Archive for the 'Reading' Category

The Origins of the Internet

Posted in Reading, default on May 14th, 2005 at 23:59:49

I’ve got a number of books on my “To read” list, most which were given to me as part of my birthday or as random gifts. One of them which was gifted to me by Tom Croucher from my Amazon wishlist (as a thank you for help in his dissertation, I believe). The book is Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins of the Internet, and it’s one of my favorite non-fiction computer-related books.

The book is a relatively detailed study of how the internet came to be: the development of the theories behind it, the actual hardware, the proposals from the Defense Department for the creation. The origin of RFCs, the way TCP/IP was invented, things like AlohaNet and ethernet as well.

It’s because of this book that I still carry around Vinton Cerf’s business card, which I obtained at a 10th anniversary discussion of Mosaic. Cerf was there discussing the idea of an interplanetary internet and how it would work. I was there drooling at the fact that I was in the same room as Vinton Cerf, and actually got up on stage afterwards and shook his hand. I keep that thing well - it used to be in my wallet, now it stays seperate - because it means that much to me, and it was inspired by this book.

So, a big thank you to Tom for the book, and a suggestion that you all go out and read it.

Reading Category, Snow Crash

Posted in Reading on March 1st, 2005 at 19:49:49

New category here on Technical Ramblings: Reading, for things I’m reading, plan to read, want to read, think you should read, am glad I never read, etc. For the most part, I’ll just mention books here unless they’re technical related, since this is tending to be my “technical” weblog compared to my “personal” LiveJournal.

Right now, I’m reading Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson. Although this may surprise some of you, I’ve never read anything by the author before. I had never even heard of him until just recently. About a month ago, when MS announced that an image-rendering exploit in their code made it possible to hijack your machine by using a specially formatted buddy image on MSN, someone on /. responded with “Already been done, see Snow Crash.” At the time, I paid the commenter no mind: but later that day, I discovered that I had a copy of Snow Crash sitting on my bookshelf. I set it aside at the time, but grabbed it again later, and started reading it over the weekend.

Snow Crash is a book describing a somewhat surrealistic future, in the relatively near future: it describes kids who are only two generations down from WW2 vetrans, so it can’t be more than a dozen or two years in the future. It’s an interesting world: where governments have stopped being national things and instead become small, suburb level regions controlled by all kinds of specific franchises, from the Mob to Mr. Lee’s Greater Hong Kong. There are a million vague edges throughout the story: for example, the US Government still exists, but only in tiny pockets, and there’s no indication of what control it actually has over anything.

The book fits right into the niche of books that I just “can’t put down” - where a lot of vague areas are left in the plot, but the level of detail is incredible. The description of the creation of the Metaverse, something like a visual version of the present day Internet, goes into the creators - the ACM - and the way that it was created, the size of it, how it works, and more. Descriptions of single rooms take up multiple pages, while the development of the “real” world as a whole is left almost entirely to the reader’s imagination, with minor tips dribbled throughout.

I’m not quite done yet - I’ve been reading it for two days straight, but forgot it at work tonight - but thus far it’s been an extremely entertaining book, drawing me away from IRC and the computer in general, something that very few books succeed in doing.

Other books I’ve read recently: Jumper and The Runaway Jury. The first was a reread, the second a first time.