Saturday, September 12, 2009

Sounds good to me

Walking by the tubes.
Walking by the tubes.,
originally uploaded by Gabba Gabba Hey!.
A great many people give former Alaska senator Ted Stevens flak for comparing the structure of the Internet to a series of tubes a few years back, and I will not attempt to defend the gentleman's conception of the subject in full. Yet in the resulting furor, I would just like to point out that if I had to choose just one metaphor between "a big truck" and "a series of tubes," the tubes would win decisively. For what is more tubelike than the high-speed Intenet backbone network, the submarine cables, the dedicated satellite links, and the urban microwave trunks that do the heavy work of piping the traffic about, routing around congestion and breakages, rarely caught up in traffic jams, as photons rarely are wont to tarry? And if somewhere the end of a tube is exposed to our feeble senses, raw effluent pouring out in a stomach-churning mix, what can a modern net user do but express his or her wonder at the fluidlike medium that geeks in the know even refer to as a torrent? For something more like the opposite, look at the Netflix distribution scheme which relies on honest to goodness mail trucks to get the content to the consumer.

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