A disappointing holiday essay

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In a way, the architects of jaring are trying to run the kew Gardens experiment all over again. By adopting the Internet protocol for their national information infrastructure, they have copied the same dna that, planted in the deregulated telecom environment of the United States, has grown like some unstoppable exotic weed. Now they are trying to raise the same plant inside a hothouse (because they want it to flourish) but in a pot (because they don't want it to escape into the wild). They seem to have misunderstood both their own history and that of the Internet, which run strangely parallel. Today the streets of george town, penang's main city, are so vivid, crowded, and intensely multicultural that by comparison they make new York city look like colonial Williamsburg. Every block has a mosque or Hindu temple or Buddhist shrine or Christian church. You can get any kind of food, hear any language.

They didn't own the rubber plantations. They merely bought the rubber on an open market from Chinese brokers who in turn bought it from producers of various ethnicities. The market was just a few square blocks of george town where British grammar law was enforced,. Where businessmen could rely on a few basics like property rights, contracts, and a currency. During and after World War ii, the British lost what presence they had here. Penang fell to the japanese and became a base for German u-boats patrolling the Indian Ocean. Later, there was a somewhat messy transition to independence involving a communist insurrection and a war with Indonesia. Today, malaysia is one of Asia's economic supernovas and evidently has decided that it will be second to none when it comes to the Internet. They are furiously wiring up the place and have established jaring, which is the malaysian Internet (this word is a somewhat tortured English acronym that happens to spell out the malay word for the net). If you have a look at jaring's homepage jaring), you will be confronted by a link that will take you to a page reciting Malaysia's censorship laws, which, like most censorship laws, are ridiculously vague and hence sort of creepy and yet, in the context.

a disappointing holiday essay

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Gutta-percha is humble-looking stuff, a nondescript brown crud that surrounds the inner core of old submarine cables to a thickness of perhaps 1 centimeter, but it was a wonder material back in those days, and the longer it remained immersed in salt water, the better. So far, it was all according to the general plan that the British had in mind: find some useful dna in the Americas, stockpile it at Kew Gardens, propagate it to other botanical gardens around the world, make money off the proceeds, and grow the. Modern-day penang, however, is a good example of the notion of unintended consequences. As soon as the British had established the rule of law in Penang, various kinds of Chinese people began to move in and establish businesses. Most of them were hokkien Chinese from north report of Hong Kong, though Cantonese, hakka, and other groups also settled there. Likewise, tamils and sikhs came from across the bay of Bengal. As rubber trees began to take over the countryside, a common arrangement was for Chinese immigrants to establish rubber plantations and hire Indian immigrants (as well as Malays) as laborers. The British involvement, then, was more catalytic than anything else.

a disappointing holiday essay

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The flat stuff is all used for something - coconuts, date palms, banana trees, and above all, rubber. Until artificial rubber was review invented by the colony-impaired Germans, no modern economy could exist without the natural stuff. All of the important powers had tropical colonies where rubber was produced. For the netherlands, it was Indonesia; for France, it was Indochina; for the British, it was what they then called Malaya, as well as many other places. Without rubber and another kind of tree resin called gutta-percha, it would not have been possible to wire the world. Early telegraph lines were just naked conductors strung from pole to pole, but this worked poorly, especially in wet conditions, so some kind of flexible but durable insulation was needed. After much trial and error, rubber became the standard for terrestrial and aerial wires while gutta-percha (a natural gum also derived from a tree grown in Malaya) was used for submarine cables.

But gardens were not mere decorations to the British - they were strategic installations. The headquarters was Kew Gardens outside of London. Penang was one of the forward outposts, and it became incomparably more important than the nearby fort. In 1876, 70,000 seeds of the rubber tree, painstakingly collected by botanists in the Amazon rain forest, were brought to kew Gardens and planted in a greenhouse. About 2,800 of them germinated and were shipped to the botanical gardens in Sri lanka and Penang, where they propagated explosively and were used to establish rubber plantations. Most of these plantations were on the neighboring Malay peninsula, a lumpy, bony tentacle of land that stretches for 1,000 miles from Bangkok in the north to singapore in the south, where it grazes the equator. The landscape is a stalemate between, on one hand, the devastatingly powerful erosive forces of continual tropical rainstorms and dense plant life, and, on the other hand, some really, really hard rocks. Anything with the least propensity to be eroded did so a long time ago and turned into a paddy. What's left are ridges of stone that rise almost vertically from the landscape and are still mostly covered with rain forest, notwithstanding efforts by the locals to cut it all down.

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a disappointing holiday essay

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In the hopes of learning more about the modern business of really, really long wires, we spent much of the summer of 1996 in pursuits such as: being arrested by toothless, shotgun-toting Egyptian cops; getting pushed around by a drunken smuggler queen on a thai. We still missed more than half the countries flag touches. Our method was not exactly journalism nor tourism in the normal sense but what might be thought of as a new field of human endeavor called hacker tourism: travel to exotic locations in search of sights and neighbourhood sensations that only would be of interest. I will introduce sections with readings from my trusty gps in case other hacker tourists would like to leap over the same rustic gates or get rained on at the same beaches _.325' n, 100.417' e penang Botanical Gardens_. Penang, one of the first sites visited by this hacker tourist partly because of its little-known historical importance to wires, lies just off the west coast of the malay peninsula.

The British acquired it from the local sultan in the late 1700s, built a pathetic fort above the harbor, and named it, appropriately, after the hapless General Cornwallis. They set up a couple of churches and established the kernel of a judicial system. A vigorous market grew up around them. A few kilometers away, they built a botanical garden. This seems like an odd set of priorities to us today.

Before learning about flag, i knew that data packets could get from America to Asia or the middle east, but I had no idea how. I knew that it had something to do with wires across the bottom of the ocean, but I didn't know how many of those wires existed, how they got there, who controlled them, or how many bits they could carry. According to legend, in 1876 the first sounds transmitted down a wire were Alexander Graham Bell saying "Mr. I want you." Compared with Morse's "What hath God wrought! this is disappointingly banal - as if neil Armstrong, setting foot on the moon, had uttered the words: "buzz, could you toss me that rock hammer?

It's as though during the 32 years following Morse's message, people had become inured to the amazing powers of wire. Today, another 120 years later, we take wires completely for granted. This is most unwise. People who use the Internet (or for that matter, who make long-distance phone calls) but who don't know about wires are just like the millions of complacent motorists who pump gasoline into their cars without ever considering where it came from or how it found. That works only until the political situation in the middle east gets all screwed up, or an oil tanker runs aground on a wildlife refuge. In the same way, it behooves wired people to know a few things about wires - how they work, where they lie, who owns them, and what sorts of business deals and political machinations bring them into being.

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When it is finished in September 1997, it arguably will be the longest engineering project way in history. Writing about it necessitates a lot of banging around through meatspace. Over the course of two months, photographer Alex Tehrani and I hit six countries and four continents trying to get a grip on this longest, fastest, mother of all wires. I took a gps receiver with me so that I could have at least a general idea of where the hell we were. It gave me the above reading in front of a chinese temple around the corner from the Shangri-la hotel in Penang, malaysia, which was only one of 100 peculiar spots around the globe where i suddenly pulled up short and asked myself, "What the hell. You might well ask yourself the same question before diving into an article as long as this one. The answer is that we all depend heavily on wires, but we hardly ever think about them.

a disappointing holiday essay

Some countries and companies (the distinction between countries and companies is hazy in the telco world) became very good at it, and some didn't. At t acquired a dominance of the field that largely continues to this day and is only now being seriously challenged by a project called flag: the fiberoptic Link Around the Globe. _ In which the hacker tourist encounters: Penang, a microcosm of the Internet. Rubber, penang's chief commodity, and its many uses: protecting wires from the elements and concupiscent wanderers from harmful dna. Advantages of chastity, both for hacker tourists and for cable layers. Bizarre Spectaclesin the jungles of southern Thailand. Flag, its origins and its enemies._ 5 241.932' n,.748' e city of george town, Island of Penang, malaysia. Flag, a fiber-optic cable now being built from England to japan, is a skinny little cuss (about an inch in diameter but it is 28,000 presentation kilometers long, which is long even compared to really big things like the planet Earth.

long-simmering conflicts to a rolling. 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. 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. 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. Those early cables were eventually made to work, albeit not without founding whole new fields of scientific inquiry and generating many lucrative patents. Undersea cables, and long-distance communications in general, became the highest of high tech, with many of the same connotations as rocket science or nuclear physics or brain surgery would acquire in later decades.

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. 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. 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 homework 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.

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The hacker tourist ventures forth across the mattress 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. Information moves, or we move. Moving to it has rarely been popular and is growing unfashionable; nowadays we demand that the information come. 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. 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.

a disappointing holiday essay
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