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12.01.1996 12:00 PM

Mother Earth Mother Board

The hacker tourist ventures forth across the wide and wondrous meatspace of three continents, chronicling the laying of the longest wire on Earth.
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    The hacker tourist ventures forth across the wide and wondrous meatspace of three continents, chronicling the laying of the longest wire on Earth.

    In which the hacker tourist ventures forth across the wide and wondrous meatspace of three continents, acquainting himself with the customs and dialects of the exotic Manhole Villagers of Thailand, the U-Turn Tunnelers of the Nile Delta, the Cable Nomads of Lan tao Island, the Slack Control Wizards of Chelmsford, the Subterranean Ex-Telegraphers of Cornwall, and other previously unknown and unchronicled folk; also, biographical sketches of the two long-dead Supreme Ninja Hacker Mage Lords of global telecommunications, and other material pertaining to the business and technology of Undersea Fiber-Optic Cables, as well as an account of the laying of the longest wire on Earth, which should not be without interest to the readers of WIRED.

    Information moves, or we move to it. Moving to it has rarely been popular and is growing unfashionable; nowadays we demand that the information come to us. This can be accomplished in three basic ways: moving physical media around, broadcasting radiation through space, and sending signals through wires. This article is about what will, for a short time anyway, be the biggest and best wire ever made.

    Wires warp cyberspace in the same way wormholes warp physical space: the two points at opposite ends of a wire are, for informational purposes, the same point, even if they are on opposite sides of the planet. The cyberspace-warping power of wires, therefore, changes the geometry of the world of commerce and politics and ideas that we live in. The financial districts of New York, London, and Tokyo, linked by thousands of wires, are much closer to each other than, say, the Bronx is to Manhattan.

    Today this is all quite familiar, but in the 19th century, when the first feeble bits struggled down the first undersea cable joining the Old World to the New, it must have made people's hair stand up on end in more than just the purely electrical sense—it must have seemed supernatural. Perhaps this sort of feeling explains why when Samuel Morse stretched a wire between Washington and Baltimore in 1844, the first message he sent with his code was "What hath God wrought!"—almost as if he needed to reassure himself and others that God, and not the Devil, was behind it.

    News of the future, now. Get WIRED for as low as $5. Subscribe Now

    During the decades after Morse's "What hath God wrought!" a plethora of different codes, signalling techniques, and sending and receiving machines were patented. A web of wires was spun across every modern city on the globe, and longer wires were strung between cities. Some of the early technologies were, in retrospect, flaky: one early inventor wanted to use 26-wire cables, one wire for each letter of the alphabet. But it quickly became evident that it was best to keep the number of individual wires as low as possible and find clever ways to fit more information onto them.

    This requires more ingenuity than you might think—wires have never been perfectly transparent carriers of data; they have always degraded the information put into them. In general, this gets worse as the wire gets longer, and so as the early telegraph networks spanned greater distances, the people building them had to edge away from the seat-of-the-pants engineering practices that, applied in another field, gave us so many boiler explosions, and toward the more scientific approach that is the standard of practice today.

    Still, telegraphy, like many other forms of engineering, retained a certain barnyard, improvised quality until the Year of Our Lord 1858, when the terrifyingly high financial stakes and shockingly formidable technical challenges of the first transatlantic submarine cable brought certain long-simmering conflicts to a rolling boil, incarnated the old and new approaches in the persons of Dr. Wildman Whitehouse and Professor William Thomson, respectively, and brought the conflict between them into the highest possible relief in the form of an inquiry and a scandal that rocked the Victorian world. Thomson came out on top, with a new title and name—Lord Kelvin.

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    • Image (Asset 2/6) alt=Whitehouse disappeared into ignominy. Thomson ended up being knighted and later elevated to a baron by Queen Victoria. He became Lord Kelvin and eventually got an important unit of measurement, an even more important law of physics, and a refrigerator named after him.

      Eight years after Whitehouse fried the first, a second transatlantic cable was built to Lord Kelvin's specifications with his patented mirror galvanometers at either end of it. He bought a 126-ton schooner yacht with the stupendous amount of money he made from his numerous cable-related patents, turned the ship into a floating luxury palace and laboratory for the invention of even more fantastically lucrative patents. He then spent the rest of his life tooling around the British Isles, Bay of Biscay, and western Mediterranean, frequently hosting Dukes and continental savants who all commented on the nerd-lord's tendency to stop in the middle of polite conversation to scrawl out long skeins of equations on whatever piece of paper happened to be handy.

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      The lighthouse, the libraries, and other haunts of ancient nerds and geeks. Profound significanceof intersections. Travels on the Desert Road. Libya's contact with the outside world rudely severed—then restored! Engineer Musalamand his planetary information nexus. The vitally important concept of Slack

      31° 12.841' N, 29° 53.169' ESite of the Pharos lighthouse, Alexandria, Egypt

      Having stood on the beach of Miura watching those miserable-but-plucky Japanese surfers, the hacker tourist had reached FLAG's easternmost extreme, and there was nothing to do except turn around and head west. Next stop: Egypt.

      No visit to Egypt is complete without a stop in Cairo, but that city, the pinnacle of every normal tourist's traveling career, is strangely empty from a hacker tourist point of view. Its prime attraction, of course, is the pyramids. We visited them at five in the morning during a long and ultimately futile wait for the Egyptian military to give us permission to rendezvous with FLAG's cable-laying ship in the Gulf of Suez. To the hacker, the most interesting thing about the Pyramids is their business plan, which is the simplest and most effective ever devised:

      (1) Put a rock on top of another rock.
      (2) Repeat (1) until gawkers arrive.
      (3) Separate them from their valuables by all conceivable means.

      By contrast, normal tourist guidebooks have nothing good to say about Alexandria; it's as if the writers got so tired of marveling at Cairo and Upper Egypt that they had to vent their spleen somewhere. Though a town was here in ancient times, Alexandria per se was founded in 332 BC by Alexander the Great, which makes it a brand-new city by Egyptian standards. There is almost no really old stuff in Alexandria at all, but the mere memory of the landmarks that were here in its heyday suffice to make it much more important than Cairo from the weirdly distorted viewpoint of the hacker tourist. These landmarks are, or were, the lighthouse and the libraries.

      The lighthouse was built on the nearby island of Pharos. Neither the building nor even the island exists any more. Pharos was eventually joined to the mainland by a causeway, which fattened out into a peninsula and became a minuscule bump on the scalp of Africa. The lighthouse was an immense structure, at some 120 meters the tallest building in the world for many centuries, and contained as many as 300 rooms. Somewhere in its upper stories a fire burned all night long, and its light was reflected out across the Mediterranean by some kind of rotating mirror or prism. This was a fine bit of ancient hacking in and of itself, but according to legend, the optics also had magnifying properties, so that observers peering through it during the daytime could see ships too distant to be perceived by the naked eye.

      According to legend, this feature made Alexandria immune to naval assault as long as the lighthouse remained standing. According to another yarn, a Byzantine emperor spread a rumor that the treasure of Alexander the Great had been hidden within the lighthouse's foundation, and the unbelievably fatuous local caliph tore up the works looking for it, putting Pharos out of commission and leading to a military defeat by the Byzantine Empire.

      Some combination or other of gullible caliphs, poor maintenance, and earthquakes eventually did fell the lighthouse. Evidently it toppled right into the Mediterranean. The bottom of the sea directly before its foundations is still littered with priceless artifacts, which are being catalogued and hauled out by French archaeologists using differential GPS to plot their findings. They work in the shadow of a nondescript fortress built on the site by a later sultan, Qait Bey, who pragmatically used a few chunks of lighthouse granite to beef up the walls—just another splinter under the fingernails of the historical preservation crowd.

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    • Image (Asset 4/6) alt=the fact remains that between about 300 BC and AD 400, Alexandria was by far the world capital of high-quality information. It must have had much in common with the MIT campus or Stanford in Palo Alto of more recent times: lots of hairy smart guys converging from all over the world to tinker with the lighthouse or to engage in pursuits that must have been totally incomprehensible to the locals, such as staring down wells at high noon and raving about the diameter of the earth.

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      • Image (Asset 5/6) alt=all of the cables in this hut are old and out of service. They are labeled with the names of the cities where they terminate: Faial in the Azores, Brest in France, Bilbao in Spain, Gibraltar 1, Saint John's in Newfoundland, the Isles of Scilly, two cables to Carcavelos in Portugal, Vigo in Spain, Gibraltar 2 and 3. From this hut, the wires proceed up the valley a couple hundred meters to the cable station proper, which is encased in solid rock.

        During World War II, the Porthcurno cable nexus was such a painfully obvious target for a Nazi attack that a detachment of Cornish miners were brought in to carve a big tunnel out of a rock hill that rises above the campus. This turned out to be so wet that it was necessary to then construct a house inside the tunnel, complete with pitched roof, gutters, and downspouts to carry away the eternal drizzle of groundwater. The strategically important parts of the cable station were moved inside. Porthcurno Bay and the Cable & Wireless campus were laced with additional defensive measures, like a fuel-filled pipe underneath the water to cremate incoming Huns.

        Now the house in the tunnel is the home of the museum. It is sealed from the outside world by two blast doors, each of which consists of a foot-thick box welded together from inch-thick steel plate. The inner door has a gasket to keep out poison gas. Inside, the building is clean and almost cozy, and except for the lack of windows, one is not conscious of being underground.

        Practically the first thing we saw upon entering was a fully functional Kelvin mirror galvanometer—the exquisitely sensitive detector that sent Wildman Whitehouse into ignominy, made the first transatlantic cable useful, and earned William Thomson his first major fortune. Most of its delicate innards are concealed within a metal case. The beam of light that reflects off its tiny twisting mirror shines against a long horizontal screen of paper, marked and numbered like a yardstick, extending about 10 inches on either side of a central zero point. The light forms a spot on this screen about the size and shape of a dime cut in half. It is so sensitive that merely touching the machine's case—grounding it—causes the spot of light to swing wildly to one end of the scale.

        At Porthcurno this device was used for more than one purpose. One of the most important activities at a cable station is pinpointing the locations of faults, which is done by measuring the resistance in the cable. Since the resistance per unit of length is a known quantity, a precise measurement of resistance gives the distance to the fault. Measuring resistance was done by use of a device called a Wheatstone bridge. The museum has a beautiful one, built in a walnut box with big brass knobs for dialing in resistances. Use of the Wheatstone bridge relies on achieving a null current with the highest attainable level of precision, and for this purpose, no instrument on earth was better suited than the Kelvin mirror galvanometer. Locating a mid-ocean fault in a cable therefore was reduced to a problem of twiddling the dials on the Wheatstone bridge until the galvanometer's spot of light was centered on the zero mark.

        The reason for the ink on Ron Werngren's fingers became evident when we moved to another room and beheld a genuine Kelvin siphon recorder, which he was in the process of debugging. This machine represented the first step in the removal of humans from the global communications loop that has culminated in the machine room at cable landing stations like Ninomiya.

        After Kelvin's mirror galvanometer became standard equipment throughout the wired world, every message coming down the cables had to pass, briefly, through the minds of human operators such as the ones who were schooled at the Porthcurno campus. These were highly trained young men in slicked hair and starched collars, working in teams of two or three: one to watch the moving spot of light and divine the letters, a second to write them down, and, if the message were being relayed down another cable, a third to key it in again.

        It was clear from the very beginning that this was an error-prone process, and when the young men in the starched collars began getting into fistfights, it also became clear that it was a job full of stress. The stress derived from the fact that if the man watching the spot of light let his attention wander for one moment, information would be forever lost. What was needed was some mechanical way to make a record of the signals coming down the cable. But because of the weakness of these signals, this was no easy job.

        Lord Kelvin, never one to rest on his laurels, solved the problem with the siphon recorder. For all its historical importance, and for all the money it made Kelvin, it is a flaky-looking piece of business. There is a reel of paper tape which is drawn steadily through the machine by a motor. Mounted above it is a small reservoir containing perhaps a tablespoon of ink. What looks like a gossamer strand emerges from the ink and bends around through some delicate metal fittings so that its other end caresses the surface of the moving tape. This strand is actually an extremely thin glass tube that siphons the ink from the reservoir onto the paper. The idea is that the current in the cable, by passing through an electromechanical device, will cause this tube to move slightly to one side or the other, just like the spot of light in the mirror galvanometer. But the current in the old cables was so feeble that even the infinitesimal contact point between the glass tube and the tape still induced too much friction, so Kelvin invented a remarkable kludge: he built a vibrator into the system that causes the glass tube to thrum like a guitar string so that its point of contact on the paper is always in slight motion.

        Dynamic friction (between moving objects) is always less than static friction (between objects that are at rest with respect to each other). The vibration in the glass siphon tube reduced the friction against the paper tape to the point where even the weak currents in a submarine cable could move it back and forth. Movement to one side of the tape represented a dot, to the other side a dash. We prevailed upon Werngren to tap out the message Get Wired.The result is on the cover of this magazine, and if you know Morse code you can pick the letters out easily.

        The question naturally arises: How does one go about manufacturing a hollow glass tube thinner than a hair? More to the point, how did they do it 100 years ago? After all, as Worrall pointed out, they needed to be able to repair these machines when they were posted out on Ascension Island. The answer is straightforward and technically sweet: you take a much thicker glass tube, heat it over a Bunsen burner until it glows and softens, and then pull sharply on both ends. It forms a long, thin tendril, like a string of melted cheese stretching away from a piece of pizza. Amazingly, it does not close up into a solid glass fiber, but remains a tube no matter how thin it gets.

        Exactly the same trick is used to create the glass fibers that run down the center of FLAG and other modern submarine cables: an ingot of very pure glass is heated until it glows, and then it is stretched. The only difference is that these are solid fibers rather than tubes, and, of course, it's all done using machines that assure a consistent result.

        Moving down the room, we saw a couple of large tabletops devoted to a complete, functioning reproduction of a submarine cable system as it might have looked in the 1930s. The only difference is that the thousands of miles of intervening cable are replaced with short jumper wires so that transmitter, repeaters, and receiver are contained within a single room.

        All the equipment is built the way they don't build things anymore: polished wooden cabinets with glass tops protecting gleaming brass machinery that whirrs and rattles and spins. Relays clack and things jiggle up and down. At one end of the table is an autotransmitter that reads characters off a paper tape, translates them into Morse code or cable code, and sends its output, in the form of a stream of electrical pulses, to a regenerator/retransmitter unit. In this case the unit is only a few feet away, but in practice it would have been on the other end of a long submarine cable, say in the Azores. This regenerator/retransmitter unit sends its output to a twin siphon-tube recorder which draws both the incoming signal (say, from London) and the outgoing signal as regenerated by this machine on the same paper tape at the same time. The two lines should be identical. If the machine is not functioning correctly, it will be obvious from a glance at the tape.

        The regenerated signal goes down the table (or down another submarine cable) to a machine that records the message as a pattern of holes punched in tape. It also goes to a direct printer that hammers out the words of the message in capital letters on another moving strip of paper. The final step is a gummer that spreads stickum on the back of the tape so that it may be stuck onto a telegraph form. (They tried to use pregummed tape, but in the tropics it only coated the machinery with glue.)

        Each piece of equipment on this tabletop is built around a motor that turns over at the same precise frequency. None of it would work—no device could communicate with any other device—unless all of those motors were spinning in lockstep with one another. The transmitter, regenerator/retransmitter, and printer all had to be in sync even though they were thousands of miles apart.

        This feat is achieved by means of a collection of extremely precise analog machinery. The heart of the system is another polished box that contains a vibrating reed, electromagnetically driven, thrumming along at 30 cycles per second, generating the clock pulses that keep all the other machines turning over at the right pace. The reed is as precise as such a thing can be, but over time it is bound to drift and get out of sync with the other vibrating reeds in the other stations.

        In order to control this tendency, a pair of identical pendulum clocks hang next to each other on the wall above. These clocks feed steady, one-second timing pulses into the box housing the reed. The reed, in turn, is driving a motor that is geared so that it should turn over at one revolution per second, generating a pulse with each revolution. If the frequency of the reed's vibration begins to drift, the motor's speed will drift along with it, and the pulse will come a bit too early or a bit too late. But these pulses are being compared with the steady one-second pulses generated by the double pendulum clock, and any difference between them is detected by a feedback system that can slightly speed up or slow down the vibration of the reed in order to correct the error. The result is a clock so steady that once one of them is set up in, say, London, and another is set up in, say, Cape Town, the machinery in those two cities will remain synched with each other indefinitely.

        This is precisely the same function that is performed by the quartz clock chip at the heart of any modern computing device. The job performed by the regenerator/retransmitter is also perfectly recognizable to any modern digitally minded hacker tourist: it is an analog-to-digital converter. The analog voltages come down the cable into the device, the circuitry in the box decides whether the signal is a dot or a dash (or if you prefer, a 1 or a 0), and then an electromagnet physically moves one way or the other, depending on whether it's a dot or a dash. At that moment, the device is strictly digital. The electromagnet, by moving, then closes a switch that generates a new pulse of analog voltage that moves on down the cable. The hacker tourist, who has spent much of his life messing around with invisible, ineffable bits, can hardly fail to be fascinated when staring into the guts of a machine built in 1927, steadily hammering out bits through an electromechanical process that can be seen and even touched.

        As I started to realize, and as John Worrall and many other cable-industry professionals subsequently told me, there have been new technologies but no new ideas since the turn of the century. Alas for Internet chauvinists who sneer at older, "analog" technology, this rule applies to the transmission of digital bits down wires, across long distances. We've been doing it ever since Morse sent "What hath God wrought!" from Washington to Baltimore.

        (Latitude & longitude unknown)Cable & Wireless MarineChelmsford, England

        [Note: I left my GPS receiver on a train in Bristol and had to do without it for a couple of weeks until Mr. Gallagher, station supervisor at Preston, Lancashire, miraculously found it and sent it back to me. Chelmsford is a half-hour train ride northeast of London.]

        When last we saw our hypothetical cable-ship captain, sitting off of Songkhla with 2,525 kilometers of very expensive cable, we had put him in a difficult spot by asking the question of how he could ensure that his 25 kilometers of slack ended up in exactly the right place. Essentially the same question was raised a few years ago when FLAG approached Cable & Wireless Marine and said, in effect: "We are going to buy 28,000 kilometers of fancy cable from AT&T and KDD, and we would like to have it go from England to Spain to Italy to Egypt to Dubai to India to Thailand to Hong Kong to China to Korea to Japan. We would like to pay for as little slack as possible, because the cable is expensive. What little slack we do buy needs to go in exactly the right place, please. What should we do next?"

        So it was that Captain Stuart Evans's telephone rang. At the time (September 1992), he was working for a company called Worldwide Ocean Surveying, but by the time we met him, that company had been bought out by Cable & Wireless Marine, of which he is now general manager—survey. Evans is a thoroughly pleasant middle-aged fellow, a former merchant marine captain, who seemed just a bit taken aback that anyone would care about the minute details of what he and his staff do for a living. A large part of being a hacker tourist is convincing people that you are really interested in the nitty-gritty and not just looking for a quick, painless sound bite or two; once this is accomplished, they always warm to the task, and Captain Evans was no exception.Evans's mission was to help FLAG select the most economical and secure route. The initial stages of the process are straightforward: choose the landing sites and then search existing data concerning the routes joining those sites. This is referred to as a desk search, with mild but unmistakable condescension. Evans and his staff came up with a proposed route, did the desk search, and sent it to FLAG for approval. When FLAG signed off on this, it was time to go out and perform the real survey. This process ran from January to September 1994.

        Each country uses the same landing sites over and over again for each new cable, so you might think that the routes from, say, Porthcurno to Spain would be well known by now. In fact, every new cable passes over some virgin territory, so a survey is always necessary. Furthermore, the territory does not remain static. There are always new wrecks, mobile sand waves, changes in anchorage patterns, and other late-breaking news.

        To lay a cable competently you must have a detailed survey of a corridor surrounding the intended route. In shallow water, you have relatively precise control over where the cable ends up, but the bottom can be very irregular, and the cable is likely to be buried into the seabed. So you want a narrow (1 kilometer wide) corridor with high resolution. In deeper water, you have less lateral control over the descending cable, but at the same time the phenomena you're looking at are bigger, so you want a survey corridor whose width is 2 to 3 times the ocean depth but with a coarser resolution. A resolution of 0.5 percent of the depth might be considered a minimum standard, though the FLAG survey has it down to 0.25 percent in most places. So, for example, in water 5,000 meters deep, which would be a somewhat typical value away from the continental shelf, the survey corridor would be 10 to 15 kilometers in width, and a good vertical resolution would be 12 meters.

        The survey process is almost entirely digital. The data is collected by a survey ship carrying a sonar rig that fires 81 beams spreading down and out from the hull in a fan pattern. At a depth of 5,000 meters, the result, approximately speaking, is to divide the 10-kilometer-wide corridor into grid squares 120 meters wide and 175 meters long and get the depth of each one to a precision of some 12 meters.

        The raw data goes to an onboard SPARCstation that performs data assessment in real time as a sort of quality assurance check, then streams the numbers onto DAT cassettes. The survey team is keeping an eye on the results, watching for any formations through which cable cannot be run. These are found more frequently in the Indian than in the Atlantic Ocean, mostly because the Atlantic has been charted more thoroughly.

        Steep slopes are out. A cable that traverses a steep slope will always want to slide down it sideways, secretly rendering every nautical chart in the world obsolete while imposing unknown stresses on the cable. This and other constraints may throw an impassable barrier across the proposed route of the cable. When this happens, the survey ship has to backtrack, move sideways, and survey other corridors parallel and adjacent to the first one, gradually building a map of a broader area, until a way around the obstruction is found. The proposed route is redrafted, and the survey ship proceeds.

        The result is a shitload of DAT tapes and a good deal of other data as well. For example, in water less than 1,200 meters deep, they also use sidescan sonar to generate analog pictures of the bottom—these look something like black-and-white photographs taken with a point light source, with the exception that shadows are white instead of black. It is possible to scan the same area from several different directions and then digitally combine the images to make something that looks just like a photo. This may provide crucial information that would never show up on the survey—for example, a dense pattern of anchor scars indicates that this is not a good place to lay a cable. The survey ship can also drop a flowmeter that will provide information about currents in the ocean.

        The result of all this, in the case of the FLAG survey, was about a billion data points for the bathymetric survey alone, plus a mass of sidescan sonar plots and other documentation. The tapes and the plots filled a room about 5 meters square all the way to the ceiling. The quantity of data involved was so vast that to manage it on paper, while it might have been theoretically possible given unlimited resources, was practically impossible given that FLAG is run by mortals and actually has to make money. FLAG is truly an undertaking of the digital age in that it simply couldn't have been accomplished without the use of computers to manage the data.Evans's mission was to present FLAG with a final survey report. If he had done it the old-fashioned way, the report would have occupied some 52 linear feet of shelf space, plus several hefty cabinets full of charts, and the inefficiency of dealing with so much paper would have made it nearly impossible for FLAG's decision makers }to grasp everything.

        Instead, Evans bought FLAG a PC and a plotter. During the summer of 1994, while the survey data was still being gathered, he had some developers write browsing software. Keeping in mind that FLAG's investors were mostly high-finance types with little technical or nautical background, they gave the browser a familiar, easy-to-use graphical user interface. The billion data points and the sidescan sonar imagery were boiled down into a form that would fit onto 5 CD-ROMs, and in that form the final report was presented to FLAG at the end of 1994. When FLAG's decision makers wanted to check out a particular part of the route, they could zoom in on it by clicking on a map, picking a small square of ocean, and blowing it up to reveal sev-eral different kinds of plots: a topographic map of the seafloor, information abstracted from the sidescan sonar images, a depth profile along the route, and another profile showing the consistency of the bot-tom—whether muck, gravel, sand, or hard rock. All of these could be plotted out on meterwide sheets of paper that provided a much higher-resolution view than is afforded by the computer screen.

        This represents a noteworthy virtuous circle—a self-amplifying trend. The development of graphical user interfaces has led to rapid growth in personal computer use over the last decade, and the coupling of that technology with the Internet has caused explosive growth in the use of the World Wide Web, generating enormous demand for bandwidth. That (in combination, of course, with other demands) creates a demand for submarine cables much longer and more ambitious than ever before, which gets investors excited—but the resulting project is so complex that the only way they can wrap their minds around it and make intelligent decisions is by using a computer with a graphical user interface.

        Hacking wires

        As you may have figured out by this point, submarine cables are an incredible pain in the ass to build, install, and operate. Hooking stuff up to the ends of them is easy by comparison. So it has always been the case that cables get laid first and then people begin trying to think of new ways to use them. Once a cable is in place, it tends to be treated not as a technological artifact but almost as if it were some naturally occurring mineral formation that might be exploited in any number of different ways.

        This was true from the beginning. The telegraphy equipment of 1857 didn't work when it was hooked up to the first transatlantic cable. Kelvin had to invent the mirror galvanometer, and later the siphon recorder, to make use of it. Needless to say, there were many other Victorian hackers trying to patent inventions that would enable more money to be extracted from cables. One of these was a Scottish-Canadian-American elocutionist named Alexander Graham Bell, who worked out of a laboratory in Boston.

        Bell was one of a few researchers pursuing a hack based on the phenomenon of resonance. If you open the lid of a grand piano, step on the sustain pedal, and sing a note into it, such as a middle C, the strings for the piano's C keys will vibrate sympathetically, while the D strings will remain still. If you sing a D, the D strings vibrate and the C strings don't. Each string resonates only at the frequency to which it has been tuned and is deaf to other frequencies.

        If you were to hum out a Morse code pattern of dots and dashes, all at middle C, a deaf observer watching the strings would notice a corresponding pattern of vibrations. If, at the same time, a second person was standing next to you humming an entirely different sequence of dots and dashes, but all on the musical tone of D, then a second deaf observer, watching the D strings, would be able to read that message, and so on for all the other tones on the scale. There would be no interference between the messages; each would come through as clearly as if it were the only message being sent. But anyone who wasn't deaf would hear a cacophony of noise as all the message senders sang in different rhythms, on different notes. If you took this to an extreme, built a special piano with strings tuned as close to each other as possible, and trained the message senders to hum Morse code as fast as possible, the sound would merge into an insane roar of white noise.

        Electrical oscillations in a wire follow the same rules as acoustical ones in the air, so a wire can carry exactly the same kind of cacophony, with the same results. Instead of using piano strings, Bell and others were using a set of metal reeds like the ones in a harmonica, each tuned to vibrate at a different frequency. They electrified the reeds in such a way that they generated not only acoustical vibrations but corresponding electrical ones. They sought to combine the electrical vibrations of all these reeds into one complicated waveform and feed it into one end of a cable. At the far end of the cable, they would feed the signal into an identical set of reeds. Each reed would vibrate in sympathy only with its counterpart on the other end of the wire, and by recording the pattern of vibrations exhibited by that reed, one could extract a Morse code message independent of the other messages being transmitted on the other reeds. For the price of one wire, you could send many simultaneous coded messages and have them all sort themselves out on the other end.

        To make a long story short, it didn't work. But it did raise an interesting question. If you could take vibrations at one frequency and combine them with vibrations at another frequency, and another, and another, to make a complicated waveform, and if that waveform could be transmitted to the other end of a submarine cable intact, then there was no reason in principle why the complex waveform known as the human voice couldn't be transmitted in the same way. The only difference would be that the waves in this case were merely literal representations of sound waves, rather than Morse code sequences transmitted at different frequencies. It was, in other words, an analog hack on a digital technology.

        We have all been raised to think of the telephone as a vast improvement on the telegraph, as the steamship was to the sailing ship or the electric lightbulb to the candle, but from a hacker tourist's point of view, it begins to seem like a lamentable wrong turn. Until Bell, all telegraphy was digital. The multiplexing system he worked on was purely digital in concept even if it did make use of some analog properties of matter (as indeed all digital equipment does). But when his multiplexing scheme went sour, he suddenly went analog on us.

        Fortunately, the story has a happy ending, though it took a century to come about. Because analog telephony did not require expertise in Morse code, anyone could take advantage of it. It became enormously popular and generated staggering quantities of revenue that underwrote the creation of a fantastically immense communications web reaching into every nook and cranny of every developed country.

        Then modems came along and turned the tables. Modems are a digital hack on an analog technology, of course; they take the digits from your computer and convert them into a complicated analog waveform that can be transmitted down existing wires. The roar of white noise that you hear when you listen in on a modem transmission is exactly what Bell was originally aiming for with his reeds. Modems, and everything that has ensued from them, like the World Wide Web, are just the latest example of a pattern that was established by Kelvin 140 years ago, namely, hacking existing wires by inventing new stuff to put on the ends of them.

        It is natural, then, to ask what effect FLAG is going to have on the latest and greatest cable hack: the Internet. Or perhaps it's better to ask whether the Internet affected FLAG. The explosion of the Web happened after FLAG was planned. Taketo Furuhata, president and CEO of IDC, which runs the Miura station, says: "I don't know whether Nynex management foresaw the burst of demand related to the Internet a few years ago—I don't think so. Nobody—not even AT&T people—foresaw this. But the demand for Internet transmission is so huge that FLAG will certainly become a very important pipe to transmit such requirements."

        John Mercogliano, vice president—Europe, Nynex Network Systems (Bermuda) Ltd., says that during the early 1990s when FLAG was getting organized, Nynex executives felt in their guts that something big was going to happen involving broadband multimedia transmission over cables. They had a media lab that was giving demos of medical imaging and other such applications. "We knew the Internet was coming—we just didn't know it was going to be called the Internet," he says.

        FLAG may, in fact, be the last big cable system that was planned in the days when people didn't know about the Internet. Those days were a lot calmer in the global telecom industry. Everything was controlled by monopolies, and cable construction was based on sober, scientific forecasts, analogous, in some ways, to the actuarial tables on which insurance companies predicate their policies.

        When you talk on the phone, your words are converted into bits that are sent down a wire. When you surf the Web, your computer sends out bits that ask for yet more bits to be sent back. When you go to the store and buy a Japanese VCR or an article of clothing with a Made in Thailand label, you're touching off a cascade of information flows that eventually leads to transpacific faxes, phone calls, and money transfers.

        If you get a fast busy signal when you dial your phone, or if your Web browser stalls, or if the electronics store is always low on inventory because the distribution system is balled up somewhere, then it means that someone, somewhere, is suffering pain. Eventually this pain gets taken out on a fairly small number of meek, mild-mannered statisticians—telecom traffic forecasters—who are supposed to see these problems coming.

        Like many other telephony-related technologies, traffic forecasting was developed to a fine art a long time ago and rarely screwed up. Usually the telcos knew when the capacity of their systems was going to be stretched past acceptable limits. Then they went shopping for bandwidth. Cables got built.

        That is all past history. "The telecoms aren't forecasting now," Mercogliano says. "They're reacting."

        This is a big problem for a few different reasons. One is that cables take a few years to build, and, once built, last for a quarter of a century. It's not a nimble industry in that way. A PTT thinking about investing in a club cable is making a 25-year commitment to a piece of equipment that will almost certainly be obsolete long before it reaches the end of its working life. Not only are they risking lots of money, but they are putting it into an exceptionally long-term investment. Long-term investments are great if you have reliable long-term forecasts, but when your entire forecasting system gets blown out of the water by something like the Internet, the situation gets awfully complicated.

        The Internet poses another problem for telcos by being asymmetrical. Imagine you are running an international telecom company in Japan. Everything you've ever done, since TPC-1 came into Ninomiya in '64, has been predicated on circuits. Circuits are the basic unit you buy and sell—they are to you what cars are to a Cadillac dealership. A circuit, by definition, is symmetrical. It consists of an equal amount of bandwidth in each direction—since most phone conversations, on average, entail both parties talking about the same amount. A circuit between Japan and the United States is something that enables data to be sent from Japan to the US, and from the US to Japan, at the same rate—the same bandwidth. In order to get your hands on a circuit, you cut a deal with a company in the States. This deal is called a correspondent agreement.

        One day, you see an ad in a magazine for a newfangled thing called a modem. You hook one end up to a computer and the other end to a phone line, and it enables the computer to grab a circuit and exchange data with some other computer with a modem. So far, so good. As a cable-savvy type, you know that people have been hacking cables in this fashion since Kelvin. As long as the thing works on the basis of circuits, you don't care—any more than a car salesman would care if someone bought Cadillacs, tore out the seats, and used them to haul gravel.

        A few years later, you hear about some modem-related nonsense called the World Wide Web. And a year after that, everyone seems to be talking about it. About the same time, all of your traffic forecasts go down the toilet. Nothing's working the way it used to. Everything is screwed up.

        Why? Because the Web is asymmetrical. All of your Japanese Web customers are using it to access sites in the States, because that's where all the sites are located. When one of them clicks on a button on an American Web page, a request is sent over the cable to the US. The request is infinitesimal, just a few bytes. The site in the States promptly responds by trying to send back a high-resolution, 24-bit color image of Cindy Crawford, or an MPEG film of a space shuttle mission. Millions of bytes. Your pipe gets jammed solid with incoming packets.

        You're a businessperson. You want to make your customers happy. You want them to get their millions of bytes from the States in some reasonable amount of time. The only way to make this happen is to purchase more circuits on the cables linking Japan to the States. But if you do this, only half of each circuit is going to be used—the incoming half. The outgoing half will carry a miserable trickle of packets. Its bandwidth will be wasted. The correspondent agreement relationship, which has been the basis of the international telecom business ever since the first cables were laid, doesn't work anymore.

        This, in combination with the havoc increasingly being wrought by callback services, is weird, bad, hairy news for the telecom monopolies. Mercogliano believes that the solution lies in some sort of bandwidth arbitrage scheme, but talking about that to an old-time telecrat is like describing derivative investments to an old codger who keeps his money under his mattress. "The club system is breaking down," Mercogliano says.

        Somewhere between50° 54.20062' N, 1° 26.87229 W and50° 54.20675' N, 1° 26.95470 WCable Ship Monarch, Southampton, England

        John Mercogliano, if this is conceivable, logs even more frequent-flier miles, to even more parts of the planet, than the cable layers we met on Lan Tao Island. He lives in London, his office is in Amsterdam, his territory is Europe, he works for a company headquartered in Bermuda that has many ties to the New York metropolitan area and that does business everywhere from Porthcurno to Miura. He is trim, young-looking, and vigorous, but even so the schedule occasionally takes its toll on him, and he feels the need to just get away from his job for a few days and think about something—anything—other than submarine cables. The last time this feeling came over him, he made inquiries with a tourist bureau in Ireland that referred him to a quiet, out-of-the-way place on the coast: a stately home that had been converted to a seaside inn, an ideal place for him to go to get his mind off his work. Mercogliano flew to Ireland and made his way overland to the place, checked into his room, and began ambling through the building. The first thing he saw was a display case containing samples of various types of 19th-century submarine cables. It turned out that the former owner of this mansion had been the captain of the Great Eastern, the first of the great deep-sea cable-laying ships.

        The Great Eastern got that job because it was by a long chalk the largest ship on the planet at the time—so large that its utter uselessness had made it a laughingstock, the Spruce Goose of its day. The second generation of long-range submarine cables, designed to Lord Kelvin's specifications after the debacle of 1857, were thick and heavy. Splicing segments together in mid-ocean had turned out to be problematical, so there were good reasons for wanting to make the cable in one huge piece and simply laying the whole thing in one go.

        It is easier to splice cables now and getting easier all the time. Coaxial cables of the last few decades took some 36 to 48 hours to splice, partly because it was necessary to mold a jacket around them. Modern cables can be spliced in more like 12 hours, depending on the number of fibers they contain. So modern cable ships needn't be quite as great as the Great Eastern.

        Other than the tank that contains the cable, which is literally nothing more than a big round hole in the middle of the ship, a cable ship is different from other ships in two ways. One, it comes with a complement of bow and stern thrusters coupled to exquisitely sensitive navigation gear on the bridge, which give it unsurpassed precision-maneuvering and station-keeping powers. In the case of Monarch, a smaller cable repair ship that we visited in Southampton, England, there are at least two differential GPS receivers, one for the bow and one for the stern—hence the two readings given at the head of this section. Each one of them reads out to five decimal places, which implies a resolution of about 1 centimeter.

        Second, a cable ship has two winches on board. But this does not do justice to them, as they are so enormous, so powerful, and yet so nimble that it would almost be more accurate to say that a cable ship is two floating winches. Nearly everything that a cable ship does reduces, eventually, to winching. Laying a cable is a matter of paying cable out of a winch, and repairing it, as already described, involves a much more complicated series of winch-related activities.

        As Kelvin figured out the hard way, whenever you are reeling in a long line, you must first relieve all tension on it or else your reel will be crushed. The same problem is posed in reverse by the cable-laying process, where thousands of meters of cable, weighing many tons, may be stretched tight between the ship and the contact point on the seafloor, but the rest of the cable stored on board the ship must be coiled loosely in the tanks with no tension on them at all. In both cases, the cable must be perfectly slack on the ship end and very tight on the watery end of the winching machinery. Not surprisingly, then, the same machinery is used for both outgoing and incoming winch work.

        At one end of the ship is a huge iron drum some 3 meters in diameter with a few turns of cable around it. As you can verify by wrapping a few turns of rope around a pipe and tugging, this is a very simple way to relieve tension on a line. It is not, however, very precise, and here, precise control is very important. That is provided by something called a linear engine, which consists of several pairs of tires mounted with a narrow gap between them (for you baseball fans, it is much like a pitching machine). The cable is threaded through this gap so that it is gripped on both sides by the tires. Monarch's linear engine contains 16 pairs of tires which, taken together, can provide up to 10 tons of holdback force. Augmented by the drums, which can be driven by power from the ship's main engines, the ultimate capacity of Monarch's cable engines is 30 tons.

        The art of laying a submarine cable is the art of using all the special features of such a ship: the linear engines, the maneuvering thrusters, and the differential GPS equipment, to put the cable exactly where it is supposed to go. Though the survey team has examined a corridor many thousands of meters wide, the target corridor for the cable lay is 200 meters wide, and the masters of these ships take pride in not straying more than 10 meters from the charted route. This must be accomplished through the judicious manipulation of only a few variables: the ship's position and speed (which are controlled by the engines, thrusters, and rudder) andthe cable's tension and rate of payout (which are controlled by the cable engine).

        One cannot merely pay the cable out at the same speed as the ship moves forward. If the bottom is sloping down and away from the ship as the ship proceeds, it is necessary to pay the cable out faster. If the bottom is sloping up toward the ship, the cable must come out more slowly . Such calculations are greatly complicated by the fact that the cable is stretched out far behind the ship—the distance between the ship and the cable's contact point on the bottom of the ocean can be more than 30 kilometers, and the maximum depth at which (for example) KDD cable can be laid is 8,000 meters. Insofar as the shape of the bottom affects what the ship ought to be doing, it's not the shape of the bottom directly below the ship that is relevant, but the shape of the bottom wherever the contact point happens to be located, which is by no means a straightforward calculation. Of course, the ship is heaving up and down on the ocean and probably being shoved around by wind and currents while all this is happening, and there is also the possibility of ocean currents that may move the cable to and fro during its descent.

        It is not, in other words, a seat-of-the-pants kind of deal; the skipper can't just sit up on the bridge, eyeballing a chart, and twiddling a few controls according to his intuition. In practice, the only way to ensure that the cable ends up where it is supposed to is to calculate the whole thing ahead of time. Just as aeronautical engineers create numerical simulations of hypothetical airplanes to test their coefficient of drag, so do the slack control wizards of Cable & Wireless Marine use numerical simulation techniques to model the catenary curve adopted by the cable as it stretches between ship and contact point. In combination with their detailed data on the shape of the ocean floor, this enables them to figure out, in advance, exactly what the ship should do when. All of it is boiled down into a set of instructions that is turned over to the master of the cable ship: at such and such a point, increase speed to x knots and reduce cable tension to y tons and change payout speed to z meters per second, and so on and so forth, all the way from Porthcurno to Miura."

        It sounds like it would make a good videogame," I said to Captain Stuart Evans after he had laid all of this out for me. I was envisioning something called SimCable. "It would make a good videogame," he agreed, "but it also makes a great job, because it's a combination of art and science and technique—and it's not an art you learn overnight. It's definitely a black art."

        Cable & Wireless's Marine Survey department has nailed the slack control problem. That, in combination with the company's fleet of cable-laying ships and its human capital, makes it dominant in the submarine cable-laying world.

        By "human capital" I mean their ability to dispatch weather-beaten operatives such as the Lan Tao Island crowd to difficult places like Suez and have them know their asses from their elbows. As we discovered on our little jaunt to Egypt, where we tried to rendezvous with a cable ship in the Gulf of Suez and were turned back by the Egyptian military, one doesn't just waltz into places like that on short notice and get stuff to happen.

        In each country between England and Japan, there are hoops that must be jumped through, cultural differences that must be understood, palms that must be greased, unwritten rules that must be respected. The only way to learn that stuff is to devote a career to it. Cable & Wireless has an institutional memory stretching all the way back to 1870, when it laid the first cable from Porthcurno to Australia, and the British maritime industry as a whole possesses a vast fund of practical experience that is the legacy of the Empire.

        One can argue that, in the end, the British Empire did Britain surprisingly little good. Other European countries that had pathetic or nonexistent empires, such as Italy, have recently surpassed England in standard of living and other measures of economic well-being. Scholars of economic history have worked up numbers suggesting that Britain spent more on maintaining its empire than it gained from exploiting it. Whether or not this is the case, it is quite obvious from looking at the cable-laying industry that the Victorian practice of sending British people all over the planet is now paying them back handsomely.

        The current position of AT&T versus Cable & Wireless reflects the shape of America versus the shape of the British Empire. America is a big, contiguous mass, easy to defend, immensely wealthy, and basically insular. No one comes close to it in developing new technologies, and AT&T has always been one of America's technological leaders. By contrast, the British Empire was spread out all over the place, and though it controlled a few big areas (such as India and Australia), it was basically an archipelago of outposts, let us say a network, completely dependent on shipping and communications to stay alive. Its dominance was always more economic than military—even at the height of the Victorian era, its army was smaller than the Prussian police force. It could coerce the natives, but only so far—in the end, it had to co-opt them, give them some incentive to play along. Even though the Empire has been dissolving itself for half a century, British people and British institutions still know how to get things done everywhere.

        It is not difficult to work out how all of this has informed the development of the submarine cable industry. AT&T makes really, really good cables; it has the pure technology nailed, though if it doesn't stay on its toes, it'll be flattened by the Japanese. Cable & Wireless doesn't even try to make cables, but it installs them better than anyone else.

        The legacy

        Kelvin founded the cable industry by understanding the science, and developing the technology, that made it work. His legacy is the ongoing domination of the cable-laying industry by the British, and his monument is concealed beneath the waves: the ever growing web of submarine cables joining continents together.

        Bell founded the telephone industry. His legacy was the Bell System, and his monument was strung up on poles for all to see: the network of telephone wires that eventually found its way into virtually every building in the developed world. Bell founded New England Telephone Company, which eventually was absorbed into the Bell System. It never completely lost its identity, though, and it never forgot its connection to Alexander Graham Bell—it even moved Bell's laboratory into its corporate headquarters in Boston.

        After the breakup of the Bell System in the early 1980s, New England Telephone and its sibling Baby Bell, New York Telephone, joined together to form a new company called Nynex, whose loyal soldiers are eager to make it clear that they see themselves as the true heirs of Bell's legacy.
        Now, Nynex and Cable & Wireless, the brainchildren of Bell and Kelvin, the two supreme ninja hacker mage lords of global telecommunications, have formed an alliance to challenge AT&T and all the other old monopolies.

        We know how the first two acts of the story are going to go: In late 1997, with the completion of FLAG, Luke ("Nynex") Skywalker, backed up on his Oedipal quest by the heavy shipping iron of Han ("Cable & Wireless") Solo, will drop a bomb down the Death Star's ventilation shaft. In 1999, with the completion of SEA-ME-WE 3, the Empire will Strike Back. There is talk of a FLAG 2, which might represent some kind of a Return of the Jedi scenario.

        But once the first FLAG has been built, everyone's going to get into the act—it's going to lead to a general rebellion. "FLAG will change the way things are done. They are setting a benchmark," says Dave Handley, the cable layer. And Mercogliano makes a persuasive case that national telecom monopolies will be so preoccupied, over the next decade, with building the "last mile" and getting their acts together in a competitive environment that they'll have no choice but to leave cable laying to the entrepreneurs.

        That's the simple view of what FLAG represents. It is important to remember, though, that companies like Cable & Wireless and Nynex are not really heroic antimonopolists. A victory for FLAG doesn't lead to a pat ending like in Star Wars—it does not get us into an idealized free market. "One thing to bear in mind is that Cable & Wireless is a club and they are rigorously anticompetitive wherever they have the opportunity," said Doug Barnes, the cypherpunk. "Nynex and the other Baby Bells are self-righteously trying to crack open other companies' monopolies while simultaneously trying to hold onto their domestic ones. The FLAG folks are merely clubs with a smidgin more vision, enough business sense to properly reward talent, and a profound desire to make a great pile of money.''

        There has been a lot of fuss in the last few years concerning the 50th anniversary of the invention of the computer. Debates have raged over who invented the computer: Atanasoff or Mauchly or Turing? The only thing that has been demonstrated is that, depending on how you define computer, any one of the above, and several others besides, can be said to have invented it.

        Oddly enough, this debate comes at a time when stand-alone computers are seeming less and less significant and the Internet more so. Whether or not you agree that "the network is the computer," a phrase Scott McNealy of Sun Microsystems recently coined, you can't dispute that moving information around seems to have much broader appeal than processing it. Many more people are interested in email and the Web than were interested in databases and spreadsheets.

        Yet little attention has been paid to the historical antecedents of the Internet—perhaps partly because these cable technologies are much older and less accessible and partly because many Net people want so badly to believe that the Net is fundamentally new and unique. Analog is seen as old and bad, and so many people assume that the communications systems of old were strictly analog and have just now been upgraded to digital.

        This overlooks much history and totally misconstrues the technology. The first cables carried telegraphy, which is as purely digital as anything that goes on inside your computer. The cables were designed that way because the hackers of a century and a half ago understood perfectly well why digital was better. A single bit of code passing down a wire from Porthcurno to the Azores was apt to be in sorry shape by the time it arrived, but precisely because it was a bit, it could easily be abstracted from the noise, then recognized, regenerated, and transmitted anew.

        The world has actually been wired together by digital communications systems for a century and a half. Nothing that has happened during that time compares in its impact to the first exchange of messages between Queen Victoria and President Buchanan in 1858. That was so impressive that a mob of celebrants poured into the streets of New York and set fire to City Hall.

        It's tempting to observe that, so far, no one has gotten sufficiently excited over a hot new Web page to go out and burn down a major building. But this is a little too glib. True, that mob in the streets of New York in 1858 was celebrating the ability to send messages quickly across the Atlantic. But, if the network is the computer, then in retrospect, those torch-bearing New Yorkers could be seen as celebrating the joining of the small and primitive computer that was the North American telegraph system to the small and primitive computer that was the European system, to form The Computer, with a capital C.

        At that time, the most important components of these Computers—the CPUs, as it were—were tense young men in starched collars. Whenever one of them stepped out to relieve himself, The Computer went down. As good as they were at their jobs, they could process bits only so fast, so The Computer was very slow. But The Computer has done nothing since then but get faster, become more automated, and expand. By 1870, it stretched all the way to Australia. The advent of analog telephony plunged The Computer into a long dormant phase during which it grew immensely but lost many of its computerlike characteristics.

        But now The Computer is fully digital once again, fully automatic, and faster than hell. Most of it is in the United States, because the United States is large, free, and made of dirt. Largeness eliminates troublesome borders. Freeness means that anyone is allowed to patch new circuits onto The Computer. Dirt makes it possible for anyone with a backhoe to get in on the game. The Computer is striving mightily to grow beyond the borders of the United States, into a world that promises even vaster economies of scale—but most of that world isn't made of dirt, and most of it isn't free. The lack of freedom stems both from bad laws, which are grudgingly giving way to deregulation, and from monopolies willing to do all manner of unsavory things in order to protect their turf.

        Even though FLAG's bandwidth isn't that great by 1996 Internet standards, and even though some of the companies involved in it are, in other arenas, guilty of monopolistic behavior, FLAG really is going to help blow open bandwidth and weaken the telecom monopolies.

        In many ways it hearkens back to the wild early days of the cable business. The first transatlantic cables, after all, were constructed by private investors who, like FLAG's investors, just went out and built cable because it seemed like a good idea. After FLAG, building new high-bandwidth, third-generation fiber-optic cable is going to seem like a good idea to a lot of other investors. And unlike the ones who built FLAG, they will have the benefit of knowing about the Internet, and perhaps of understanding, at some level, that they are not merely stringing fancy telephone lines but laying down new traces on the circuit board of The Computer. That understanding may lead them to create vast amounts of bandwidth that would blow the minds of the entrenched telecrats and to adopt business models designed around packet-switching instead of the circuits that the telecrats are stuck on.

        If the network is The Computer, then its motherboard is the crust of Planet Earth. This may be the single biggest drag on the growth of The Computer, because Mother Earth was not designed to be a motherboard. There is too much water and not enough dirt. Water favors a few companies that know how to lay cable and have the ships to do it. Those companies are about to make a whole lot of money.

        Eventually, though, new ships will be built. The art of slack control will become common knowledge—after all, it comes down to a numerical simulation problem, which should not be a big chore for the ever-expanding Computer. The floors of the oceans will be surveyed and sidescanned down to every last sand ripple and anchor scar. The physical challenges, in other words, will only get easier.

        The one challenge that will then stand in the way of The Computer will be the cultural barriers that have always hindered cooperation between different peoples. As the globe-trotting cable layers in Papa Doc's demonstrate, there will always be a niche for people who have gone out and traveled the world and learned a thing or two about its ways.

        Hackers with ambitions of getting involved in the future expansion of The Computer could do a lot worse than to power down their PCs, buy GPS receivers, place calls to their favorite travel agents, and devote some time to the pursuit of hacker tourism.

        The motherboard awaits.

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