Review – Audiobook: Tubes by Andrew Blum
Publisher: Harper Audio
Publish Date: May 29, 2012
Format: Audio, 7 hours | 25 minutes
Audio Listening Level: Easy – Intermediate
Rating: 3 of 5
Do you ever wonder how the internet works? We press the enter key and the data goes where it’s supposed to go. Most of the time, anyway. We are becoming more and more dependent on the internet in our daily lives and for many of us its inner workings are a mystery.
Andrew Blum takes us back to the beginning of the internet, to the very first connections, and gives us a tour of its evolution into the global resource it is today. Internet data centers and miles of cable span the continents connecting people around the planet. Our data, the bits and bytes that make up our photos, email, phone calls, finances, essentially our lives, is stored in what is commonly referred to as ‘the cloud’.
The cloud is nothing more than a giant data center, a nondescript building, housing a multitude of servers and cables. The author was able to get access to a few of these centers and speak with some of the engineers resulting in a fascinating story. (My favorite section of the book). His tour of a Google data center consisted of only the parking lot. They are so secretive they would not let him inside the building. On the other hand, Facebook was open and accommodating, sort of the same way they are with our personal data!
The material is informative and well-researched, the writing is excellent, but this is a technical subject and at times it reads like a text book. The author does a nice job with his explanations and while he attempted to make it entertaining, his side stories were more about the people he met on his travels to see data centers than on the structure of the internet itself. My interest in the subject matter kept me engaged but I would have enjoyed it more if the technical narrative was a little more entertaining and less dry.
The title of the book comes from a comment made back in 2006 by former Alaskan Senator Ted Stevens, who said, “the internet is a series of tubes”. In some ways it is, as Andrew Blum explains, but the senator was widely ridiculed none-the-less. A YouTube remix of his comments has over 4 million hits.
I listened to the audiobook, which was read by the author himself. Sometimes this works beautifully, sometimes not so well. While his speaking voice was fine, his words were often over-enunciated and it took me the first hour to get accustomed to the flow of the words. The seven and a half hours of listening time proved to be the right amount to hold my interest.
Techie types should enjoy the detail and the history presented in Tubes. If you don’t consider yourself a techie but you are curious about how things work, this is a good introduction to infrastructure of the internet without a lot of technical jargon.
Source: Review copy.
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