Saturday, February 09, 2008

Sea Monster Attacks Internet UPDATE!

Got an update on the severed underwater cable which provides internet services - mentioned earlier this week. It seems a 5-ton ships anchor was the culprit, according to press reports. Not, apparently, nefarious aquatic monsters nor super-secret underwater hooligans of any sort. The link above even has a picture of the anchor being hauled out of the water by a FLAG Telecom repair ship. Of course, that only explains one of three mysteriously severed cables (there was another in some Arctic fjord but that was blamed on wild weather and roiling seas, according to spokesperson Marty Kuluguqtuq. No I did not make that up. And that's Mister Kuluguqtuq to you, bucko.).

Curious creature that I am, the element of the report of a repair which caught my eye was the reference to FLAG Telecom. FLAG stands for Fiber-Optic Link Around the Globe, a company based in India which laid the cable in the late 1990s. The cable in question is part of a worldwide creation - some 28,000 miles long and at only an inch thick, it may well be prone to slicing.

Likely the best source of info on FLAG comes from writer Neal Stephenson, in this massive article from Wired magazine in December of 1996.

Everything that has occurred in Silicon Valley in the last couple of decades also occurred in the 1850s. Anyone who thinks that wild-ass high tech venture capitalism is a late-20th-century California phenomenon needs to read about the maniacs who built the first transatlantic cable projects (I recommend Arthur C. Clarke's book How the World Was One). The only things that have changed since then are that the stakes have gotten smaller, the process more bureaucratized, and the personalities less interesting."

Stephenson's detailed research reveals the links between the creation of international trade routes and treaties from the 1800s, the rise of telecoms and the current state of how information moves to the FLAG project and makes fascinating reading.

If you have time and energy, his Hugo-award-winning novel "Cryptonomicon" is a stunning tale of history and fiction on the creation of computers and lost gold, U-Boats and ISPs and how everything is connected by being connected. The book should already be in your home as proof of your inner tech Geekness.


  1. Anonymous1:31 PM

    I think Snow Crash is a modern sci-fi masterpiece, quite honestly. Probably the best book I've read in the last 5/8 years.

  2. Agreed. Snow Crash is amazing. I've read a half dozen times at least. Likewise Stephenson's The Diamond Age is also most excellent. But Snow Crash is a modern classic.