't entirely understand, but where is their outer connection? Are my assumptions true when I'm just imagining these long cords traveling under the ground, weaving with my neighbors' cables and ultimately connecting to more cables at set destinations? I didn't begin to comprehend such things until I was older, but in my defense I hadn't really thought about the concept. To be truthful, I had always imagined that most of everything was just this data being wirelessly sent from one location to another. Being a young teenager and having a cell phone, I had come across the thought multiple times, wondering just how these calls and text messages were able to be transmitted so quickly and efficiently to whatever device I told it to send it to. From that thought, I began to think about computers. At the time, we had one of those big off-white colored computers myself and multiple friends of mine would call "dinosaurs" that at the time would run Windows XP, with its distinguishable blue toolbar. I always imagined the cords hooked up to a device that would wirelessly send information. I would examine the cords behind the desk that we used this computer, almost always to retrieve a dropped pen or to occasionally vacuum the dust and dog hair that would gradually accumulate there. There was a vast array of cords of all types of shapes and sizes. I thought of how amazing it was how all of these separate cords served a purpose in making the computer function, and how difficult and time consuming it had to have been to make it all happen. My mind was not transparent yet about how the internet functions. It was hard for me to understand whether there's this massive database somewhere with giant metal machines and more cords than you could count, or if a lot of it was the work of satellites orbiting the earth. On page 21, Blum states "The Internet is everywhere; the Internet is nowhere. But indubitably, as invisible as the logical might seem, its physical counterpart is always there." Reading this was reassuring to me, since I wasn't sure how far off my idea of the Internet was from the truth. My assumption from when I was younger never really changed and I hadn't really thought about looking it up. The Internet seems to be a physical thing and a concept at the same time. Blum's quest to figure what the Internet truly is so far has supplied him with substantial information. One fact was that "the Internet lacks a central founding figure" (p.35). There's no singular person to thank for the Internet coming to be, but rather teams of intelligent people putting their thoughts and knowledge together to create something previously unheard of. As early as 1969, an interface message processor, commonly called an IMP, was installed at the University of California-Los Angeles. It was used to interconnect networks to the ARPANET, Advanced Research Projects Agency Network, which would allow information to be sent within it. Large computer companies began running their own networks by the early 1980s. Networks such as HEPnet, MFENET, SPAN, and EARN all were functioning networks, but the problem was that they weren't connected. The transition of communications protocol from NCP (Network Control Protocol) to TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol) allowed data to be sent to several different networks rather than within a singular network. A networking company called MFS created a hub called MAE-East (Metropolitan Area Exchange). The purpose of creating this was to have all of these separate networks act as one, and MAE-East blew up with popularity. 20% of American adults were Internet users by 1997 when just years before the number was nearly 0. The art of the Internet is far more complicated for the average person to comprehend. The process took several years of altering to make communication much easier.

Discussion Questions:
1. What are your thoughts on Blum's questions on page 28 "But I was still hung up on what seemed like a simple question: What physically were all those lines? And where precisely did they run? If TeleGeography properly understood the Internet as being "point to point", what and where were the points"?"
2. How did you imagine what the Internet physically looked like and why?

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ITR Presentation - World Wide Web