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Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet by Andrew Blum
air freight, cable laying ship, call centre, global village, Hibernia Atlantic: Project Express, if you build it, they will come, inflight wifi, invisible hand, Kevin Kelly, Mark Zuckerberg, Menlo Park, Mercator projection, Network effects, New Urbanism, packet switching, Ralph Waldo Emerson, RAND corporation, side project, Silicon Valley, Skype, South of Market, San Francisco, Steve Crocker, Steve Jobs, Steven Levy, urban planning, WikiLeaks
But compared with the transatlantic cables that landed on Long Island, by the time a bit went down the coast and back up to the city, the route effectively made London and New York two hundred more miles apart. At the time no one thought it mattered. “Now I get beaten up in meetings because there’s one millisecond extra compared to our competitors,” Cooper said, rubbing his brow. The first new transatlantic cable in a decade will be laid in 2012 by a small company called Hibernia-Atlantic. They designed it from scratch to be the fastest. The micro geography matters just as much. Specialized ships conduct surveys of the ocean bottom, carefully plotting routes over and around underwater mountains—like grading a railroad, but without the option to dig any tunnels. The paths carefully avoid major shipping lanes, to limit the risk of damage from dragging anchors. Because if a cable does fail, a repair ship is dispatched to lift both ends to the surface using grappling hooks and fuse the ends back together—an expensive, slow process.
At Global Crossing—now Level 3—Kate Rankin championed my interest to her colleagues, who collectively spent days answering my questions. In Rochester, Jim Watts, Mary Hughson, Louis LaPack, Mike Duell, and Nels Thompson provided the background info. Then in Cornwall, Jol Paling shared his beautiful part of the world. The Porthcurno Telegraph Museum is an invaluable resource for the history of undersea cables; archivist Alan Renton became a friend in the valley. At Hibernia Atlantic, Bjarni Thorvardarson welcomed me in and Tom Burfitt gave a great tour. At Tata Communications, Simon Cooper allowed everything to happen, most especially the chance to watch a cable land on the beach; his colleagues Janice Goveas, Paul Wilkinson, Rui Carrilho, and Anisha Sharma made it work. At TE Subcom, Courtney McDaniel arranged fascinating and hugely informative visits with Neal Bargano in Eatontown and Colin Young in Newington.
See Deutscher Commercial Internet Exchange Gates, Bill, 57 Gilbert, John, 174–75, 176, 177–78, 179–80 Global Crossing, 125, 153, 183, 202–3, 208, 209–10, 253 Global Internet Geography “GIG” (TeleGeography), 14, 27 Global Switch, 183 globalization of “peering,” 125–26 undersea cables and, 197 Goldman Sachs, 261 Google Cerf at, 45 in China, 257 as content provider, 79 data centers/storage for, 229, 231, 234–35, 237–50, 254, 255, 257, 258, 261 and Internet as series of tubes, 5 invisibility of political borders and, 147 IPO for, 69–70 Menlo Park location of, 69 mission statement of, 248 as most-visited website, 127 NANOGers at, 120 New York City location of, 163–64, 172 number of daily searches on, 231 peering and, 122–23, 125–26 privacy issues at, 258 secrecy/security at, 242–50, 254, 257 Gore, Al, 63 government, Dutch, AMS–IX and, 147 government, US, role at MAE-East of, 62–63. See also military, US; specific department or agency Great Eastern (cable ship), 203, 253 Great Western Railway, 203 Greenpeace, 230, 261 Hafner, Katie, 51 Halifax, Canada: cable station near, 211 Hankins, Greg, 157, 159 HEPnet, 52 Hewlett-Packard, 74 Hibernia-Atlantic, 199 High Performance Computing and Communications Act (“Gore Bill”), 63 High Rise (Ballard), 181–82 Homeland Security, US Department of, 238 Honeywell DDP–516 minicomputer, 39, 44 Hong Kong, 128, 194, 198, 200 How to Lie with Maps (Monmonier), 15 hubs, 64, 109–10. See also specific hub Hubs + Spokes: A TeleGeography Internet Reader (TeleGeography), 26 Hugh O’Kane Electric Company, 165, 166, 167 Hurricane Electric, 121, 266 IBM, 52 IMP (interface message processor) beginning of Internet and, 36, 39–49 expansion of Internet and, 50 first successful transmission of, 48 India, 204 “information highway”: Internet as, 19–20, 63–64 ING Canada, 124 International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, 166 Internet backbone of, 14, 18 cables as “inter” part of, 97 capitalization of, 106–7 centers of, 9, 108–9, 112–13, 268 decentralization of, 54 earth’s connection to, 101–3 efficiency of, 231 essence of, 47, 135 expansion of, 6, 49–57, 109, 118, 138 fail-safe for, 100 286 as fantasy, 8 fickleness of, 261 founding ideology of, 54, 133 geography of, 28 globalization of, 70–71, 87, 193 Gore as inventor of, 63 “ground truth” of, 29 as handmade, 118 history of, 35–57, 107, 147 as hub-and-spoke system, 109–10 as human construction, 158 images of, 5, 6–8, 9, 18, 34, 107–8, 229–30, 266–68 as “information highway,” 19–20, 63–64 Kleinrock as a father of, 41–42 light of, 162, 163 limits of, 3 as math made manifest, 163 meshed connectivity of, 27, 64–65 most important places on, 127 myths about, 40 openness/publicness of, 30–31, 73–75, 116, 117–18, 124, 133 as overlap of geographical and physical elements, 19 photographs of, 21 prevalence of, 3, 34 questions about what is the, 2–10, 264–68 quintessence of, 163 reality of, 9 as self-healing, 200 as series of tubes, 5–6 shutdown of Blum’s, 1–4, 18, 144, 264 smell of, 44, 49 structure of, 27, 54, 64–65, 87 threats to, 116–17 uneven distribution of, 262 as unfinished, 67 uniqueness of, 106 usage of, 3, 34, 55, 66–67 Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, 29, 30, 31, 45 Internet exchanges “IX” as center of Internet, 108–9, 112–13 characteristics of largest, 111–13 competition among, 133–35 definition of, 109 gap between average-size and large, 130 as hub-and-spoke system, 109–10 location of, 113 peering and, 121–22, 126, 127, 129, 130 problems of, 109–11 rationale for, 109 security at, 113–16 See also specific exchange Internet Explorer (Microsoft), 57 Internet Heritage Site and Archive, Kleinrock, 44–45 “Internet Mapping Project” (Kelly), 7–8 Interxion, 140 Inventing the Internet (Abbate), 35–36 IP addresses, 29, 30, 31–32 The IT Crowd (TV show), 108, 143 Jagiellonian University (Poland): Traceroute example for, 31–32 Japan, 27, 33, 111, 113, 196, 198, 199, 201, 208 Jobs, Steve, 267 JPNAP (Tokyo), 111, 113 Juniper routers, 99–100 Justice Department, US, 123 Karlson, Dave, 244–45 Kelly, Kevin, 7, 8–9 Kenya, 198 Kingdom Brunel, Isambard, 203, 253 Kirn, Walter, 38 Kleinrock Internet Heritage Site and Archive (UCLA), 44–45 Kleinrock, Leonard, 36, 41–49, 51, 52, 69, 158 Kozlowski, Dennis, 195 KPN, 148, 155, 266 Krisetya, Markus, 13–17, 21, 23, 25, 26–27, 28, 45 Kubin-Nicholson Corporation, 13–14, 16–17, 21 landing stations, cable, 193, 202, 203.
algorithmic trading, automated trading system, banking crisis, bash_history, Bernie Madoff, butterfly effect, buttonwood tree, cloud computing, collapse of Lehman Brothers, Donald Trump, Flash crash, Francisco Pizarro, Gordon Gekko, Hibernia Atlantic: Project Express, High speed trading, Joseph Schumpeter, latency arbitrage, Long Term Capital Management, Mark Zuckerberg, market design, market microstructure, pattern recognition, pets.com, Ponzi scheme, popular electronics, prediction markets, quantitative hedge fund, Ray Kurzweil, Renaissance Technologies, Sergey Aleynikov, Small Order Execution System, South China Sea, Spread Networks laid a new fibre optics cable between New York and Chicago, stealth mode startup, stochastic process, transaction costs, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!
Since there were only twenty slots on the cable, any firm that had a slot had a distinct edge over every competitor that didn’t. Welcome to the new level playing field of high-frequency trading. The phenomenon wasn’t confined to the United States—it was going global. In October 2010, just months after Spread Networks plugged into Nasdaq, fiber-optic companies Hibernia Atlantic, based in Summit, New Jersey, and Huawai Marine Networks, of Tianjin, China, announced a plan to lay the first transatlantic fiber-optic cable built in a decade, a half-billion-dollar project that was projected to cut five milliseconds off trades between New York and London. Once complete, the three-thousand-mile cable would stretch from Halifax, Nova Scotia, across the North Atlantic to Somerset, England. As with the Spread Networks cable, the route would be shorter than other cable providers had used because it would cross shallow waters, where cable can be damaged by everything from fishing trawlers to sharks, which are attracted by the line’s electricity.
In a 1999 e-mail exchange with a Wired reporter—the programmer would communicate with reporters only through e-mail, and he never consented to have a photo taken for a single article—he expressed a powerful aversion to celebrity. “Any story about Island should not include a picture of me and any story about me will not enjoy my cooperation,” he wrote. “I have learned the hard way that I do not want to be a famous person and I will do anything in my power to prevent it.” While Levine hadn’t racked up the hundreds of millions pocketed by Citron and Maschler, he’d fared well enough. In 2004, he paid $3.75 million in cash for a vacant thirteen-thousand-square-foot five-story brick warehouse on historic Water Street in lower Manhattan. The 1830s Greek Revival building became his new home, doubling as a laboratory where he could pursue projects such as his solar-power system-in-a-box concept. In the next few years, Levine would construct a field of solar panels in the land surrounding an upstate New York retreat.
Trading Machines was his best shot at the big time—running his own fund, building a trading empire to span the globe. He’d planned to use his windfall to fund research efforts to combat genocide, a long-held dream that went back to his grandparents’ narrow escape from Poland after the Nazi invasion of 1939. Bodek had already helped fund one of the earliest Darfur information projects in 2003 and had spent more than $100,000 on projects to intervene in atrocities around the world. But he wanted to do much more. Then the Machine stopped working, and Bodek channeled every bit of his brain power toward fixing it. Like the obsessive mathematician in the movie Pi, he shut out all distractions, including his own family, and dove into the data. He even stopped driving the Batmobile, promising himself he’d use it again when he’d solved the mystery.