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Dr_Lawrence's avatar

How you you picture the INTERNET? Where is it? What is it?

Asked by Dr_Lawrence (19455 points ) September 29th, 2012

Having heard a fascinating discussion on CBC how people in various accomplished fields describe how they picture the INTERNET, I was amazed at the range of responses.

Where is it? In space? In the sky? Underground?

What is it like? Is it like a cloud? Is it a big machine somewhere? Is it at your cable or telephone company?

Please describe how you picture it and how you imagine it work.

I would sincerely request that Internet Wizards hold back from demonstrating their technical wisdom until others have described their impressions.

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10 Answers

ragingloli's avatar

a series of tubes.

wundayatta's avatar

Somewhere in the wheat fields of Kansas is a giant server farm. From a distance, it might look like cows grazing in a field, except the bumps on the landscape don’t move, as they are like those telephone junction boxes you see sitting on slabs of cement you see on street corners in the cities. Except I imagine them surrounded by fields of gently blowing golden wheat with the sun setting behind clouds in the distance.

Then of course, are the server farms in the Maldives and under the ocean, and sometimes, even floating along beneath balloons way up in the clouds. There is a separate server in each basket beneath each balloon in the clouds. People often ask me where the cloud is, and this is what I think of.

Fiber optics are kind of weird, because you know you have these glass wires, and maybe some really thick bunches of glass wires travelling beneath the oceans and probably up into the sky to link up all these server farms. Backbone, you know. Some day there will even be fiber optic wire backbones going right up into the sky, maybe to the moon or certainly to an L5 space station.

But the internet? Some people like to call it the interweb these days. Not sure why. Are webs better than nets? Spiders better than fishermen?

So overlaid over it all is this web or netting of connections. House to house. Village to village. City to city. Continent to continent. Layers and layers of ever thicker ropes of spider webs, that are both literal and metaphorical at the same time. I can almost see them, plying the airwaves like ghosts, and yet running, literally in the streets and along the telephone poles and under the ground.

Once I went into the backup facility where I work. I don’t know how many gazillion terabytes of data they back up each day, but the room literally hums due to the force of the flow of air needed to cool all the servers. There is a false floor build in, so the the air can flow underneath, and it makes the room vibrate so much I got dizzy due to the disturbance in my inner ear. I got very nauseous and was very grateful to leave the room. I asked our tour guide how much time he spent in the room, and he told me, “As little as possible.”

I don’t blame him one bit.

flutherother's avatar

I visualise it as connections. I imagine millions of miles of wire running from my PC across the planet like chicken wire.

jerv's avatar

I see it as a fractal thing, much like the power grid. You have servers connected to sub-servers, connected to sub-sub-servers, but in a robust/redundant manner so that the network is self-healing to an extent (though not as robust as a pure P2P network).

Where is it? Where is Nirvana, or Valhalla! It is a meta-place, not one in physical space; “where” is irrelevant.

Sunny2's avatar

It’s up in the sky, like radio waves, and machines pull it out of the sky and into a network of computers. I saw one of the early computers at M.I.T. which was a room full of machines flipping coded cards. I didn’t understand it then and I don’t pretend to now. I’m just happy to have it.

YARNLADY's avatar

To me it is just like the telephone, television, electricity and the wind and sunlight. They exist in the air and in the wires that stretch everywhere.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Another clueless person here. One of my first official jobs was working at a Holiday Inn hotel back in the early eighties. While we still had a manual system for checking guests in, there was a computer that fed us reservations. On this computer was a way to send admin. messages to the other hotels attached to the system.. It was magic in my eyes.

I’ve been lucky enough (or cursed) to work for a company that handles all things IT, or live with someone that can just step in and fix any any problems. It maintains the magic around the internet. It’s one of the few topics that I just don’t want to know the answer to. There is a sort of childlike appreciation to what it offers without knowing how it works.

Symbeline's avatar

If I have to give it a physical aspect, when I picture it it’s like this board, with other boards everywhere before and after one another, with a bunch of wires that lead to different places. Although the settup is extremely complicated, all the wires and boards follow a strict order and everything looks well organized. There’s little boxes used as dead ends or transmitters, too. I don’t know where it is or where it goes, other than it doing what the Internet does.
Basically if you open up something like a game cartridge or a computer or an old TV, the Internet to me looks like those green panels full of crap, except my version is white, mostly.

the wild west

augustlan's avatar

My mental image of it is like a series of connected creeks and streams, with information flowing from one branch to another.

ucme's avatar

Ooh, you are so big, I mean absolutely huge.
We’re all pretty impressed over here I can tell you.

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