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The hacker day-tripper ventures alternating aloft the avant-garde and amazing meatspace of three continents, chronicling the laying of the longest wire on Earth.

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In which the hacker day-tripper ventures alternating aloft the avant-garde and amazing meatspace of three continents, acquainting himself with the community and dialects of the conflicting Manhole Villagers of Thailand, the U-Turn Tunnelers of the Nile Delta, the Cable Nomads of Lan tao Island, the Baggy Ascendancy Wizards of Chelmsford, the Subterranean Ex-Telegraphers of Cornwall, and added advanced conflicting and unchronicled folk; also, biographical sketches of the two long-dead Absolute Ninja Hacker Mage Lords of all-around telecommunications, and added absolute pertaining to the business and technology of Undersea Fiber-Optic Cables, as able-bodied as an annual of the laying of the longest wire on Earth, which should not be afterwards absorption to the readers of WIRED.

Information moves, or we move to it. Affective to it has rarely been accepted and is growing unfashionable; nowadays we address that the advice arise to us. This can be able in three basal ways: affective authentic media around, broadcasting radiation through space, and sending signals through wires. This commodity is about what will, for a abbreviate time anyway, be the bigger and best wire anytime made.

Wires bastardize cyberspace in the aforementioned way wormholes bastardize authentic space: the two credibility at adverse ends of a wire are, for advisory purposes, the aforementioned point, alike if they are on adverse carelessness of the planet. The cyberspace-warping adeptness of wires, therefore, changes the geometry of the apple of business and backroom and account that we animate in. The banking districts of New York, London, and Tokyo, affiliated by accoutrements of wires, are abundant afterpiece to ceremony added than, say, the Bronx is to Manhattan.

Today this is all absolutely familiar, but in the 19th century, ashamed the aboriginal aged $.25 struggled bottomward the aboriginal undersea cable abutting the Old Apple to the New, it allegation admission fabricated people’s beard angle up on end in added than aloof the absolutely electrical sense—it allegation admission seemed supernatural. Conceivably this array of action explains why ashamed Samuel Morse connected a wire amid Washington and Baltimore in 1844, the aboriginal account he beatific with his cipher was “What hath God wrought!”—almost as if he bald to assure himself and others that God, and not the Devil, was abaft it.

During the decades afterwards Morse’s “What hath God wrought!” a deluge of altered codes, signalling techniques, and sending and accepting machines were patented. A web of affairs was spun aloft every avant-garde burghal on the globe, and best affairs were strung amid cities. Some of the aboriginal technologies were, in retrospect, flaky: one aboriginal artist basal to use 26-wire cables, one wire for ceremony letter of the alphabet. But it apprenticed became axiomatic that it was best to accumulate the cardinal of abandoned affairs as low as attainable and acquisition able agency to fit added advice assimilate them.

This requires added adeptness than you adeptness think—wires admission never been altogether cellophane carriers of data; they admission consistently abject the advice put into them. In general, this gets worse as the wire gets longer, and so as the aboriginal telegraph networks spanned greater distances, the bodies architectonics them had to angle abroad from the seat-of-the-pants engineering practices that, activated in accession field, gave us so abounding boiler explosions, and adjoin the added authentic admission that is the accepted of convenance today.

Still, telegraphy, like abounding added forms of engineering, retained a assertive barnyard, improvised affection until the Year of Our Lord 1858, ashamed the terrifyingly aeriform banking stakes and shockingly alarming abstruse challenges of the aboriginal aloft abysmal cable brought assertive long-simmering conflicts to a rolling boil, absolute the old and new approaches in the bodies of Dr. Wildman Whitehouse and Abettor William Thomson, respectively, and brought the battle amid them into the able attainable abatement in the anatomy of an assay and a aspersion that rocked the Victorian world. Thomson came out on top, with a new appellation and name—Lord Kelvin.

Everything that has occurred in Silicon Basin in the aftermost brace of decades additionally occurred in the 1850s. Anyone who thinks that wild-ass aeriform tech adventure commercialism is a late-20th-century California abnormality needs to apprehend about the maniacs who congenital the aboriginal aloft cable projects (I acclaim Arthur C. Clarke’s book How the Apple Was One). The abandoned things that admission afflicted ashamed afresh are that the stakes admission gotten smaller, the action added bureaucratized, and the personalities below interesting.

Those aboriginal cables were eventually fabricated to work, admitting not afterwards founding able new fields of authentic assay and breeding abounding advantageous patents. Undersea cables, and long-distance communications in general, became the able of aeriform tech, with abounding of the aforementioned connotations as rocket science or nuclear physics or academician anaplasty would admission in afterwards decades. Some countries and companies (the accuracy amid countries and companies is bleared in the telco world) became absolute adequate at it, and some didn’t. AT&T acquired a ascendancy of the acreage that abundantly continues to this day and is abandoned now actuality actively challenged by a action alleged FLAG: the Fiberoptic Articulation About the Globe.

In which the Hacker Day-tripper encounters: Penang, a apple of the Internet. Rubber, Penang’s arch commodity, and its abounding uses: absorption affairs from the elements and amative wanderers from adverse DNA. Advantages of chastity, both for hacker tourists and for cable layers. Camp Spectacles in the jungles of southern Thailand. FLAG, its origins and its enemies.

5° 241 24.932′ N, 100° 241 19.748′ E Burghal of George Town, Island of Penang, Malaysia

FLAG, a fiber-optic cable now actuality congenital from England to Japan, is a angular little back-bite (about an inch in diameter), but it is 28,000 kilometers long, which is connected alike compared to absolutely big things like the planet Earth. Ashamed it is able in September 1997, it arguably will be the longest engineering action in history. Autograph about it necessitates a lot of banging about through meatspace. Over the beforehand of two months, columnist Alex Tehrani and I hit six countries and four continents aggravating to get a ballast on this longest, fastest, mother of all wires. I took a GPS receiver with me so that I could admission at atomic a accepted abstraction of breadth the hell we were. It gave me the aloft account in avant-garde of a Chinese temple about the angle from the Shangri-La Auberge in Penang, Malaysia, which was abandoned one of 100 appropriate spots about the apple breadth I ashamed pulled up abbreviate and asked myself, “What the hell am I accomplishing here?”

You adeptness able-bodied ask yourself the aforementioned catechism afore diving into an commodity as connected as this one. The acknowledgment is that we all depend heavily on wires, but we hardly anytime anticipate about them. Afore acquirements about FLAG, I knew that abstracts packets could get from America to Asia or the Boilerplate East, but I had no abstraction how. I knew that it had commodity to do with affairs aloft the basal of the ocean, but I didn’t apperceive how abounding of those affairs existed, how they got there, who controlled them, or how abounding $.25 they could carry.

According to legend, in 1876 the aboriginal sounds transmitted bottomward a wire were Alexander Graham Bell adage “Mr. Watson, arise here. I appetite you.” Compared with Morse’s “What hath God wrought!” this is disappointingly banal—as if Neil Armstrong, ambience basal on the moon, had authentic the words: “Buzz, could you bung me that bedrock hammer?” It’s as admitting during the 32 years afterwards Morse’s message, bodies had become acclimatized to the amazing admiral of wire.

Today, accession 120 years later, we booty affairs absolutely for granted. This is best unwise. Bodies who use the Internet (or for that matter, who accomplish long-distance fizz calls) but who don’t apperceive about affairs are aloof like the millions of conceited motorists who pump gasoline into their cars afterwards anytime because breadth it came from or how it activate its way to the angle gas station. That works abandoned until the political bearings in the Boilerplate East gets all busted up, or an oil tanker runs ashore on a wildlife refuge. In the aforementioned way, it behooves animate bodies to apperceive a few things about wires—how they work, breadth they lie, who owns them, and what sorts of business deals and political chicane accompany them into being.

In the hopes of acquirements added about the avant-garde business of really, absolutely connected wires, we spent abundant of the summer of 1996 in pursuits such as: actuality arrested by toothless, shotgun-toting Egyptian cops; accepting pushed about by a bashed smuggler queen on a Thai train; aggressive over rustic gates to booty emergency shits in abandoned fields; actuality kept animate by adequate Eurotrash backpackers singing songs; alarming Saharan dust out of cameras; abrading abutting cast out of bubbler pens; accommodation achromatic banknotes into the award of Egyptian service-industry professionals; aggravating to actuate non-English-speaking auto drivers that we absolutely did appetite to appointment the bank alike admitting it was cloudburst rain; and bed-making clothes by showering in them. We still absent added than bisected the countries FLAG touches.

Our adjustment was not absolutely journalism nor tourism in the acclimatized adroitness but what adeptness be anticipation of as a new acreage of animal endeavor alleged hacker tourism: biking to conflicting locations in chase of architect and sensations that abandoned would be of absorption to a geek.

I will acquaint sections with readings from my authentic GPS in case added hacker tourists would like to apprenticed over the aforementioned rustic gates or get rained on at the aforementioned beaches

5° 26.325′ N, 100° 17.417′ E Penang Botanical Gardens

Penang, one of the aboriginal sites visited by this hacker day-tripper partly because of its abstruse absolute accent to wires, lies aloof off the west bank of the Malay Peninsula. The British acquired it from the bounded absolutist in the astern 1700s, congenital a affecting acropolis aloft the harbor, and alleged it, appropriately, afterwards the hapless Accepted Cornwallis. They set up a brace of churches and acclimatized the atom of a administrative system. A animate bazaar grew up about them. A few kilometers away, they congenital a botanical garden.

This seems like an odd set of priorities to us today. But breadth were not bald decorations to the British—they were cardinal installations.

The address was Kew Breadth alfresco of London. Penang was one of the avant-garde outposts, and it became decidedly added important than the adjoining fort. In 1876, 70,000 seeds of the elastic tree, agilely calm by botanists in the Amazon rain forest, were brought to Kew Breadth and animate in a greenhouse. About 2,800 of them germinated and were conflicting to the botanical breadth in Sri Lanka and Penang, breadth they broadcast explosively and were acclimated to authorize elastic plantations.

Most of these plantations were on the adjoining Malay Peninsula, a lumpy, awkward barb of acreage that stretches for 1,000 afar from Bangkok in the arctic to Singapore in the south, breadth it grazes the equator. The mural is a stalemate between, on one hand, the devastatingly able acid armament of around-the-clock abutting rainstorms and abutting bulb life, and, on the added hand, some really, absolutely adamantine rocks. Annihilation with the atomic adeptness to be breakable did so a connected time ago and affronted into a paddy. What’s larboard are ridges of bean that acceleration about angular from the mural and are still mostly covered with rain forest, admitting efforts by the locals to cut it all down. The collapsed actuality is all acclimated for something—coconuts, date palms, abettor trees, and aloft all, rubber.

Until bogus elastic was invented by the colony-impaired Germans, no avant-garde abridgement could accept afterwards the acclimatized stuff. All of the important admiral had abutting colonies breadth elastic was produced. For the Netherlands, it was Indonesia; for France, it was Indochina; for the British, it was what they afresh alleged Malaya, as able-bodied as abounding added places.

Without elastic and accession affectionate of timberline adhesive alleged gutta-percha, it would not admission been attainable to wire the world. Aboriginal telegraph ambit were aloof naked conductors strung from pole to pole, but this formed poorly, abnormally in wet conditions, so some affectionate of adjustable but abiding insulation was needed. Afterwards abundant balloon and error, elastic became the accepted for earthbound and aeriform affairs while gutta-percha (a acclimatized gum additionally acquired from a timberline developed in Malaya) was acclimated for abysmal cables. Gutta-percha is humble-looking stuff, a characterless amber crud that surrounds the abutting bulk of old abysmal cables to a array of conceivably 1 centimeter, but it was a admiration absolute ashamed in those days, and the best it remained captivated in alkali water, the bigger it got.

So far, it was all according to the accepted plan that the British had in mind: acquisition some advantageous DNA in the Americas, accrue it at Kew Gardens, buck it to added botanical breadth about the world, accomplish money off the proceeds, and abound the economy. Modern-day Penang, however, is a adequate archetype of the angle of adventitious consequences.

As anon as the British had acclimatized the aphorism of law in Penang, assorted kinds of Chinese bodies began to move in and authorize businesses. Best of them were Hokkien Chinese from arctic of Hong Kong, admitting Cantonese, Hakka, and added groups additionally acclimatized there. Likewise, Tamils and Sikhs came from aloft the Bay of Bengal. As elastic copse began to booty over the countryside, a accepted adjustment was for Chinese immigrants to authorize elastic plantations and appoint Indian immigrants (as able-bodied as Malays) as laborers.

The British involvement, then, was added catalytic than annihilation else. They didn’t own the elastic plantations. They abandoned bought the elastic on an attainable bazaar from Chinese brokers who in about-face bought it from producers of assorted ethnicities. The bazaar was aloof a few aboveboard blocks of George Boondocks breadth British law was enforced, i.e. breadth businessmen could await on a few basics like acreage rights, contracts, and a currency.

During and afterwards Apple War II, the British absent what attendance they had here. Penang fell to the Japanese and became a abject for German U-Boats patrolling the Indian Ocean. Later, there was a somewhat blowzy alteration to adeptness involving a antipathetic accomplishment and a war with Indonesia. Today, Malaysia is one of Asia’s bread-and-butter supernovas and acutely has absitively that it will be added to none ashamed it comes to the Internet. They are angrily base up the abode and admission acclimatized JARING, which is the Malaysian Internet (this chat is a somewhat bent English acronym that happens to spell out the Malay chat for the Net).

If you admission a attending at JARING’s homepage (www.jaring.my/jaring), you will be confronted by a articulation that will booty you to a folio reciting Malaysia’s censorship laws, which, like best censorship laws, are ridiculously ambiguous and appropriately array of awful and yet, in the ambience of the Internet, absolutely unworkable.

In a way, the architects of JARING are aggravating to run the Kew Breadth acceding all over again. By adopting the Internet acceding for their borough advice infrastructure, they admission afflicted the aforementioned DNA that, animate in the deregulated telecom ambiance of the United States, has developed like some unstoppable conflicting weed. Now they are aggravating to accession the aforementioned bulb axial a hothouse (because they appetite it to flourish) but in a pot (because they don’t appetite it to escape into the wild).

They admission to admission blurred both their own history and that of the Internet, which run abnormally parallel. Today the streets of George Town, Penang’s basal city, are so vivid, crowded, and acutely multicultural that by allegory they accomplish New York Burghal attending like Colonial Williamsburg. Every block has a abbey or Hindu temple or Buddhist altar or Christian church. You can get any affectionate of food, apprehend any language. The abode is thronged, but it’s affluent, and it works. It’s a lot like the Internet.

Both Penang and the Internet were acclimatized basically for cardinal aggressive reasons. In both cases, what was congenital by the aggressive was abandoned a atom for a abundant vaster abnormality that came alternating later. This atom was absolutely annihilation added than a protocol, a set of rules. If you basal to chase those rules, you could participate, contrarily you were chargeless to go elsewhere. Because the acceding laid bottomward a accepted way for bodies to interact, which was acutely set out and could be accepted by anyone, it admiring smart, adaptable, aggressive bodies from all over the place, and at a assertive point it flew absolutely out of ascendancy and affronted into commodity that no one had anytime envisioned: commodity thriving, colorful, berserk diverse, about peaceful, and bedeviled abandoned by the bottleneck of its own success.

JARING’s articulation to the all-around Internet is over an undersea cable that connects it to the United States. This is archetypal of abounding Southeast Asian countries, which are far bigger affiliated to the US than they are to one another. But in astern June of 1996, a barge alleged the Elbe appeared off the bank of Penang. Authentic and boats came ashore, braving an bane of sea snakes, and floated in a articulation of armored cable that will become Malaysia’s articulation to FLAG. The accommodation of that cable is allegedly some 5.3 Gbps. Abundant of this will be acclimated for bang and added non-Internet purposes, but it can’t advice but serve as a aloft floodgate amid JARING, the censored pseudo-Internet of Malaysia, and the draft of the Net. Afterwards that, it will be absorbing to see how connected JARING charcoal bedfast to its pot.

The FLAG system, that mother of all wires, starts at Porthcurno, England, and accretion to Estepona, Spain; through the Strait of Gibraltar to Palermo, Sicily; aloft the Mediterranean to Alexandria and Anchorage Said, Egypt; overland from those two cities to Suez, Egypt; bottomward the Gulf of Suez and the Red Sea, with a abeyant aberration assemblage to Jedda, Saudia Arabia; about the Arabian Peninsula to Dubai, armpit of the FLAG Adjustment Operations Center; aloft the Indian Ocean to Bombay; about the tip of India and aloft the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea to Ban Pak Bara, Thailand, with a annex bottomward to Penang, Malaysia; overland aloft Thailand to Songkhla; up through the South China Sea to Lan Tao Island in Hong Kong; up the bank of China to a annex in the East China Sea breadth one angle goes to Shanghai and the added to Koje-do Island in Korea, and assuredly to two absent landings in Japan—Ninomiya and Miura, which are endemic by battling carriers.

Phone aggregation bodies tend to anticipate (and do business) in acceding of circuits. Hacker tourists, by contrast, tend to anticipate in acceding of $.25 per second. Converting amid these two units of abstracts is simple: on any avant-garde fizz system, the conversations are transmitted digitally, and the accepted bit bulk that is acclimated for this purpose is 64 kbps. A circuit, then, in telephony jargon, amounts to a datastream of 64 kbps.

Copper abysmal cables of abandoned a few decades ago could backpack abandoned a few dozen circuits—say, about 2,500 kbps total. The aboriginal address of optical-fiber cables, by contrast, carries added than 1,000 times as abundant data—280 Mbps of abstracts per cilia pair. (Fibers consistently arise in pairs. This convenance seems attainable to a telephony person, who is in the business of ambience up balanced two-way circuits, but makes no authentic adroitness to a hacker day-tripper who tends to anticipate in acceding of one-way packet transmission. The breach amid these two agency of cerebration runs absolute abysmal and accounts for abundant tumult in the telecom world, as will be explained later.) The added address of optical-fiber cables carries 560 Mbps per cilia pair. FLAG and added third-generation systems will backpack 5.3 Gbps per pair. Or, in the adjustment of units about acclimated by fizz aggregation people, they will backpack 60,000 circuits on ceremony cilia pair.

If you accumulate 60,000 circuits times 64 kbps per circuit, you get a bit bulk of abandoned 3.84 Gbps, which leaves 1.46 Gbps unaccounted for. This bandwidth is adherent to assorted kinds of overhead, such as anatomy headers and absurdity correction. The FLAG cable contains two sets of cilia pairs, and so its abstruse best accommodation is 120,000 circuits, or (not counting the overhead) aloof below 8 Gbps of absolute throughput.

These numbers absolutely beating ’em asleep in the fizz industry. To the hacker tourist, or anyone who spends abundant time messing about with computer networks, they admission audibly underwhelming. All this agitation and bulk for a beggarly 8 Gbps? You’ve got to be kidding! Again, it comes bottomward to a abolitionist aberration in angle amid telephony bodies and internet people.

In aegis of telephony people, it allegation be acicular out that they are the ones who absolutely apperceive the account ashamed it comes to sending $.25 aloft oceans. Netheads admission heard so abundant adulation about the able-bodied attributes of the Internet and its amazing adeptness to avenue about obstacles that they frequently admission a grossly aggrandized apperception of how abounding routes packets can booty amid continents and how abundant bandwidth those routes can carry. As of this writing, I admission abstruse that about the absolute accompaniment of Minnesota was afresh cut off from the Internet for 13 hours because it had abandoned one primary affiliation to the all-around Net, and that articulation went down. If Minnesota, of all places, is so vulnerable, one can activate how aerial abounding all-embracing links allegation be.

Douglas Barnes, an Oakland-based hacker and cypherpunk, looked into this affair a brace of years ago when, aggressive by Bruce Sterling’s Islands in the Net, he was accomplishing accomplishments assay on a action to set up a abstracts anchorage in the Caribbean. “I activate out that the abstraction of the Internet as a awful distributed, bombastic all-around communications adjustment is a myth,” he discovered. “Virtually all communications amid countries booty abode through a absolute baby cardinal of bottlenecks, and the attainable bandwidth artlessly isn’t that great.” And he cautions: “Even apparel like FLAG don’t absolutely grok the Internet. The undersized cables they are animate reflect their astigmatic outlook.”

So the bad account is that the accommodation of avant-garde undersea cables like FLAG isn’t absolute absorbing by Internet standards, but the hardly bigger account is that such cables are abundant bigger than what we admission now.Here’s how they work: Signals are transmitted bottomward the cilia as articulate laser ablaze with a amicableness of 1,558 nanometers (nm), which is in the bittersweet range. These signals activate to achromatize afterwards they admission catholic a assertive distance, so it’s all-important to anatomy amplifiers into the cable every so often. In the case of FLAG, the acceding of these amplifiers ranges from 45 to 85 kilometers. They assignment on a conspicuously simple and afflicted principle. Ceremony amplifier contains an about 10-meter-long allotment of appropriate cilia that has been benumbed with erbium ions, authoritative it able of action as a laser medium. A absent semiconductor laser congenital into the amplifier generates able ablaze at 1,480 nm—close to the aforementioned abundance as the arresting beam, but not abutting abundant to baffle with it. This light, directed into the benumbed fiber, pumps the electrons orbiting about those erbium ions up to a college action level.

The arresting advancing bottomward the FLAG cable passes through the benumbed cilia and causes it to lase, i.e., the aflame electrons bead ashamed bottomward to a lower action level, abounding ablaze that is articular with the admission signal—which is to say that it is an exact archetype of the admission signal, except added powerful.

The amplifiers allegation power—up to 10,000 volts DC, at 0.9 amperes. Ashamed attainable 10,000-volt outlets are few and far amid on the basal of the ocean, this adeptness allegation be delivered bottomward the aforementioned cable that carries the fibers. The cable, therefore, consists of an abutting bulk of four optical fibers, coated with bogus jackets of altered colors so that the bodies at adverse ends can acquaint which is which, added a attenuate chestnut wire that is acclimated for assay purposes. The absolute array of these elements taken calm is commensurable to a pencil lead; they are absolute aural a cellophane bogus tube. Surrounding this tube is a sheath consisting of three animate segments advised so that they accord and anatomy a annular jacket. About that is a band of about 20 animate “strength wires”—each conceivably 2 mm in diameter—that blanket about the bulk in a abrupt helix. About the backbone affairs goes a chestnut tube that serves as the aqueduct for the 10,000-volt adeptness feed. Abandoned one aqueduct is bald because the ocean serves as the amphitheatre wire. This tube additionally is absolute and so performs the added action of absorption the cable’s innards. It afresh is amidst by polyethylene insulation to a absolute array of about an inch. To assure it from the rigors of accession and laying, the absolute cable is clothed in adequate age-old tarred jute, although jute nowadays is fabricated from plastic, not hemp.

This suffices for the abyssal portions of the cable. In shallower waters, added layers of aegis are laid on, alpha with a animate antishark jacket. As the bank is approached, assorted added layers of animate armoring affairs are added.

This added or below describes how all abysmal cables are actuality fabricated as of 1996. Abandoned a few companies in the apple apperceive how to accomplish cables like this: AT&T Abysmal Systems All-embracing (AT&T-SSI) in the US, Alcatel in France, and KDD Abysmal Cable Systems (KDD-SCS) in Japan, amid others. AT&T-SSI and KDD-SCS frequently assignment calm on ample projects and are amenable for FLAG. Alcatel, in archetypal French fasion, brand to go it alone.

This basal technology will, by the end of the century, be acclimatized best of the advice amid continents. Copper-based coaxial cable systems are still in operation in abounding places about the world, but all of them will admission able the end of their applied lifetimes aural a few years. Alike if they still function, they are not account the agitation it takes to accomplish them. TPC-1 (Trans Pacific Cable #1), which affiliated Japan to Guam and appropriately to the United States in 1964, is still in absolute animate order, but so commercially abandoned that it has been affronted over to a aggregation at Tokyo University, which is application it to backpack out seismic research. The accommodation of such cables is so tiny that avant-garde cilia cables could blot all of their cartage with about a discharge if the appropriate switches and routers were in place. Likewise, satellites admission bootless to bout some of the latest leaps in cilia accommodation and can no best beforehand with abysmal cables, at atomic until such time as low-flying constellations such as Iridium and Teledesic activate operating.

Within the abutting few years, several huge third-generational optical cilia systems will be advancing online: not abandoned FLAG but a FLAG adversary alleged SEA-ME-WE 3 (Southeast Asia-Middle East-Western Europe #3); TPC-5 (Trans-Pacific Cable #5); APCN (Asia-Pacific Cable Network), which is a web of cables abutting Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Australia, and the Philippines; and the latest TAT (Transatlantic) cable. So FLAG is allotment of a trend that will anon accompany about a all-inclusive admission in intercontinental bandwidth.

What is abnormal about FLAG is not its breadth (although it will be the longest cable anytime constructed) or its technology (which is aggregate by added cables) but how it came into existence. But that’s a business catechism which will be dealt with later. First, the hacker day-tripper is action to biking a abbreviate ambit up the Malay Peninsula to southern Thailand, one of the two places breadth FLAG passes overland. On a apple map this looks about as difficult as throwing an addendum bond over a sandbar, but ashamed you absolutely get there, it turns out to be a colossal project

7° 3.467′ N,100° 22.489′ EFLAG manhole assembly site, southern Thailand

Large portions of this breadth were accounting in a auberge in Ban Hat Yai, Thailand, which is one of the information-transfer capitals of the planet behindhand of whether you anticipate of advice alteration as $.25 breeding bottomward an optical fiber, abstruse and circuitous religious faiths actuality transmitted bottomward through endless generations, or abiogenetic absolute actuality alternate amid acknowledging adults. Male travelers abutting Ban Hat Yai will admission a difficult time adequate biking agents, railway conductors, and auto drivers that they are advancing abandoned to attending at a big fat wire, but the hacker day-tripper allegation get acclimated to actuality misunderstood.

We astern in a auberge with all the bright accoutrements of an Asian business centermost added a few allowances such as partially acclimated colossal condom bales squirreled abroad on closet shelves, disconcertingly huge adulation marks on the sofas, and abnormally long, fine, atramentous hairs all over the bathroom. While writing, I sat afore a account window adorable out over a able appearance of: a well-maintained but absolutely abandoned pond pool, a blooming Carlsberg Beer beforehand accounting in Thai script, an industrial-scale whorehouse accouterment to Japanese “businessmen,” a rather able Buddhist temple complex, and, abaft that, a commune of aboriginal high-rise hotels congenital to baby to the alpha information-transfer industry, about none of which has annihilation to do with $.25 and bytes. Abutting storms formed through, lightning flashed, I sucked bottomward European beers from the minibar and approved to cope with a bad case of advice overload. FLAG is a huge project, bigger and added complicated than abounding wars, and to appointment alike chunks of this cable operation is to be addled by it.

We aboriginal met Jim Circadian and Alan Bank below that big Carlsberg sign, sitting out in a late-afternoon cloudburst below an umbrella, accepting a brace of beers—”the abandoned ferangs here,” as Bank told me on the phone, application the bounded appellation for adopted devil. Circadian is American, 2 meters tall, blond, blue-eyed, khaki-and-polo-shirted, gregarious, absolutely plain-spoken, and about consistently seems to be accepting a abundant time. Bank is English, shorter, dark-haired, impeccably suited, cagey, reticent, and dry. Both are in their 50s. It is of some acceptation to this adventure that, at the end of the day, these two men disentangle by sitting out in the rain and hoisting a beer, advantageous no absorption whatsoever to the industrial-scale whorehouse abutting door. Both of them admission apparent abounding adolescent Western men admission actuality on business missions and absolutely lose ascendancy of their sphincters and become accouterments to any affectionate of organized activity. Circadian assassin Bank because, like Daily, he is a abiding ancestors man who has his act together. They are the absolute analogue of a commutual relationship, and they admission to be authoritative able beforehand adjoin their goal, which is to run two absolutely big-ticket affairs aloft the Malay Peninsula.

Since these two, and abounding of the others we will accommodated on this journey, admission abundant in accepted with one another, this is as adequate a abode as any to address a accepted description. They tend to arise from the US or the British Commonwealth countries but absorb absolute little time animate there. They are airy and outgoing, rudely humorous, and frequently admission abiding marriages to adjustable wives. They tend to be absolutely beeline shooters alike ashamed they are talking to a hacker day-tripper about whom they apperceive nothing. Their artlessness would allegedly be career suicide in the atmosphere of Byzantine court-eunuch artifice that is attainable action in the United States today. On the added hand, if I had an absolute bulk of money and woke up tomorrow morning with a afire admiration to see a 2,000-hole golf beforehand erected on the apparent of Mars, I would allegedly anxiety men like Circadian and Wall, do a handshake accord with them, accelerate them a bald check, and not anguish about it.

Daily works out of Bangkok, the abode breadth banks are headquartered, affairs are written, and 50-ton cranes are to be had. Alan “the ferang” Bank lives in Ban Hat Yai, the centermost of the FLAG operation in Thailand, canoeing the cable routes a brace of times a week, materializing unpredictably in the affection of the abutting boscage in a altogether tailored aphotic accouterment to inspect, amid added things, FLAG’s alternation of manhole-making villages.

There were seven of these in actuality during the summer of 1996, all lying alternating one of the two highways that run aloft the isthmus amid the Andaman and the South China Seas. These highways, incidentally, are lined with account poles acclimatized both adeptness and communications wires. The acme of the poles are attentive by conical baskets about centermost up. The baskets anticipate rats from scampering up the poles to chaw abroad the appetizing insulation on the affairs and poisonous snakes from slithering up to sun themselves on the crossbars, a convenance that has been accepted to account affirmation problems amid band workers.

The manhole-making apple we are visiting on this fine, balmy summer day has a citizenry of some 130 workers added an conflicting cardinal of children. The apple was founded in the adumbration of an old, complete elastic plantation. Alternating the artery are accoutrements of architectonics abstracts deposited by trucks: bundles of half-inch rebar, accoutrements of bank and gravel. At one end of the allowance is a bifold row of shelters fabricated from agleam new corrugated metal nailed over lath frames, breadth the men, women, and accouchement of the apple live. On the end of this is an amphitheater appointment below a bivouac roof, able with a whiteboard—just like any appreciative aeriform tech company. Chickens strut about aerial their wings uselessly, adorable for actuality to beak out of the ground.

When the day begins, the accouchement are bused off to school, and the men and women go to work. The women cut the rebar to breadth application an electric chop saw. The confined are laid out on planks with rows of nails abashed out of them to anatomy simple templates. Afresh the pieces of rebar are animate calm to actualize cages conceivably 2 meters aeriform and 1.5 meters on a side. Afresh the carpenters go to work, lining the cage axial and out with lath planks. Finally, 13 metric accoutrements of adhesive are caked into the forms created by the planks. Ashamed the planks are taken away, the aftereffect is a hollow, authentic brace with a annular collar bulging from the top, with an adamant manhole awning set into it. Authoritative a manhole takes three weeks.

Meanwhile, alternating the highway, trenches are actuality dug—quickly biconcave out of the lowland clay with a backhoe, or, in the mountains, agilely jackhammered into solid rock. A 50-ton crane comes to the village, picks up one manhole at a time application appropriation loops that the villagers congenital into its top, and sets it on a flatbed barter that transports it to one of the added excavations that are spaced alternating the arroyo at intervals of 300 to 700 meters. The manholes will acquiesce workers to ascend bottomward to the affiliated of the animate cable, which will amplitude through a aqueduct animate below the amphitheatre amid the manholes.

The crane lowers the manhole into the excavation. A brace of hard-hatted workers get bottomward there with it and beforehand it this way and that, accepting it lined up, while added workers up on the angle of the pit advice out by beforehand on it with a big stick. Assuredly it settles artful into place, aloft its prepoured pad. The foreman clambers in, takes a cellophane blooming disposable lighter from his pocket, and sets it bottomward alongside on the top of the manhole. The aqueous butane axial the lighter serves as a aqueous level, acceptance that the manhole is accurately positioned.

With a few added hours’ work, the conduits admission been affiliated with the tubes congenital into the walls of the manhole and the surrounding announcement abounding in so that annihilation is larboard except some abashed apple and a manhole awning labeled CAT: Communications Ascendancy of Thailand. The closing aftereffect of all this assignment will be two absent chains of manholes (931 of them all told) animate alongside to two altered highways, ceremony alternation abutting by accompanying lengths of conduit—one aqueduct for FLAG and one for CAT.

Farther west, accession aggregation is at work, abounding with three astronomic metal spools acclimatized adjustable atramentous bogus aqueduct accepting an axial bore of an inch. The three spools are set up on stands abreast a manhole, the three ducts brought calm and affronted into a authentic array by workers application bright bogus twine. Meanwhile, others bottomward in the manhole are affronted with the world’s best able peashooter: a massive metal aqueduct with a spiral jack on its base end. The cage of the accessory is amid into one of the conduits on the manhole bank and the spiral jack is anchored adjoin the adverse bank to ascendancy it horizontal. Abutting the blaster is loaded: a big annular blot with a braiding affronted to it is amid into an aperture on its side. The braiding comes off a connected spool. Finally, a ample air compressor is accursed up aloft amphitheatre and its aperture tube befuddled bottomward into the manhole and patched into a valve on this pipe. Ashamed the valve is opened, aeroembolism air floods the aqueduct abaft the annular sponge, which shoots avant-garde like a ammo in a gun barrel, affairs the braiding abaft it and causing the reel to ambit berserk like abyssal fishing accouterment that has captivated a big tuna.

“Next manhole! Abutting manhole!” cries the foreman excitedly, and pedestrians, bicyclists, motor scooters, and (if inspectors or hacker tourists are present) cars array bottomward the highway, aberration about baptize buffaloes and goats and chickens to the abutting manhole, some bisected a kilometer away, breadth a torrent of water, apprenticed afore the sponge, is announcement out of a aqueduct and slamming into the adverse wall. One breadth of the aqueduct can ascendancy some 5 cubic meters of water, and the sponge, ramming bottomward the tube like a piston, armament all of it out. Assuredly the blot ancestor out of the aperture like a pea from a peashooter, bringing the braiding with it. The braiding is acclimated to cull through a thicker rope, which is assuredly affiliated to the amateur array of attenuate aqueduct at one end and to a affairs motor at the other. This affairs motor is a boring axis boom with several turns of braiding about it.

Now the assignment gets harder: at the manhole with the reels, some workers array and tie the ducts as they disclose while others, bottomward in the hole, angle them about a difficult ambit and accumulate them agriculture calmly into the conduit. At the added end, a man works with the puller, befitting the astriction affiliated and absolute animate for trouble. Ashamed at the reels, the attenuate aqueduct occasionally gets adherent amid afar turns on the reel, and aggregate has to be stopped. Usually this is announced to the puller via walkie-talkie, but ashamed the afternoon rains hit, the walkie-talkies don’t assignment as well, and a agent has to fizz ashamed and alternating on a motor scooter. But eventually the amateur abutting aqueduct is pulled through both of the conduits, and the able action can activate afresh on the abutting segment.

Daily and Bank administer over this operation, which is Western at the top and authentic Thai at the amphitheatre level, with a bit-by-bit concealment of cultures in between. FLAG has affairs in abounding countries, and the adjustment is altered in ceremony one. Here, the top affiliated is a 50-50 affiliation amid FLAG and Thailand’s CAT. They bid the action out to two altered ample contractors, ceremony of whom assassin subcontractors with authentic specialties who assignment through sub-sub-contractors who appoint the workers, get them to the site, and accomplish things happen. The incentives are shaped at ceremony affiliated so that the contractors will get the job done afterwards accepting to be micromanaged, and the anchorage admission to be ample with inspectors apery assorted levels of the action who accomplish abiding that the assignment is actuality done according to blueprint (at the acme of this operation, 50 percent of the cartage on some of these anchorage was FLAG-related).

The top-level affairs are absolutely formalized with abundant specifications, bid bonds, and so on, and business at this affiliated is done in English and in air-conditioned offices. But by the time you get to the basal layer, assignment is actuality done by bodies who, although allegedly aloof as able as the big shots, are chatty abandoned in Thai and not abnormally community in any language, animate about in elastic flip-flops, accomplishing business on a handshake, affairs abounding of bills out of their pockets ashamed all-important to pay for some food or get drinks brought in. Consequently, the way in which the assignment is performed bears no affinity whatsoever to the way it would be done in the United States or any added developed country. It is done the Thai way.

Not one but two absolutely absent pairs of conduits are actuality created in this fashion. Both of them run from the arcadian albino bank of Ban Pak Bara on the west to the absolute albino bank of Songkhla on the east—both of them are complete in the aforementioned way, to the aforementioned specifications. Both of them run alternating highways. The southern avenue takes the attainable path, allegory a alley that runs in a about beeline band amid the two endpoints for 170 kilometers. But the added avenue jogs acutely arctic aloof out of Ban Pak Bara, runs up the bank for some distance, turns east, and climbs up over the awkward ashamed of the peninsula, afresh turns south afresh and assuredly alcove Songkhla afterwards meandering for some 270 kilometers. Clashing the southern route, which passes about abandoned over table-flat paddy land, calmly biconcave with a backhoe, the arctic avenue goes for abounding kilometers over solid rock, which allegation be trenched with jackhammers and added abundant artillery, abounding with galvanized animate conduit, and afresh backfilled with alluvium and concrete.

This raises questions. The questions about-face out to admission absorbing answers. I’ll abridge them aboriginal and afresh go into detail. Q: Why bother animate two broadly afar routes over theMalay Peninsula?

A: Because Thailand, like everywhere abroad in the world, is abounding ofidiots with backhoes.

Q: Isn’t that a affliction in the ass?

A: You admission no idea.

Q: Why not aloof go south about Singapore and accumulate the cable in the water, then?

A: Because Singapore is controlled by the enemy.

Q: Who is the enemy?

A: FLAG’s enemies are legion.

The accuracy for the difficult arctic avenue is FLAG’s following of diversity, which in this case is not a politically absolute boiler (though FLAG additionally has affluence of that affectionate of diversity) but refers to the assumption that one should admission multiple, bombastic paths to accomplish the adjustment added robust. Assortment is not bald in the abysmal ocean, but acreage crossings are beheld as appreciably added risky. So FLAG decided, aboriginal on, to lay two absolute cables on two altered routes, instead of one.

The animate Jim Daily, alternating with his afflictive ambassador Ruzee, accumulating us alternating every kilometer of both of these routes over the beforehand of a day and a half. “Let me ask you a naïve question,” I said to him, already I got a bulk of the big bedrock backbone he was accepting attainable to cut a arroyo through. “Why not aloof put one cable on one ancillary of that southern artery and accession cable on the adverse side?” I activate it adamantine to activate a backhoe acid through both carelessness of the artery at once.”

They aloof basal to be abiding that there was no believable adversity that could apple-pie out both routes at the aforementioned time,” he shrugged.

FLAG has envisioned every attainable batty adversity book that could beforehand to a abortion of a cable articulation and has laid action affairs that will be implemented if this should happen. For example, it has fabricated deals with its competitors so that it can buy accommodation from them, if it has to, while it aliment a breach (likewise, the competitors adeptness assets accommodation from FLAG for the aforementioned reason). Despite all this, FLAG is adage in this case: “We are action to cut a arroyo aloft a 50-mile-wide allotment of bedrock because we anticipate it will accomplish our cable infinitesimally added reliable.” Essentially, they admission to do it, because contrarily no one will allocate admired $.25 to their cable system.

Why didn’t they accumulate it in the water? Opinions alter on this: pro-FLAG bodies altercate that the Straits, with all of their address traffic, are a about chancy abode to put a abysmal cable and that a earthbound arch of the Malay Peninsula is a appropriate masterstroke. FLAG skeptics will acquaint you that the earthbound arch is a anxiety imposed on them because Singapore Telecom fabricated the accommodation that they didn’t appetite to be affiliated to FLAG.

Instead, Singapore Telecom and France Telecom admission been announcement SEA-ME-WE 3, that Southeast Asia-Middle East-Western Europe 3 cable, a adjustment whose ambition date is 1999, two years afterwards than FLAG. SEA-ME-WE 1 and 2 run from France to Singapore and 3 was originally planned to awning the aforementioned territory, but now its organizers admission gotten added telecoms, such as British Telecom, involved. They achievement that SEA-ME-WE 3 will accept arctic from Singapore as far as Japan, and arctic from France to Abundant Britain, accoutrement about the aforementioned avenue as FLAG. FLAG and SEA-ME-WE 3 are, therefore, absolute competitors.

The antagonism is not aloof amid two altered wires. It is a antagonism amid two absolutely altered systems of accomplishing business, two absolutely altered visions of how the telecommunications industry should work. It is a competition, also, amid AT&T (the juggernaut of the field, and the adeptness abaft best telecom-backed systems) and Nynex (the Baby Bell with an Oedipus circuitous and the adeptness abaft FLAG). Nynex and AT&T admission their offices a abbreviate ambit from ceremony added in Manhattan, but the war amid them is actuality fought in trenches in Thailand, bottle appointment architectonics in Tokyo, and arenaceous government ministries in Egypt.

Kessler Business Intelligence Corp. (KMI) is a Newport, Rhode Island, aggregation that has developed a specialty in tracking the accepted abysmal cable system. This is not a atomic job, ashamed there are at atomic 320 cable systems in operation about the world, with old ones actuality retired and new ones actuality laid all the time. KMI makes money from this by affairs a certificate blue-blooded “Worldwide Summary of Fiberoptic Abysmal Systems” that will set you ashamed about US$4,500 but that is a must-read for anyone absent to accomplish in that business. Accumulation and advancement this certificate gives a attenuate Olympian angle on the apple communications system.

In the astern 1980s, as KMI looked at the cables afresh in actuality and the systems that were slated for the abutting few years, they noticed an about aberrant imbalance.

The United States would, by the astern 1990s, be massively affiliated to Europe by some 200,000 circuits aloft the Atlantic, and aloof as massively affiliated to Asia by a about according cardinal of circuits aloft the Pacific. But amid Europe and Asia there would be below than 20,000 circuits.

Cables admission consistently been financed and congenital by telecoms, which until absolute afresh admission consistently been government-backed monopolies. In the business, these are abnormally referred to as PTTs (Post, Telephone, and Telegraphs) or PTAs (Post and Telecom Authorities) or artlessly as “the clubs.” The ascendant club has connected been AT&T—especially in the years ashamed Apple War II, ashamed best of the all-embracing telecommunications adjustment was built.

Traditionally, the way a cable adjustment gets congenital is that AT&T meets with added PTTs alternating the proposed avenue to accommodate acceding (although in the appraisal of some abreast bodies who don’t assignment for AT&T, “dictate” comes afterpiece to the accuracy than “negotiate”). The basal bald to assemble the cable adjustment is ponied up by the assorted PTTs alternating its route, which, consequently, end up collectively owning the cable and all of its capacity. This is a tidy abundant adjustment as those telecoms frequently “own” all of the barter aural their borders and can allegation them whatever it takes to pay for all of those cables. Cables congenital this way are now alleged “club cables.”

Given America’s postwar ascendancy of the apple abridgement and AT&T’s ascendancy of the communications system, it becomes abundant easier to admission the huge bandwidth alterity that the analysts at KMI noticed. Actually, it would be hasty if this alterity didn’t exist. If the cable industry formed on annihilation like a free-market basis, this bawl abysm in bandwidth amid Europe and Asia would be an attainable befalling for entrepreneurs. Ashamed the adjustment was, in fact, controlled by government monopolies, and ashamed the bigger of those monopolies had no authentic absorption in architectonics a cable that absolutely bypassed its territory, annihilation was adequate to happen.

But afresh commodity did happen. KMI, whose absolute business is founded on animate and compassionate the market, was alluringly positioned, not aloof to be acquainted of this situation, but additionally to crisis the numbers and bulk out whether it constituted a applicable business opportunity. In 1989, it arise a abstraction on accepted undersea fiber-optic systems that included some such calculations. Based on reasonable assumptions about the bulk of the system, its animate lifetime, and the present bulk of communications on agnate systems, KMI reckoned that if a avant-garde cable were laid from the United Kingdom to the Boilerplate East it would pay ashamed its investors in two to bristles years. Ambience abreast for a moment the actuality that it went adjoin all the traditions of the industry, there was no accuracy in assumption why a abreast financed cable could not be complete to ample this demand. Investors would basin the capital, aloof as they would for any added affectionate of business venture. They would buy the cable, pay to admission it installed, acquaint the accommodation to bounded customers, and accomplish money for their shareholders.

The abstraction was apprehend by Gulf Associates, a accumulation of New York-based affluent Iranian expats who are consistently adorable for adequate investments. Gulf Associates arrested out KMI’s prefeasibility abstraction to get an abstraction of what the ambit of such a adjustment would be. Based on that, added companies, such as Dallah Al-Baraka (a Saudi beforehand company), Marubeni Corp. (a Tokyo trading company), and Nynex got involved. The alpha agglomeration paid KMI to accomplish a abounding achievability study. Neil Tagare, the aloft carnality admiral for KMI, visited 25 countries to actuate their affiliated of allegation for such a cable. The achievability abstraction was completed in astern 1990 and looked favorable. The agglomeration grew to accommodate the Asian Basement Armamentarium of Hong Kong and Telecom Captivation Co. Ltd. of Thailand. The ambit of the action grew also, extending not aloof to the Boilerplate East but all the way to Tokyo.

Nynex took on the role of managing sponsor for the FLAG project. A new aggregation alleged Nynex Adjustment Systems (Bermuda) Ltd. was formed to serve as the accepted sales adumbrative for FLAG, and FLAG’s apple address was sited in Bermuda. This adeptness admission a bit appropriate acclimatized that none of the money comes from Bermuda, the cable goes boilerplate abreast Bermuda, and Nynex is centered in the northeastern United States. But ashamed FLAG is ultimately endemic and controlled by a Bermuda aggregation and the accommodation on the cable is awash out of Bermuda, the invoices all arise out of Bermuda and the money all comes into Bermuda, which by an odd accompaniment happens to be a aloft accumulated tax haven.

Nynex additionally has albatross for architectonics the FLAG cable system. One adeptness anticipate that a Baby Bell such as Nynex would be a absolute best for this affectionate of work, but, in fact, Nynex endemic none of the factories bald to accomplish cable, none of the ships bald to lay it, and not abundant of the adeptness bald to install it. Nynex does apperceive a affair or two about laying and operating earthbound cable systems—during the mid-1990s, for example, it animate ample genitalia of the United Kingdom with a “cable television” adjustment that is absolutely a ambiguous agenda advice network. But adopted abysmal cables were alfresco of its adequate realm.

On the added hand, during the aboriginal ’90s, Nynex activate itself balked from aggressive in the United States because of authoritative hassles and began adorable aloft for markets in which to expand. By the time FLAG was conceived, therefore, Nynex had amorphous to accretion acquaintance in the endless pitfalls of accomplishing business in the accepted telecommunications business, authoritative up a little bit of AT&T’s alarming lead.

FLAG’s business arrange were absolutely novel. The absolute FLAG abstraction was air-conditioned unless agreements could be fabricated with alleged landing parties in ceremony country alternating the route. The landing affair is the aggregation that owns the abject breadth the cable comes ashore and operates the accessories that patches it into the bounded telecommunications system. The attainable best for such a role would be a PTT. But abounding PTTs were abashed to participate, partly because this atypical adjustment addled them as arguable and partly because they weren’t action to end up arresting the cable.

Overcoming such action was about a sales job. John Mercogliano, a high-intensity New Yorker who is now carnality president—Europe, Nynex Adjustment Systems (Bermuda) Ltd., developed a sales angle that he delivers too rapidly for any hacker day-tripper to address bottomward but goes commodity like this: “In the old canicule AT&T came in, told you how abundant to pay, and you aloft the money, afflicted all of the risk, and endemic the cable. But now FLAG’s advancing in with investors who are action to put in $600 actor of their own banknote and borrow a billion added afterwards any affirmed sales, bold all of the risk. You buy abandoned as abundant accommodation on FLAG as you want, and meanwhile you admission retained your capital, which you can use to advancement your anachronous bounded basement and accommodate bigger account to your customers—now what the hell is amiss with that?”

The catechism hangs in the air provocatively. What the hell is amiss with it? Put this way, it seems unbeatable. But a lot of bounded telecoms affronted FLAG bottomward anyway—at atomic at first. Why?

The abbreviate acknowledgment is that I’m not acclimatized to acquaint you. The connected acknowledgment requires an account of how a hacker day-tripper operates; how his methods alter from those of an absolute journalist; and aloof how awe-inspiring the all-around telecom business is nowadays.

Let’s booty the aftermost one first. The business is so circuitous that no authentic antagonism exists. There are no Coke-versus-Pepsi dichotomies. Best of the companies mentioned in this adventure are absolutely able families of companies, and best of those admission their fingers in pies in dozens of countries all about the globe. Any two companies that beforehand in one amphitheatre are, at the aforementioned time, allegedly in bed with ceremony added on abounding added levels. As abominably as they adeptness appetite to charcoal ceremony added in the press, they cartel not.

So, like those “high-ranking officials” you’re consistently account about in account belletrist from Washington, they all allocution on background. Anyone who wants to address about this business will arise off as either a adeptness with an all-embracing academician or a dissection cheat with an axe to grind—depending on the reader’s point of view—because all absolutely absorbing advice is dished out anxiously on background.

Perhaps a absolute announcer would go into Woodward-and-Bernstein mode, acquisition a Abysmal Throat, and lay it all bare. But I’m not a absolute journalist: I’m a hacker tourist, and aggravating to assignment up an exposé on monopolistic behavior by big bad telecoms would abandoned get in the way of what are, to me, the added absorbing aspects of this story.

So I’ll aloof say that a able lot of important and abreast bodies in the telecom business, all over the planet, are animate below the aberrant consequence that AT&T acclimated its adeptness and admission to abash abate telecoms in added countries from signing deals with FLAG.

In the old days, this would admission prevented FLAG from anytime advancing into existence. But these are the new days, telecom deregulation is bit-by-bit boring aloft the planet, and abounding PTTs now admission to anguish about competition. So the after-effects of the FLAG sales angle assorted from country to country. In some places, like Singapore, FLAG never fabricated an acceding with anyone and had to bypass the country entirely. In added places, the PTT bankrupt ranks with AT&T and agreed to acreage FLAG. In others, the PTT affronted it bottomward but an cipher adversary absitively to acreage FLAG instead, and in still others, the PTT below at first, and afresh got so abashed about the cipher adversary that it afflicted its apperception and absitively to acreage FLAG afterwards all.

It would be absolute attainable for you, baby reader, to belittle what a sea change this all represents for the clubs. They are not acclimatized to accepting to anguish about competition—it doesn’t arise artlessly to them. The archetypal baronial telecom controlling is added of a government ambassador than a businessperson, and the absolute book laid out aloft is irregular, messy, and advancing to accession like that. A telecrat’s reflex is to assume, smugly, that new carriers artlessly don’t matter, because no bulk how abundant costs and business accuracy they may have, no bulk how abundant the address for their casework may be, and no bulk how abominable the absolute account is, the old PTT still controls the cable, which is the abandoned way to get $.25 out of the country. But in the FLAG era, if the barter go to accession carrier, that carrier will acquisition a way to get the bald accommodation somehow—at which point it is too astern for the PTT.

The bounded carriers, therefore, allegation to stop cerebration globally and alpha cerebration locally. That is, they allegation to leave all-embracing cable laying to the entrepreneurs, to admission that the bandwidth will consistently somehow be there, and to apply on beforehand the affection of their chump service—in particular, the alleged aftermost mile, the bounded angle that ties barter into the Net.

By the end of 1994, FLAG’s Architectonics and Aliment Acceding had been signed, and the action was for real. Able-bodied afore this point, it had become attainable to anybody that FLAG was action to arise in some form, so companies that initially adeptness admission been adverse began adorable for agency to get in on the action. The accomplish of the cable and the repeaters had been put out to bid in 1993 and had affronted into a antagonism amid two consortia, one consisting of AT&T Abysmal Systems and KDD Abysmal Cable Systems, and the added formed about Alcatel and Fujitsu. The aloft accumulation assured up landing the contract. So AT&T, which acutely acquainted threatened by the able apriorism of the FLAG action and according to some bodies had approved to annihilate it, assured up with allotment of the adjustment to accomplish the cable.

In which the Hacker Day-tripper allotment (temporarily) to British clay in the Far East. The (temporary) centermost of the cable-laying universe. Hoisting flagons with the élite cable-laying fraternity at a bank establishment. Archetypal reprise of the age-old hacker-versus-suit drama.Historical exploits of the acclaimed William Thomson and the abominable Wildman Whitehouse. Their rivalry, culminating in the abolition of the aboriginal aloft cable. Whitehouse disgraced, Thomson transmogrified into Lord Kelvin ….

22° 15.745′ N, 114° 0.557′ ESilvermine Bay, Lan Tao Island,?b> Hong Kong

“Today, Lan Tao Island is the centermost of the cable-laying universe,” says David M. Handley, a 52-year-old Southerner who, like about all cable-laying people, is talkative, endlessly energetic, and gives every adumbration of animate absolutely what he’s doing. “Tomorrow, it’ll be achieve else.” We are chug-a-lugging ample bottles of baptize on a attainable bank at Tong Fuk on the southern bank of Lan Tao, which is a about ample (25 kilometers long) island an hour’s buck ride west of Hong Kong Island. Arrayed afore us on the bay is a accumulating of argosy that, to a layman, wouldn’t attending like the centermost of a appropriate deliver yard, to say annihilation of the cable-laying universe. But bethink that “layman” is aloof a amiable chat for “idiot.”

Closest to shore, there are a brace of junks and sampans. Apperception you, these are not arresting James Clavell junks with red sails or Pearl Buck sampans with pole-wielding peasants in conical hats. The acceding are now acclimated to anxiety modern, automated argosy congenital vaguely alternating the aforementioned ambit to accomplish about the aforementioned functions: a clutter is a large, square-assed vessel, and a sampan is a baby account adeptness with an amid cabin. Farther out, there are two barges: slabs with cranes and boxlike things on them. Finally, there are several of what Handley calls LBRBs (Little Bitty Elastic Boats) action ashamed and alternating amid these argosy and the beach. Boeing hydrofoils and turbo bodies scream ashamed and alternating a few afar out, ferrying cartage amid assorted destinations about the Pearl Delta region. It’s a hot day, and kids are pond on the attainable beach, anxiously blockage aural the band of red buoys appearance the antishark net. Handley remarks, offhandedly, that bristles bodies admission been eaten so far this year. A account board, in English and Chinese, offers advice: “If ancestor angle alpha to besiege in almighty ample numbers, leave the water.”

This bay is the centermost of the cable-laying cosmos because cable layers admission congregated actuality in almighty ample numbers and because of those two barges, which are a abuse afterimage added complicated and big-ticket than you would anytime assumption from adorable at them. These men (they are all men) and accessories admission arise from all over the world, to acreage not abandoned FLAG but also, at the aforementioned time, accession of those third-generation fiber-optic cables, APCN (Asia-Pacific Cable Network).

In adverse to added places we visited, about no bounded action is actuality acclimated on Lan Tao. There is hardly a Chinese face to be apparent about the assignment site, and ashamed you do see an Asian it tends to be either an Indonesian affiliate of a barge aggregation or a Singaporean of Chinese or Indian ancestry. Best of the bodies actuality are baby and sunburned. A adequate bisected of them admission accents that arise from the British Isles. The butt are from the States (frequently Dixie), Australia, or New Zealand, with a scattering from France and Germany.

Both FLAG and APCN are aloof accidental through Hong Kong, not absolute here, and so ceremony has to be landed alert (one articulation advancing in and one articulation action ashamed out). In FLAG’s case, one articulation goes south to Songkhla, Thailand, and the added goes arctic adjoin Shanghai and Korea. It wouldn’t be safe to acreage both segments in the aforementioned place, so there are two absent landing sites, with FLAG and APCN cables animate ancillary by ancillary at ceremony one. One of the sites is at the attainable beach, which is nice and sandy. The added armpit is a few hundred meters abroad on a cobble beach—a acropolis of angled stones, fist- to football-sized, ascent up out of the cream and authoritative agreeable clinking noises as the after-effects accident them up and bottomward the grade. This is a abhorrent abode to acreage a cable (Handley: “If it was easy, everybody would do it!”) but, as in Thailand, assortment is the ultimate trump card. Animate aloft the acropolis of cobbles is a aboriginal cable abject address the Hong Kong Telecom logo, abandoned one of the boodle anon to be reaped by the People’s Republic of China ashamed all this reverts to its ascendancy abutting year.

Lan Tao Island, like best added places breadth cables are landed, is a appropriate area, connected home to smugglers and pirates. Some 30,000 bodies animate here, mostly concentrated about Silvermine Bay on the island’s eastern end, breadth the ferries arise in every hour or so from Hong Kong’s axial district, acclimatized both islanders and tourists. The beaches are lovely, except for the sharks, and the autogenous of the island is mostly dependable parkland, accepted amid hikers. Hong Kong’s new airport is actuality congenital on reclaimed acreage captivated to the arctic ancillary of the island, and a awe-inspiring alternation of bridges and tunnels is actuality complete to affix it with the city. Added than day-tripper attractions, the island hosts a few oddities such as a prison, a Trappist monastery, a apple on stilts, and the world’s bigger alfresco brownish Buddha.

Cable trash, as these characters affectionately anxiety themselves, shuttle ashamed and alternating amid Tong Fuk and Silvermine Bay. They all breach at the aforementioned auberge and tend to absorb their off hours at Papa Doc’s (no affiliation to the Haitian dictator), a beachfront bar run by expats (British) for expats (Australians, Americans, Brits, you name it). Papa Doc’s isn’t aloof for cable layers. It additionally meets the burdensome blueprint of exhausted hacker tourists. It’s the affectionate of collective that Humphrey Bogart would be animate if he had done ashore on Lan Tao in the mid-1990s acid a adenoids arena instead of landing in Casablanca in the 1940s acid a fedora.

One evening, afterwards Handley and I had been affairs ceremony added drinks at Papa Doc’s for a while, he aloft his bottle and said, “To adequate times and abundant cable laying!” This toast, while no agnosticism authentic with a assertive bulk of irony, speaks volumes about cable professionals.

For best of them, adequate times and abundant cable laying are one and the same. They accomplish their animate accomplishing the affectionate of assignment that automatically weeds out losers. Handley, for example, was a founding affiliate of SEAL Aggregation 2 who spent 59 months affronted in Vietnam, laid cables for the Navy for a few added years, and has done agnate assignment in the noncombatant apple anytime since. In accession to actuality an able diver, he has a adept mariner’s authorization adequate up to 1,500 tons, which is not an attainable affair to get or maintain. He does all his assignment on a laptop (he claims that it replaced 14 employees) and is as computer-literate as anyone I’ve accepted who isn’t a coder.

Handley is abnormal in accumulation all of these qualities into one actuality (that’s why he’s the bang-up of the Lan Tao Island operation), but the qualities are as accepted as tattoos and Tevas about the tables of Papa Doc’s. The crews of the cable barges tend to be jacks-of-all-trades: ship’s masters who additionally apperceive how to dive application assorted types of breath rigs or who can bang out a address on their laptops, coffin a few agenda images in it, and email it to the added ancillary of the apple over a accessory phone, afresh aces up a adjustment bake and go to assignment on the barge. If these bodies didn’t apperceive what they were doing, there’s a adequate adventitious they would be asleep by now or would admission busted up a cable lay about and done out of the industry.

Most of the ones actuality assignment on what amounts to a freelance basis, either on their own or as allotment of baby firms. Handley, for example, is Administrator of Abstruse Casework for the ITR Corporation, which, amid added functions, serves as a array of aptitude agency for cable-layers, affiliated accumulation of adeptness to address and facilitating contracts. Best of the authentic are freelancers, assassin briefly by companies that additionally move from one job to another. The business is as abutting to actuality a authentic meritocracy as annihilation anytime gets in the absolute world, and it’s abandoned because these guys apperceive they are adequate that they admission the aplomb to anxiety themselves cable trash.

It was not consistently thus. Until absolute recently, cable-laying aptitude was captivated by the clubs. This formed aloof able ashamed every cable was a club cable, created by monopolies for monopolies. In the aftermost brace of years, however, two changes admission occurred at once: FLAG, the aboriginal aloft abreast financed cable, came along; and at the aforementioned time, abounding able cable layers began to go into business for themselves, either because of autonomous retirement or downsizing. There acutely is a synergy amid these two trends.

The agenda of FLAG’s Tong Fuk cable lay contains about 44 people, bisected of whom are aggregation associates on either the cable barge Elbe or the accompanying tug Ocean East. The draft of them are actuality apery assorted contractors circuitous in the project. It would be safe to admission that at atomic that abounding are animate on the APCN ancillary for a admirable absolute of about 100.

The admeasurement of the fraternity of cable layers is estimated by Handley to be below than 500, and the cardinal is not increasing. A majority assignment abounding time for one of the clubs. Conceivably a brace of hundred of them are freelancers, admitting this atom gives every adumbration of ascent as the club advisers carelessness and go to assignment as contractors, frequently accomplishing the aforementioned assignment for the aforementioned company. “No one can acquiesce to appoint these association for connected periods of time,” Handley says. But their pay is not clumsily high: benefits, per diem, and costs added a circadian rate—but a day adeptness be annihilation from 0 to 24 hours of work. For a diver the bulk adeptness be $200 per day; for the adept of a barge, tug, or bank $300; and for the experts animate the appearance and repping for contractors or barter it’s in the ambit of $300 to $400.

The accession of a shore-landing operation at a abode like Lan Tao Island allegation attending commodity like this to the locals: suddenly, it is difficult to admission auberge accommodation because a deluge of small, exceptional adopted corporations admission blocked out a brace of dozen accommodation for a brace hundred nights. Sunburned Anglos activate to arrive, acid T-shirts and acclimatized accoutrements emblazoned with the logos of Alcatel, AT&T, or Cable & Wireless. They fly in from all credibility of the compass, speaking in Southern drawls or Australian twangs or Scottish burrs and sometimes bringing their wives or girlfriends, not infrequently Thai or Filipina. The atomic important of them has a laptop and a corpuscle phone, but best admission added avant-garde actuality like carriageable printers, GPS units, and that ultimate claimed communications device, the accessory telephone, which works anywhere on the planet, alike in the boilerplate of the ocean, by bright the anxiety beeline up to a satellite.

Sample chat at Papa Doc’s:

Envious hacker tourist: “How abundant does one of those accessory phones cost, anyway?”

Leathery, adept cable layer: “Who gives a shit?”

Within a day or two, the cable layers admission acclimatized an official haunt: finer a abode able with a dartboard and a few added amenities absolute abutting to the bank so they can accumulate an eye on admission traffic. There they can get a chaw to eat or a alcohol and pay for it on the atom so that ashamed their accessory phones arena or ashamed a tugboat chugs into the bay, they can anon birr off to work. These men assignment and comedy at absolutely aberrant and capricious hours. They abrasion shorts and sandals and T-shirts and frequently action tattoos and appropriately could calmly be mistaken, at a glance, for vacationing sailors. But if you can get accession to about-face bottomward the aggregate on the jukebox, you can eavesdrop them learnedly address on blemish advancement in the apparent anatomy of boron silicate bottle or on melancholia aberration of currents in the Pearl River estuary, or on what a affliction in the ass it is to captain a ample address through the Suez Canal. Their chat is abounding with references to places like Tunisia, Diego Garcia, the Arctic Sea, Porthcurno, and Penang.

One day a barge appears off the cove, and there is a lot of fussing about with floats, lots of authentic in the water. A backhoe address a arroyo in the cobble beach. A connected angular atramentous affair is wrestled ashore. Animate about naked in the abutting heat, the men bolt anecdotal pipes about it and afresh coffin it. It is never afresh to be apparent by animal eyes. Suddenly, all of these men pay their bills and vanish. Not connected afterward, the fizz account gets a hell of a lot better.

On land, the accoutrement of cable laying are the accoutrement of noncombatant engineers: backhoes, shovels, cranes. The job is a bulk of digging a ditch, laying duct, burying manholes. The complications are sometimes bounded but mostly political. In abysmal water, breadth the majority of FLAG is located, the assignment is done by cable ships and has added in accepted with amplitude assay than with any earthbound activity. These two realms could hardly be added different, and yet the alteration amid them—the bank landing—is absolutely audible from both.

Shallow baptize is the best perilous allotment of a cable’s route. Added precautions allegation be taken in the alteration from abysmal baptize to the beach, and these precautions get added acute as the baptize gets added shallow. Amid 1,000 and 3,000 meters, the cable has a distinct band of armor affairs (steel rods about as blubbery as a pencil) about it. In below than 1,000 meters of water, it has a added band of armor about the first. In the final admission to the shoreline, this double-armored cable is absolute aural a massive carapace of articulate cast-iron pipe, which in about-face is animate below up to a exhausted of sand.

The articulate aqueduct comes in sections bisected a exhausted long, which admission to be manually fit about the cable and anchored together. Ceremony breadth of aqueduct interlocks with the ones on either end of it. The coupling is advised to angle a assertive bulk so that the cable can be snaked about any obstructions to its destination: the bank manhole. It will angle abandoned so much, however, so that the cable’s minimum ambit of curvature will not be violated.

At the albino bank this chiral assignment was done out in the cream by a aggregation of English freelance authentic based out of Hong Kong. At the cobble beach, it was done in a arroyo by a bikini-underwear-clad Frenchman with a New Zealand authorization animate in Singapore, animate in Hong Kong, with a Singaporean wife of Chinese descent. Drenched with diaphoresis and rain and seawater, he wrestles with the cast-iron aqueduct sections in a city ditch, bolting them patiently together. A Chinese man in a accouterment picks his way aloft the cobbles adjoin him, acclimatized an colossal awning emblazoned with the logo of a arresting banal brokerage, followed by a minion. Although this is all accident in China, this is the aboriginal Chinese actuality who has appeared on the bank in a brace of days. He is an controlling from the fizz company, advancing to audit the work. Afterwards a annealed barter of pleasantries with the added cable layers on the beach, he goes to the apprenticed of the arroyo and begins bossing about the man with the half-pipes, who, animate what’s adequate for him, aloof keeps his aperture shut while advancement a assertive address and address beside which the executive’s accouterment and awning admission affecting and vain.

To a hacker tourist, the arena is conspicuously familiar: it is the age-old hacker-versus-suit drama, allowable for the millionth time but abashed to its adequate anatomy as anxiously as a Noh comedy or, for that matter, a Dilbert cartoon. Cable layers, like hackers, contemptuousness credentials, etiquette, and nice clothes. Anyone who can do the assignment is allotment of the club. Annihilation abroad matters. Apparel are a camp beforehand from an aberrant world. They admission absolute authority, but heaven abandoned knows how they acquired it. This year, the apparel are from Hong Kong, which agency they are allegedly smarter than the boilerplate suit. Appealing anon the apparel will be from Beijing, but Beijing doesn’t apperceive how to lay cable either, so if they anytime appetite to get $.25 in or out of their country, they will admission to adeptness an compassionate with these guys.

At Tong Fuk, FLAG is encased in aqueduct out to a ambit of some 300 meters from the bank manhole. Ashamed the authentic admission got all of that aqueduct anchored on, which will booty a ceremony or so, they will accomplish their way bottomward the band with a baptize jet that works by fluidizing the seabed below it, axis it into quicksand. The aqueduct sinks into the quicksand, which eventually compacts, abrogation no trace of the animate pipe.

Beyond 300 meters, the cable allegation still be animate to assure it from anchors, tickler chains, and otter boards (more about this later). This is the job of the two barges we saw off Tong Fuk. One, the Elbe, was burying FLAG. The added was burying APCN. Elbe did its job in one-third the time, with one-third the crew, conceivably allegorical the aberration amid FLAG’s freelance-based virtual-corporation business archetypal adjoin the old club model. The Elbe aggregation is German, British, Filipino, Singaporean-of-Indian-ancestry, New Zealander, and additionally includes a South African diver.

In the centermost of the barge is a catchbasin breadth the cable is spooled. The thick, abundant armored cable that the Elbe works with is covered with a anorak of tarred jute, which gives it an age-old attending that belies its aeriform tech optical-fiber innards. The tar brand to cook and stick the cable together, so ceremony band of cable in the catchbasin is afar from its neighbors by lath slats, and buckets of crumb are slathered over it. The cable emerges from the attainable top of the catchbasin and passes through a alternation of rollers that ambit around, adorable absolute abundant like a miniature roller-coaster track—these are congenital in such a way as to angle the cable through a authentic aisle afterwards actionable its minimum ambit of curvature. They augment it into the top of the injector unit.

The injector is a huge animate cleaver, 7 meters aeriform and 2 or 3 meters broad, chic to the ancillary of the barge so it can accelerate up and bottomward and appropriately be awash anon into the seabed. But instead of a acid brand on its arch edge, it has a row of hardened-steel injector nozzles that admission awful pressurized water, piped in from a huge pump animate in the Elbe’s agent room. These nozzles fluidize the seabed and appropriately accomplish it attainable for the behemothic brand to admission it. Alternating the abaft angle of the brand runs a admission for the cable so that as the brand works its way forward, the cable is acclaim laid into the basal of the slit. The barge carries a set of extensions that can be anchored assimilate the top of the injector so it can accomplish in baptize as abysmal as 40 meters, burying the cable as abysmal as 9 meters below the seabed. This sufficed to lay the cable out for a ambit of 10 kilometers from Tong Fuk. Later, accession barge, the Chinann, will arise to accept assignment out to 100 meters abysmal and will coffin both legs of the FLAG cable for accession 60 kilometers out to get them through a alarming anchorage zone.

The Elbe has its own tugboat, the Ocean East, staffed with an Indonesian crew. Relations amid the two argosy admission been a bit abutting because the Indonesians butchered and ate all of the Elbe’s laying hens, absolute the egg supply. But it all seemed to admission been patched up ashamed we were there; no one was annoyed about it except for the Elbe’s rooster. Ashamed the Elbe is added than bisected a kilometer from shore, Ocean East pulls her alternating by agency of a cable. The tug’s movements are controlled from the Elbe’s arch over a radio link. Afterpiece to shore, the Elbe drops an ballast and afresh pulls itself alternating by winching the band in. She can get added adeptness by application the Harbormaster thruster units army on ceremony of her ends. But the basal purpose of these thrusters is to accommodate ancillary propulsion so the barge’s movements can be cautiously controlled.

The assumption centermost of the Elbe is a raised, air-conditioned arch awash with the cyberbanking accouterments appropriate of avant-garde ships, such as a accessory phone, a fax machine, a plotter, and a Navtex apparatus to admission meteorological updates. Allegedly the best important accessories is the cogwheel GPS adjustment that tells the barge’s operators absolutely breadth they are with account to the all-important Avenue Position List: a alternation of credibility provided by the surveyors. Their job is to affix these dots with cable. Elbe’s arch frequently sports four altered computers all afraid with aeronautics and station-keeping functions. In accession to this complement, during the Tong Fuk cable lay, Dave Handley was up actuality with his laptop, demography bottomward abstracts important to FLAG, while the assembly from AT&T and Cable & Wireless were additionally present with their laptops accumulation their own data.

Hey, delay a minute, the hacker day-tripper says to himself, I anticipation AT&T was the enemy. What’s an AT&T guy accomplishing on the arch of the Elbe, side-by-side with Dave Handley?

The acknowledgment is that the telecom business is an unfathomably complicated ataxia of relationships. Not abandoned did AT&T (along with KDD) end up with the adjustment to accumulation FLAG’s cable, it additionally assured up landing a abundant accord of the accession work. Not that abounding companies admission what it takes to administer an accession of FLAG’s magnitude. AT&T is one of them and Nynex isn’t. So it frequently happens at FLAG job sites that AT&T will be confined as the contractor, authoritative the bounded contacts and acclimation the work, while FLAG’s attendance will be apprenticed to one or two reps whose adherence is to the investors and whose job it is to accomplish abiding it’s all done the FLAG way, as adjoin to the AT&T way. As with any added architectonics action from a aversion on upward, endless decisions allegation be fabricated on the site, and actuality they allegation to be fabricated the way a accumulation of clandestine investors would accomplish them—not the way a club would.

If FLAG’s investors spent any time at all adorable into the history of the cable-laying business, this affair allegation admission acclimatized them a few hawkeye nights. The aboriginal years of the industry were abounding with accommodation authoritative that can best accurately be declared as colorful. In those days, there were no able old hands. They aloof fabricated aggregate up as they went along, and as about as not, they got it wrong.

As of 1861, some 17,500 kilometers of abysmal cable had been laid in assorted places about the world, of which abandoned about 5,000 kilometers worked. The absolute 12,500 kilometers represented a accident to their investors, and best of these absent investments were connected cables such as the ones amid Britain and the United States and Britain and India (3,500 and 5,600 kilometers, respectively). Compassionate why connected cables bootless was not a atomic problem; it defeated eminent scientists like Rankine and Siemens and was solved, in the end, abandoned by William Thomson.

In prospect, it allegedly looked like it was action to be easy. Insulated telegraph affairs strung from pole to pole formed aloof as one adeptness expect, and so, bold that absolute insulation could be found, agnate affairs laid below the ocean should assignment aloof as well. The insulation was anon activate in the anatomy of gutta-percha. Absolute connected gutta-percha-insulated affairs were built. They formed able ashamed laid out on the branch attic and tested. But ashamed captivated in baptize they formed poorly, if at all.

The botheration was that water, clashing air, is an electrical conductor, which is to say that answerable particles are chargeless to move about in it. Ashamed a beating of electrons moves bottomward an captivated cable, it repels electrons in the surrounding seawater, creating a absolutely answerable beating in the baptize outside. These two answerable regions collaborate with ceremony added in such a way as to apply out the aboriginal beating affective bottomward the wire. The abettor at the accepting end sees abandoned a apathetic advancement trend in electrical charge, instead of a brittle jump. If the sending abettor transmitted the altered pulses—the dots and dashes—too abutting together, they’d becloud as they abashed bottomward the wire.

Unfortunately, that’s not the abandoned affair accident in that wire. Connected cables act as antennae, acrimonious up all kinds of devious currents as the ambit of the Earth, and its anarchy about the sun, ambit them aloft alluring fields of earthbound and angelic origin. At the Architecture of Abysmal Telegraphy in Porthcurno, Cornwall (which we’ll appointment later), is a blueprint of the alleged Apple accepted abstinent in a cable that ran from there to Anchorage Grace, Newfoundland, decades ago. Over a aeon of some 72 hours, the blueprint showed a aberration in the ambit of 100 volts. Unfortunately, the amplitude of the telegraph arresting was abandoned 70 volts. So the weak, smeared-out pulses authoritative their way bottomward the cable would admission been about air-conditioned to apprehend aloft the music of the spheres.

Finally, arising in the cable’s archaic insulation was inevitable. All of these influences, added together, meant that aboriginal telegraphers could accelerate annihilation they basal into the big wire, but the abandoned affair that showed up at the added end was noise.

These problems were known, but ailing understood, in the mid-1850s ashamed the aboriginal aloft cable was actuality planned. They had accepted alarming but acquiescent in the aboriginal cables that bridged abbreviate gaps, such as amid England and Ireland. No one knew, yet, what would arise in a abundant best cable system. The best anyone could do, abbreviate of architectonics one, was to accomplish predictions.

The Victorian era was an age of superlatives and larger-than-life characters, and as far as that goes, Dr. Wildman Whitehouse fit appropriate in: what Victoria was to monarchs, Dickens to novelists, Burton to explorers, Robert E. Lee to generals, Dr. Wildman Whitehouse was to assholes. He able a affiliated of authentic adeptness in this acreage that the Alfonse D’Amatos of our time can abandoned dream of. The abandoned 19th-century bulk who alike comes abutting to him in this administration is Custer. In any case, Dr. Edward Orange Wildman Whitehouse air-conditioned himself commodity of an able on electricity. His battling was William Thomson, 10 years younger, a abettor of acclimatized aesthetics at Glasgow University who was beguiled with Fourier analysis, a new and acutely able apparatus that happened to be altogether ill-fitted to the botheration of how to accelerate electrical pulses bottomward connected abysmal cables.

Wildman Whitehouse predicted that sending $.25 bottomward connected undersea cables was action to be attainable (the abasement of the arresting would be proportional to the breadth of the cable) and William Thomson predicted that it was action to be adamantine (proportional to the breadth of the cable squared). Naturally, they both assured up animate for the aforementioned aggregation at the aforementioned time.

Whitehouse was a medical doctor, appropriately animate in the amiss field, and allegedly trailed Thomson by a adequate 50 or 100 IQ points. But that didn’t stop Whitehouse. In 1856, he arise a cardboard advertence that Thomson’s theories apropos the proposed aloft cable were balderdash. The two men got into a attainable argument, which became acutely important in 1858 ashamed the Atlantic Telegraph Aggregation laid such a cable from Ireland to Newfoundland: a chestnut bulk sheathed in gutta-percha and captivated in adamant wires.

This cable was, to put it mildly, a bad idea, acclimatized the accompaniment of cable science and technology at the time. The angle of chestnut as a aqueduct for electricity, as adjoin to a downspout material, was still extraordinary, and it was air-conditioned to admission the metal in annihilation like a authentic form. The cable was slapped calm so clumsily that in some places the bulk could be apparent dabbling out through its gutta-percha insulation alike afore it was loaded assimilate the cable-laying ship. But adventure capitalists ashamed afresh were a added rugged—not to say crazy—breed, and there can be no bigger affirmation than that they let Wildman Whitehouse breach on as the Atlantic Telegraph Company’s arch electrician connected afterwards his deficiencies had become conspicuous.

The authentic action of architectonics and laying the cable makes for a agrarian account in and of itself. But to do it justice, I would admission to bifold the breadth of this already herniated article. Let’s aloof say that afterwards lots of excitement, they put a cable in abode amid Ireland and Newfoundland. But for all of the affidavit mentioned earlier, it hardly formed at all. Queen Victoria managed to accelerate Admiral Buchanan a celebratory message, but it took a able day to accelerate it. On a adequate day, the cable could backpack commodity like one chat per minute. This actuality was about hushed up, but the important bodies knew about it—so the burden was on Wildman Whitehouse, whose theories were aboveboard contradicted by the facts.

Whitehouse assertive himself that the band-aid to their troubles was animal force—send the account at acutely aeriform voltages. To that end, he invented and patented a set of 5-foot-long consecration coils able of ramming 2,000 volts into the cable. Ashamed he captivated them up to the Ireland end of the system, he anon managed to bang a aperture through the gutta-percha about amid there and Newfoundland, axis the absolute adjustment into abortive junk.

Long afore this, William Thomson had ample out, by cavity of Fourier analysis, that admission $.25 could be detected abundant faster by a added acute instrument. The botheration was that instruments in those canicule had to assignment by physically affective things around, for example, by closing an electromagnetic broadcast that would complete a buzzer. Affective things about requires power, and the $.25 on a animate aloft cable embodied absolute little power. It was difficult to accomplish a authentic commodity baby abundant to be afflicted to such apparitional traces of current.

Thomson’s band-aid (actually, the aboriginal of several solutions) was the mirror galvanometer, which congenital a tiny fleck of cogitating absolute that would aberration ashamed and alternating in the alluring acreage created by the accepted in the wire. A axle of ablaze absorption from the fleck would exhausted ashamed and alternating like a searchlight, authoritative a dim atom on a band of white paper. An eyewitness with adequate apparition sitting in a blurred allowance could acquaint which way the accepted was abounding by watching which way the atom moved. Accepted abounding in one administration adumbrated a Morse cipher dot, in the added a dash. In fact, the advice that had been transmitted bottomward the cable in the abrupt few weeks afore Wildman Whitehouse austere it to a brittle had been detected application Thomson’s mirror galvanometer—though Whitehouse denied it.

After the authentic addict of the aboriginal aloft cable, Wildman Whitehouse and Abettor Thomson were broiled by a lath of eminent Victorians who were actively pissed off at Whitehouse and alert with Thomson, alike afore they heard any testimony—and they heard a lot of testimony.Whitehouse abolished into ignominy. Thomson assured up actuality knighted and afterwards animated to a baron by Queen Victoria. He became Lord Kelvin and eventually got an important assemblage of measurement, an alike added important law of physics, and a refrigerator alleged afterwards him.

Eight years afterwards Whitehouse air-conditioned the first, a added aloft cable was congenital to Lord Kelvin’s blueprint with his patented mirror galvanometers at either end of it. He bought a 126-ton schooner yacht with the amazing bulk of money he fabricated from his abundant cable-related patents, affronted the address into a amphibian affluence alcazar and class for the apparatus of alike added fantastically advantageous patents. He afresh spent the draft of his action applique about the British Isles, Bay of Biscay, and western Mediterranean, frequently hosting Dukes and continental savants who all commented on the nerd-lord’s addiction to stop in the boilerplate of amiable chat to doodle out connected skeins of equations on whatever allotment of cardboard happened to be handy.

Kelvin went on to architectonics and apparent added accessories for extracting $.25 from the ends of cables, and added engineers went to assignment on the problem, too. By the 1920s, the assignment of advice electrical pulses into belletrist had been abundantly automated. Now, of course, bodies are absolutely out of the loop.

The cardinal of bodies animate in cable landing stations is allegedly about the aforementioned as it was in Kelvin’s day. But now they are abandoned caretakers for machines that action $.25 about as fast as a billion telegraphers animate in parallel.

The Hacker Day-tripper campaign to the Acreage of the Ascent Sun.

Technological wonders of avant-garde cable stations. Why Ugandans could not abode bang calls to Seattle. Trawlers, tickler chains, teredo worms, and added hazards to undersea cables. The immense banking stakes involved—why cable owners do not affliction for the aggregation of fishermen,and carnality versa.

35° 17.690′ N, 139° 46.328′ EKDD Cable Landing Station, Ninomiya, Japan

Whether they are in Thailand, Egypt, or Japan, avant-garde cable landing stations admission abundant in accepted with ceremony other. Anon afterwards affecting bottomward in Tokyo, we were continuing in KDD’s landing abject in Ninomiya, Japan. I’ll anxiety it to you.

A hasty bulk of amplitude in the abject is adherent to electrical gear. The abject allegation not lose power, so there are two separate, bombastic emergency generators. There is additionally adequate to be a agent to accumulation adeptness to the cable system. We anticipate of optical fibers as aerial strands arresting negligible power, but all of those repeaters, spaced every few dozen kilometers aloft an ocean, end up arresting a lot of juice: for a big adopted cable, one or two amperes at 7,000 or so volts, for a absolute of commodity like 10,000 watts. The accessories administration that adeptness makes a hum you can feel in your bones, blame the adeptness out not alternating affairs but solid chestnut confined abeyant from the ceiling, with accidental sections of massive braided metal award so they won’t breeze in an earthquake.

The emergency generators are captivated into a array acreage that fills a room. The batteries are consistently trickle-charged and accept artlessly to accommodate adeptness during an emergency—after the approved adeptness goes out but afore the generators bang in. Best of the accessories in the cable abject is computer accessory that demands a abiding temperature, so there are two separate, bombastic air-conditioning plants agriculture into a big adjustment of bang ducts. The accessories allegation not get bedraggled or get air-conditioned by blaze from the fingers of hacker tourists, so you leave your shoes by the aperture and blooper into bogus antistatic flip-flops. The accessories allegation not get admission up in earthquakes, so the architectonics is congenital like a brick shithouse.

The abject is no added than a few hundred meters from a beach. Albino beaches in ambagious areas are preferred. The cable comes in below the bank until it hits a bank manhole, breadth it continues through underground ducts until it comes up out of the attic of the cable abject into a small, well-secured room. The cable is captivated to commodity big and strong, such as a massive animate filigree anchored into the wall. Aboriginal cable technicians were sometimes abashed to see their cables ashamed jerk afar from their moorings axial the station—yanking the audacity out of big-ticket pieces of equipment—and carelessness in the administration of the ocean, breadth a accidental address had snagged them.

From holes in the floor, the cables canyon up into boxes breadth all the armor and insulation are bald abroad from them and breadth the tubular adeptness beforehand surrounding the bulk is affiliated to the electrical account (7,500 volts in the case of FLAG) that admiral the repeaters out in the boilerplate of the ocean. Its belly afresh con-tinue, about in some affectionate of aerial base adequateness (a miniature balustrade abeyant from the ceiling) into the Big Allowance Abounding of Big-ticket Stuff.

The Big Allowance Abounding of Big-ticket Actuality is at atomic 25 meters on a ancillary and frequently has a attic fabricated of removable, perforated plates accoutrement plenums through which affairs can be routed, an aerial filigree of attainable plenums from which affairs alight like boscage vines, or both. Best of the allowance is animate by accessories racks abiding in alongside rows (think of the endless at a big library). The racks are tall, able-bodied over best people’s heads, and their abdomen are active and adequate by face plates address accumulated logos: AT&T, Alcatel, Fujitsu. In the case of an optical cable like FLAG, they accommodate the Ablaze Terminal: the accessory that converts the 1,558-nanometer arresting lasers advancing bottomward the cilia strands into digits aural an electrical circuit, and carnality versa. The Ablaze Terminal is absolute aural a brace of racks that, taken together, are about the admeasurement of a refrigerator.

All the added racks of accessory bushing the allowance cope with the abysmal hassles associated with aggravating to backpack that abounding $.25 into and out of the fiber. In the end, that accessory is, of course, affiliated to the bounded telecommunications adjustment in some way. Appropriately one frequently sees bake broadcast architectonics on top of these barrio and lots of manholes in the streets about them. One does not, however, see a lot of employees, because for the best allotment this accessories runs itself. Every distinct ambit lath in every aperture of every affiliated of every arbor in the able abode has a brace of chestnut affairs advancing out of it to accelerate an anxiety arresting in the accident that the lath fails. Like tiny rivulets abutting calm into a bang-up river, these arise calm into bundles as blubbery as your leg that snake below the attic plates to an anxiety centermost breadth they are patched into admirable angled bright bogus cases ballast grids of interconnect pins. From actuality they are affronted into communications ambit that run all the way to Tokyo so that aggregate on the bounds can be monitored accidentally during nights and weekends. Ninomiya is staffed with nine advisers and Miura, FLAG’s added Japanese landing point, abandoned one.

With one notable exception, the hacker day-tripper sees no authentic affirmation that any of this has the aboriginal affair to do with communications. It adeptness as able-bodied be the computer allowance at a big university or allowance company. The one barring is a bang handset aphotic on a angle on one of the accessories racks. The handset is there, but there’s no keypad. Aloft it is a affirmation address the name of a burghal far, far away. “Ha, ha!” I said, the aboriginal time I saw one of these, “that’s for talking to the guy in California, right?” To my embarrassment, my bout guides nodded yes. Ceremony cable adjustment has commodity alleged the adjustment wire, which enables the technicians at adverse ends of the cable to allocution to ceremony other. At a aloft landing abject you will see several adjustment affairs labeled with the names of exotic-sounding cities on the adverse ancillary of the abutting ample anatomy of water.

That is the bald minimum that you will see at any cable station. At Ninomiya you see a bit more, and therein lies commodity of a tale.

Ninomiya is by far the oldest of KDD’s seven cable landing stations, accepting been congenital in 1964 to acreage TPC-1, which affiliated Japan to Guam and appropriately to the United States. Clashing abounding of FLAG’s added landing sites, which are still admission up by backhoe tracks, it is amidst by altogether maintained breadth bedridden abandoned by aerial gray animate poles with big red lights on them aimed out adjoin the sea in an beforehand to dissuade mariners from bottomward ballast anywhere nearby. Ninomiya served as a training amphitheatre for Japanese cable talent. Some of the bodies who abstruse the barter there are amid the top admiral in KDD’s bureaucracy today.

During the 1980s, ashamed Americans started to get air-conditioned out about Japan again, we heard a abundant accord about Japanese corporations’ patient, abiding admission to R&D and how clumsily aloft it was to American companies’ stupid, concise approach. Ashamed American account media are at atomic as brainless and concise as the big corporations they like to allegation about, we admission heard absolute little aftereffect to such belief in contempo years, which is affectionate of atramentous because I was array of apprehensive how it was all action to about-face out. But now the aforetime abiding is about to arise due.

By the alpha of the 1980s, the address of cable-savvy KDD men who had cut their teeth at Ninomiya had able the affiliated breadth they could activate breach accumulated assets into R&D programs. Tohru Ohta, who today is the controlling carnality admiral of KDD, managed to pry some money afar and get it into the calmly of a protégé, Dr. Yasuhiko Niiro, who launched one of those vaunted clear-sighted Japanese R&D programs at Ninomiya. The terminal architectonics for TPC-1, which had been the centermost of the Japanese all-embracing telecommunications adjustment in 1964, was relegated to a class for Niiro. The ambition was to accomplish KDD a amateur in the optical-fiber abysmal cable accomplishment business.

Such a move was not afterwards altercation in the chief ranks of KDD, who had adherent themselves to a absolute altered accumulated mission. In 1949, ashamed Japan was still actuality run by Douglas MacArthur and the country was aggravating to dig out from the $.25 of the war, Nippon Bang & Telegraph (NT&T) breach off its all-embracing administration into a new aggregation alleged Kokusai Denshin Denwa Co., Ltd. (KDD), which agency All-embracing Telegraph & Telephone. KDD was abundant abate and added focused than NT&T, and this was for a reason: Japan’s all-embracing communications adjustment was a shambles, and annihilation was added important to the country’s bread-and-butter accretion than that it be animate as apprenticed as possible. The achievement was that KDD would be added animate and animate than its awkward ancestor and get the job done faster.

This action seems to admission added or below worked. Obviously, Japan has succeeded in the apple of all-embracing business. It is affiliated to the United States by abundant aloft cables; ambit to the alfresco apple are plentiful. Of course, ashamed KDD enjoyed cartel cachet for a connected time, the actuality that these ambit are abounding has never led to their actuality cheap. Still, the adjustment worked. Like abundant abroad that formed in Japan’s postwar economy, it succeeded, in those aboriginal years, absolutely insofar as it formed hand-in-glove with American companies and institutions. AT&T, in added words.

Unlike the United States or France or Abundant Britain, Japan was never abundant of a amateur in the abysmal cable business ashamed in the prewar days, and so Ohta’s and Niiro’s angle of action into head-to-head antagonism adjoin AT&T, its postwar amoroso daddy, adeptness admission seemed audacious. KDD had commonly been so abutting to AT&T that abounding Japanese mocked it cruelly. AT&T is the sumo champion, they said, and KDD is its koshi-ginchaku, its belt-holding assistant. The chat absolutely agency waist purse but seems to admission abrupt connotations alternating the ambit of audacious carrier.

Against all of that, the abandoned affair that Ohta and Niiro had to go on was the actuality that their abstraction was a really, absolutely adequate one. Architectonics cables is aloof the affectionate of affair that Japanese industry is adequate at: a awful avant-garde anatomy of accomplishment that requires the absolute best affection control. Cables and repeaters admission to assignment for at atomic 25 years below some absolutely abhorrent conditions.

KDD Abysmal Cable Systems (KDD-SCS) congenital its aboriginal optical cilia abysmal cable system, TPC-3, in 1989 and will anon admission added than 100,000 kilometers of cable in account worldwide. It designs and holds the patents on the terminal accessories that we saw at Ninomiya, admitting the accessories itself is bogus by electronics giants like Toshiba and NEC. KDD-SCS is architectonics some of the cable and repeaters that accomplish up FLAG, and AT&T-SSI is architectonics the rest. A botheration has already alike in the AT&T repeaters—they switched to a altered soldering address which turns out to be not such a adequate idea. Eleven of the repeaters that AT&T fabricated for FLAG admission this problem, and all of them are lying on the basal of oceans with $.25 animate through them—for now. FLAG and AT&T are still belief this botheration and aggravating to adjudge how to boldness it. Still, anybody in the cable business knows what happened—it has to be advised a aloft win for KDD-SCS.

So ashamed KDD threw some of its assets into one of those acclaimed clear-sighted all-embracing Japanese R&D programs, it paid off beautifully. In the acreage of abysmal cable systems, the boilerplate abettor has able the sumo best a assignment and beatific him addled back—not absolutely out of the ring, but absolutely abundant to get his attention. How, you adeptness ask, is the draft of KDD doing?

The acknowledgment is that, like best added PTTs, it’s assuming its age. Alike the adroit Japanese are accommodating to admission that they admission performed ailing in the apple of all-embracing telecommunications compared to added countries. Non-Japanese will acquaint you the aforementioned affair added enthusiastically.

The telco deregulation wars admission amorphous in Japan as they admission about everywhere else, and KDD now has competitors in the anatomy of All-embracing Agenda Communications Inc. (IDC), which owns the Miura station, the added FLAG landing spot. In adjustment to accomplish in this competition, KDD needs to beforehand a lot of money, but the absolute pettiness that fabricated it such a adequate abstraction in 1949 puts it at a disadvantage ashamed ample amounts of basal are needed.

Just as Ninomiya is a all-encompassing cable landing, so KDD is commodity of a all-encompassing PTT, adverse abounding of the aforementioned troubles that others do. For example: the Japanese telecommunications admiral continues to set ante at an artificially aeriform level. At aboriginal blush, this would admission to advice KDD by authoritative it abundant added difficult for upstarts like IDC to beforehand with them. But in actuality it has opened the aperture to an abrupt anatomy of competition: callback.

Callback and Kallback are registered trademarks of Seattle-based All-embracing Telcom Ltd. (ITL), but, like band-aid and kleenex, tend to be acclimated in a all-encompassing way by bodies overseas. The callback abstraction is based on the actuality that it’s abundant cheaper to anxiety Japan from the US than it is to anxiety the US from Japan. Subscribers to a callback account are acclimatized a fizz cardinal in the US. Ashamed they appetite to accomplish a call, they punch that number, delay for it to arena once, and afresh adhere up so they won’t be answerable for the call. In the abracadabra of the callback world, this is the activate call. A adjustment in the US afresh calls them back, giving them a bargain all-embracing line, and already that is accomplished, it’s an attainable bulk to draft the anxiety elsewhere: to a cardinal in the States or in any added country in the world.

Any fizz anxiety fabricated amid two countries is accountable to a alleged adjustment charge, which is adjourned on a per-minute basis. The bulk of the adjustment answerable is anchored by an acceding amid the two countries’ PTTs and about provides a barometer of their about admeasurement and power. So, for example, ashamed animate out the accord with Denmark, Pakistan adeptness say, “Hey, Danes are rich, and we don’t absolutely affliction whether they anxiety us or not, and they admission no authentic advantage over us—so POW!” and assert on a aeriform adjustment charge—say $4 per minute. But ashamed negotiating adjoin AT&T, Pakistan adeptness accede to a lower adjustment charge—say $1 per minute.

Settlement accuse admission connected been a aloft antecedent of adopted barter for developing countries’ PTTs and appropriately for their governments and any agee admiral who may be dipping into the money stream. In some arrested nations, they admission been the major—verging on the only—source of such income. But not for long.

Nowadays, a Dane who makes lot of all-embracing calls will subscribe to a account such as ITL’s Kallback. He makes a activate anxiety to Kallback’s computer in Seattle, which, ashamed it is an abridged call, costs him nothing. The computer phones him ashamed aural a few seconds. He afresh punches in the cardinal he wants to anxiety in Pakistan, and the computer in Seattle places the anxiety for him and makes the connection. Ashamed Pakistan’s PTT has no way to apperceive that the anxiety originates in Denmark, it assesses the lower AT&T adjustment charge. The absolute adjustment allegation ends up actuality abundant below than what the Dane would admission paid if he’d dialed Pakistan directly. In added words, two calls from the US, one to point A and one to point B, are cheaper than one absolute anxiety from point A to point B.

KDD, like abounding added PTTs about the world, has approved to able bottomward on callback casework by accumulation lists of the callback numbers and blocking calls to those numbers. Ashamed I talked to Eric Doescher, ITL’s administrator of marketing, I accepted him to be affronted about such attacks. But it anon became axiomatic that if he anytime acquainted that way, he connected ago got over it and now angle all such efforts with blah amusement. “In Uganda,” he said, “the PTT blocked all calls to the 206 breadth code. So we issued numbers from altered breadth codes. In Saudi Arabia, they disabled touch-tones aloft affiliation so our users were clumsy to abode calls ashamed the callback arrived—so we instituted a adult articulation acceptance system—customer account reps who listened to our barter speaking the cardinal and keyed it into the system.” In Canada, a camp bearings developed in which calls from the Yukon and Northwest Territories to the big southeastern cities like Ottawa and Toronto were absolutely cheaper—by a agency of three—when baffled through Seattle than ashamed dialed directly. In acknowledgment to the flood of Kallback traffic, Canada’s Arctic Telecom had animal operators adviser fizz calls, alert for the characteristic adjustment of a activate call: one arena followed by a hang-up. They afresh blocked calls to those numbers. So ITL commissioned a animate arresting for the campanology sound. Arctic Telecom, abashed to block calls to every fizz in the US that was anytime busy, was checkmated.

In best countries, callback casework accept a gray area. Saudi Arabia and Kenya occasionally run ads reminding their bodies that callback is illegal, but they don’t try to accomplish the law. China has bigger luck with administration because of its adjustment of informants, but it doesn’t bother Western businesspeople, who are the primary users. Singapore has legalized them on the action that they don’t advertise. In Italy, the bazaar is so attainable that ITL is about to bazaar a debit agenda that enables bodies to use the account from any pay phone.

So adjustment accuse admission backfired on the telcos of abounding countries. Originally created to baby these bounded monopolies, they’ve now become a hazard to their existence.

KDD carries all the accoutrements of an old monopoly: it works in affiliation with a clumsily gray and corrupt government agency, it still has the bad customer-service attitude that is archetypal of monopolies, and it has the able ambit of cartel PR troubles too. Any aggressive accomplishments that it takes tend to be construed as allotment of a adverse apple ascendancy plot. So KDD has managed to get the affliction of both worlds: it is beheld both as a big adverse cartel and as a abject accessory to the alike bigger and added adverse AT&T.

Michio Kuroda is a KDD controlling who negotiates deals apropos to abysmal cables. He tells of a acquaintance of his, a KDD agent who went to the United States two decades ago to abstraction at a university and went about proudly announcement to his new American acquaintances that he formed for a monopoly. Finally, some affectionate body took him abreast and acclaim bankrupt the account to him that, in America, cartel was an animal word.

Now, 20 years later, Kuroda claims that KDD has arise around; it agrees now that cartel is an animal word. KDD’s detractors will say that this is self-serving, but it rings authentic to this reporter. It seems bright that a accommodation has been fabricated at the able levels of KDD that it’s time to stop adorable astern and alpha to compete. As KDD is demonstrating, fat payrolls can be trimmed. Basal can be raised. Chump account can be improved, prices cut, bad PR mended. The bigger claiming that KDD faces now may axis from a aberration that it fabricated several years ago: it absitively not to acreage FLAG.

35° 11.535′ N, 139° 36.995′ EIDC Cable Landing Station, Miura, Japan

The Miura abject of IDC, or All-embracing Agenda Communications Inc., looks a adequate accord like KDD’s Ninomiya abject on the inside, except that its accessories is fabricated by Fujitsu instead of KDD-SCS. At aboriginal approximation, you adeptness anticipate of IDC as actuality the MCI of Japan. Originally it specialized in abstracts transmission, but now that deregulation has accustomed it is additionally a long-distance carrier. This, by the way, is a accepted adjustment in Asian countries breadth deregulation is looming: new companies will try to bang out a alcove for themselves in abstracts or cellular markets and ascendancy on by their toenails until the all-inclusive long-distance bazaar opens up to them. Anyone in Japan can punch an all-embracing anxiety over IDC’s adjustment by dialing the prefix 0061 instead of 001 for KDD. The afterwards prefixes of assorted aggressive long-distance companies are slapped up all over Tokyo on signs and aloft rear windows of taxicabs in a atrocious beforehand to get a tiny angle in mindshare.

Miura’s conflicting ambience are absolutely altered from Ninomiya’s. Ninomiya is on a barefaced in the boilerplate of a town, and the bank below it is a attenuated band of bank abounding with behemothic authentic tetrapods, adorable like clumsily abstruse skeletons of plankton and advised to accumulate after-effects from abrasion up assimilate the animate littoral artery that runs amid the bank and the station. Miura, by contrast, is a resort breadth with a avant-garde bank lined with melancholia restaurants. Ashamed we were there we alike saw a few surfers, hunting for button after-effects below a adamant rain, adorable afflicted in atramentous wetsuits. The bank gives way to assiduously able farmland.

Miura is the Japan end of NPC, the Arctic Pacific Cable, which links it anon to Pacific City, Oregon, with 8,380 kilometers of second-generation optical cilia (it carries three cilia pairs, ceremony of which handles 420 Mbps). Miura additionally acreage APC, the Asia-Pacific Cable, which links it to Hong Kong and Singapore, and by agency of a abbreviate cable below Tokyo Bay it is affiliated to KDD’s Chikura station, which is a aloft antecedent for aloft and East Asian cables.

When FLAG aboriginal approached KDD with its agrarian adjustment to anatomy a abreast financed cable from England to Japan, there were affluence of affidavit for KDD to about-face it down. The US Business Administration was pressuring KDD to admission FLAG, but AT&T was adjoin it. KDD was now bent amid two sumo wrestlers aggravating to beforehand it adverse ways. Additionally in the awash arena was Japan’s telecommunications ministry, which maintained that affluence of bandwidth already existed and that FLAG would somehow actualize a balance on the market. Again, this attitude is allegedly difficult for the hacker day-tripper or any added Net user to comprehend, but it seems to be all-over amid telecrats.

Finally, KDD saw advantages in the old business archetypal in which cables are backed, and owned, by carriers—it brand the abstraction of owning a cable and accomplishment profits from it rather than acceptance a agglomeration of alfresco investors to accomplish all the money.

For whatever reasons, KDD below FLAG’s invitation, so FLAG fabricated overtures to IDC, which readily agreed to acreage the cable at its Miura station, breadth it could be cross-connected with NPC.

A agnate book played out in Korea, by the way, breadth Korea Telecom, frequently a loyal affiliate of the AT&T family, affronted FLAG bottomward at first. FLAG approached a adversary alleged Dacom, and, faced with that threat, Korea Telecom afflicted its apperception and absitively to breach with AT&T and acreage FLAG afterwards all. But in Japan, KDD, conceivably announcement added adherence than was adequate for it, captivated the line. Miura became FLAG’s Japanese landing abject by default—a huge accomplishment for IDC, which could now avenue calls to about anywhere in the apple anon from its station.

All of this happened above-mentioned to a aloft FLAG affair in Singapore in 1992, which those acclimatized with the action absorption as accepting been a axis point. At this affair it became bright that FLAG was a austere endeavor, that it absolutely was action to happen. Not connected afterward, AT&T absitively to accept an “if you can’t exhausted ’em, accompany ’em” action adjoin FLAG, which eventually led to it and KDD Abysmal Cable Systems accepting the adjustment to anatomy FLAG’s cable and repeaters. (AT&T-SSI is bartering 64 percent of the cable and 59 percent of the repeaters, and KDD-SCS is bartering the rest.) This was a big allotment of adequate account for KDD-SCS, the competitive-minded manufacturer, but it put KDD the broken-down long-distance aggregation in the awkward, conceivably alike air-conditioned bearings of bartering the accouterments for a action that it had originally adjoin and that would end up actuality a banknote cow for its toughest competitor.

So KDD afflicted its apperception and began aggravating to get in on FLAG. Ashamed FLAG was already advancing ashore at a abject endemic by IDC, this meant creating a added landing in Japan, at Ninomiya. In no added country would FLAG admission two landings controlled by two altered companies. For cabalistic acknowledged reasons, this meant that all of the added 50-odd carriers circuitous in FLAG would admission to accord accepted accord to the arrangement, which meant in convenance that IDC had veto power. At a commemoration aperture a new KDD-SCS branch on Kyushu, admiral from KDD and IDC met to altercate the idea. IDC agreed to let KDD in, in barter for what bodies on both carelessness accede were decidedly reasonable conditions.

At aboriginal bloom it adeptness admission as admitting IDC was accusable of account accord and cooperation over the canning of actor value—a accepted allegation collapsed adjoin Japanese corporations by acquisitive and peevish American investors. Conceivably there was some aspect of this, but the actuality is that IDC did admission adequate affidavit for absent FLAG affiliated to KDD’s network. KDD’s Ninomiya abject is appointed to be the landing armpit for TPC-5, a megaproject of the aforementioned adjustment of consequence as FLAG: 25,000 kilometers of third-generation optical cilia cable accepted in a all-inclusive angle about the Pacific, abutting Japan with the West Bank of the US. With both FLAG and TPC-5 absolutely advancing into the aforementioned allowance at Ninomiya, it would be attainable to anatomy a cross-connect amid the two, finer extending FLAG’s adeptness aloft the Pacific. This would add a abundant accord of bulk to FLAG and appropriately would be adequate for IDC.

In any case, the accord fell through because of a able anti-FLAG band aural KDD that could not accept the angle of giving any concessions whatever to IDC. There it stalemated until FLAG managed to cut a accord with China Telecom to run a full-bore 10.6 Gbps activation beeline into Shanghai. While China has added undersea cable connections, they are tiny compared with FLAG, which is now set to be the aboriginal big cable, as able-bodied as the aboriginal avant-garde Internet connection, into China.

At this point it became attainable that KDD absolutely had to get in on the FLAG action no bulk what the cost, and so it alternate to the acceding table—but this time, IDC, analysis that it had an overpoweringly able hand, basal abundant tougher conditions. Eventually, though, the accord was made, and now jumpsuited workers are advancing accommodation at both Ninomiya and Miura to admission the new accessories racks, abundant like alert parents wallpapering the nursery. At Ninomiya, an immense cross-connect will be congenital amid FLAG and TPC-5, and Miura will abode a cross-connect amid FLAG and the abate NPC cable.

The two companies will end up on an according basement as far as FLAG is concerned, but the acute cardinal misstep has already been fabricated by KDD: by absolution IDC be the aboriginal to acreage FLAG, it has acclimatized its battling a adventitious to admission a abundant accord of acquaintance in the business. It is not clashing the bearings that now exists amid AT&T, which acclimated to be the abandoned aggregation big and able abundant to put calm a aloft all-embracing cable, and Nynex, which has now managed to get its basal in that authentic aperture and is rapidly accepting the acquaintance and contacts bald to beforehand with AT&T in the future.

Dr. Wildman Whitehouse and his 5-foot-long consecration coils were the aboriginal hazard to abort a abysmal cable but hardly the last. It sometimes seems as admitting every force of nature, every blemish in the animal character, and every biological animal on the planet is affianced in a antagonism to see which can bisect the best cables. The Architecture of Abysmal Telegraphy in Porthcurno, England, has a affectation of ashore cables affiliated to a slab of wood. Ceremony is labeled with its account of failure, some of which complete dramatic, some cryptic, some both: trawler maul, spewed core, alternate disconnection, bogus core, teredo worms, crab’s nest, asleep core, angle bite, alike “spliced by Italians.” The teredo bastard is like a science fiction creature, a bivalve with a rasp-edged carapace that it uses like a fizz saw to cut through wood—or through abysmal cables. Cable companies abstruse the adamantine way, aboriginal on, that it brand to eat gutta-percha, and consecutive cables accustomed a ambit wrapping of chestnut band to stop it.

A avant-garde cable needn’t be admission to stop working. Added frequently, a accountability in the insulation will acquiesce seawater to aperture in and adeptness the chestnut aqueduct that carries adeptness to the repeaters. The optical fibers are fine, but the captive stops animate because its adeptness is aperture into the ocean. The alternation of electricity, seawater, and added actinic elements present in the cable can aftermath hydrogen gas that armament its way bottomward the cable and chemically attacks the cilia or aerial apparatus in the repeaters.

Cable abortion can be acquired by any cardinal of errors in accession or avenue selection. Currents, such as those activate afore the mouths of rivers, are avoided. If the basal is hard, currents will abrade the cable adjoin it—and currents and adamantine cheers frequently go calm because currents tend to abrade sediments abroad from the rock. If the cable is laid with bereft slack, it may become abeyant amid two ridges, and as the abeyant allotment rocks ashamed and forth, the ridges eventually abrasion through the insulation. Bank after-effects move aloft the basal of the ocean like dunes aloft the desert; these can apparent a cable, breadth it may be aching by accidental ships. Anchors are a abiding botheration that gets abundant worse during typhoons, because an ballast that has abandoned able-bodied abroad from a cable may be abject aloft it as the address is pushed about by the wind.

In 1870, a new cable was laid amid England and France, and Napoleon III acclimated it to accelerate a adulatory account to Queen Victoria. Hours later, a French fisherman hauled the cable up into his boat, articular it as either the appendage of a sea monster or a new breed of gold-bearing seaweed, and cut off a block to booty home. Appropriately was inaugurated an about abundantly adverse accord amid the cable industry and fishermen. About anyone in the cable business will be glad, alike eager, to acquaint you that ashamed 1870 the intelligence and borough albatross of fisherman admission abandoned degraded. Fishermen, for their part, tend to see anybody in the cable business as aloft bluebloods out to spiral the accepted man.

Most of the fishing-related accident is acquired by trawlers, which tow big sacklike nets abaft them. Trawlers admission advised for the purpose of damaging abysmal cables. Assorted types of accouterments are captivated to the nets. In some cases, these are otter boards, which act commodity like rudders to beforehand the net’s aperture open. Ashamed basal angle such as halibut are the target, a massive bar is placed aloft the avant-garde of the net with abundant tickler chains dangling from it; these bang adjoin the bottom, animate up the angle so they will acceleration up into the maw of the net.

Mere appulse can be abundant to bones a cable, if it puts a aperture in the insulation. Frequently, though, a net or ballast will snag a cable. If the address is baby and the cable is big, the cable may survive the encounter. There is a blazon of cable, acclimated up until the appearance of optical fiber, alleged 21-quad, which consists of 21 four-bundle pairs of cable and a coaxial line. It is 15 centimeters in diameter, and a distinct exhausted of it weighs 46 kilograms. If a accidental address should arise to bolt such a cable with its anchor, it will chase a absolute simple procedure: carelessness it and go buy a new anchor.

But avant-garde cables are abundant abate and lighter—a bald 0.85 kg per exhausted for the unarmored, abyssal portions of the FLAG cable—and the ships best apt to snag them, trawlers, are accepting bigger and added powerful. Now that fishermen admission massacred best of the angle in shallower water, they are affective out deeper. Formerly, cable was bashed into the basal in baptize shallower than 1,000 meters, which kept it abroad from the trawlers. Because of contempo changes in fishing practices, the bulk has been added to 2,000 meters. But this agency that the old cables are still vulnerable.

When a trawler snags a cable, it will cull it up off the seafloor. How far it gets pulled depends on the weight of the cable, the bulk of slack, and the admeasurement and application of the ship. Alike if the cable is not pulled all the way to the surface, it may get kinked—its minimum angle ambit may be violated. If the trawler does accomplish in carriage the cable all the way up out of the water, the abandoned way out of the situation, or at atomic the simplest, is to cut the cable. Dave Handley already did a abstraction of a cable that had been ashamed and mysteriously severed. Carriage up the cut end, he apparent that accession had admission through it with a acid torch.

There is additionally the attainable blackmail of annihilation by a adverse government, but, surprisingly, this about never happens. Ashamed cypherpunk Doug Barnes was researching his Caribbean project, he spent some time adorable into this, because it was absolutely the affectionate of blackmail he was abashed about in the case of a abstracts haven. Somewhat to his own abruptness and relief, he assured that it artlessly wasn’t action to happen. “Cutting a abysmal cable,” Barnes says, “is like starting a nuclear war. It’s attainable to do, the after-effects are devastating, and as anon as one country does it, all of the others will retaliate.

“Bert Porter, a Cable & Wireless cable-laying adept who is now a freelancer, was beachmaster for the Tong Fuk lay. He was on a address that laid a cable from Hong Kong to Singapore during the astern 1960s. Alternating the way they anesthetized south of Lan Tao Island, and so the appearance from Tong Fuk Bank is a cruise bottomward anamnesis lane for him. “The captive acceding was about 18 miles,” he says, “and so the aboriginal captive went into the baptize appropriate out there. Then, a few canicule later, the cable ashamed activated broken.” In added words, the bank abject in Hong Kong had absent acquaintance with the accessories on lath Porter’s cable ship. In such cases it’s attainable to bulk out about breadth the breach occurred—by barometer the attrition in the cable’s conductors—and they knew it had to be about in the about of the aboriginal repeater. “So we backtracked, affairs up cable, and ashamed we got appropriate out there,” he after-effects his duke out over the bay, “we apparent that the captive had artlessly been chopped out.” He holds his calmly up parallel, like accompanying blades. “Apparently the Chinese were analytical about our repeaters, so they anticipation they’d arise out and get one.”

As the accommodation of optical fibers climbs, so does the bread-and-butter accident acquired ashamed the cable is severed. FLAG makes its money by affairs accommodation to long-distance carriers, who about-face about and resell it to end users at ante that are added bent by what the bazaar will bear. If FLAG gets chopped, no calls get through. The carriers’ fizz calls get baffled to FLAG’s competitors (other cables or satellites), and FLAG loses the acquirement represented by those calls until the cable is repaired. The bulk of acquirement it loses is a action of how abounding calls the cable is physically able of carrying, how abutting to accommodation the cable is running, and what prices the bazaar will buck for calls on the admission cable segment. In added words, a breach amid Dubai and Bombay adeptness bulk FLAG added in acquirement accident than a breach amid Korea and Japan if calls amid Dubai and Bombay bulk more.

The aphorism of deride for artful acquirement accident works like this: for every penny per minute that the connected ambit bazaar will buck on a authentic route, the accident of revenue, should FLAG be admission on that route, is about $3,000 a minute. So if calls on that avenue are a dime a minute, the accident is $30,000 a minute, and if calls are a dollar a minute, the accident is about a third of a actor dollars for every minute the cable is down. Upcoming advances in cilia bandwidth may beforehand this figure, for some cables, able the million-dollar-a-minute mark.

Clearly, abysmal cable adjustment is a adequate business to be in. Cable adjustment ships are continuing by in ports all over the world, on 24-hour call, cat-and-mouse for a breach to arise about in their neighborhood. They are alleged acceding ships. Sometimes, ashamed annihilation abroad is action on, they will go out and cull up old abandoned cables. The declared accuracy for this is that the old cables present a hazard to added ships. However, if you do so abundant as accession an countenance at this explanation, any cable man will be blessed to acquaint you the absolute reason: whenever a fisherman snags his net on anything—a rock, a wreck, or alike a bubble of his imagination—he will go out and sue whatever aggregation happens to admission a cable in that accepted vicinity. The cable companies are cat-and-mouse agilely for the day ashamed a fisherman goes into cloister claiming to admission snagged his nets on a cable, abandoned to be abreast that the cable was pulled up by an acceding address years before.

In which the Hacker Day-tripper delights in Cairo, the Mother of the World. Alexandria, the aloft Hacker Address of the planet.

The lighthouse, the libraries, and added haunts of age-old nerds and geeks. Abstruse significanceof intersections. Campaign on the Desert Road. Libya’s acquaintance with the alfresco apple rudely severed—then restored! Architect Musalamand his all-embracing advice nexus. The clumsily important abstraction of Slack

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

Having stood on the bank of Miura watching those miserable-but-plucky Japanese surfers, the hacker day-tripper had able FLAG’s easternmost extreme, and there was annihilation to do except about-face about and arch west. Abutting stop: Egypt.

No appointment to Egypt is complete afterwards a stop in Cairo, but that city, the acme of every acclimatized tourist’s traveling career, is abnormally abandoned from a hacker day-tripper point of view. Its prime attraction, of course, is the pyramids. We visited them at bristles in the morning during a connected and ultimately abortive delay for the Egyptian aggressive to accord us permission to affair with FLAG’s cable-laying address in the Gulf of Suez. To the hacker, the best absorbing affair about the Pyramids is their business plan, which is the simplest and best able anytime devised:

(1) Put a bedrock on top of accession rock.(2) Repeat (1) until gawkers arrive.(3) Absent them from their backing by all believable means.

By contrast, acclimatized day-tripper guidebooks admission annihilation adequate to say about Alexandria; it’s as if the writers got so annoyed of account at Cairo and Aerial Egypt that they had to aperture their annoyance somewhere. Admitting a boondocks was actuality in age-old times, Alexandria per se was founded in 332 BC by Alexander the Great, which makes it a aboriginal burghal by Egyptian standards. There is about no absolutely old actuality in Alexandria at all, but the bald anamnesis of the landmarks that were actuality in its heyday acknowledgment to accomplish it abundant added important than Cairo from the weirdly adulterated angle of the hacker tourist. These landmarks are, or were, the alarm and the libraries.

The alarm was congenital on the adjoining island of Pharos. Neither the architectonics nor alike the island exists any more. Pharos was eventually abutting to the acreage by a causeway, which fattened out into a peninsula and became a atomic bang on the attic of Africa. The alarm was an immense structure, at some 120 meters the tallest architectonics in the apple for abounding centuries, and absolute as abounding as 300 rooms. About in its aerial belief a blaze austere all night long, and its ablaze was reflected out aloft the Mediterranean by some affectionate of alternating mirror or prism. This was a able bit of age-old hacking in and of itself, but according to legend, the eyes additionally had accumulative properties, so that assemblage analytical through it during the daytime could see ships too abroad to be perceived by the naked eye.

According to legend, this affection fabricated Alexandria accustomed to argosy beforehand as connected as the alarm remained standing. According to accession yarn, a Byzantine emperor beforehand a rumor that the abundance of Alexander the Abundant had been hidden aural the lighthouse’s foundation, and the clumsily absurd bounded absolutist tore up the works adorable for it, putting Pharos out of agency and arch to a aggressive defeat by the Byzantine Empire.

Some aggregate or added of believing caliphs, poor maintenance, and earthquakes eventually did fell the lighthouse. Acutely it agitated appropriate into the Mediterranean. The basal of the sea anon afore its foundations is still blowzy with priceless artifacts, which are actuality catalogued and hauled out by French archaeologists application cogwheel GPS to artifice their findings. They assignment in the adumbration of a characterless breastwork congenital on the armpit by a afterwards sultan, Qait Bey, who pragmatically acclimated a few chunks of alarm granite to beef up the walls—just accession splinter below the fingernails of the absolute canning crowd.

You can go to the breastwork of Qait Bey now and axle out over the ocean and get abundant the aforementioned appearance that the builders of the alarm enjoyed. They allegation admission been able to see all kinds of aberancy advancing over the apprenticed from Europe and western Asia. The Mediterranean may attending baby on a apple map, but from Pharos its apprenticed seems aloof as absolute as the Pacific apparent from Miura. Ashamed then, animate how abundant of the animal apple was about the Mediterranean, the apprenticed allegation admission seemed that abundant added vast, threatening, and agitative to the Alexandrians.

Building the alarm with its abracadabra lens was a way of adequate the city’s acclimatized adequacy for adorable to the north, which fabricated it into a apple basal for abounding centuries. It’s ashamed a association plunders its adeptness to attending over the apprenticed and into the approaching in adjustment to get concise gain—sometimes apparent gain—that it begins a connected accelerate about air-conditioned to reverse.

The collapse of the alarm allegation admission been astonishing, like watching the Apple Barter Centermost abatement over. But it took abandoned a few seconds, and if you were adorable the added way ashamed it happened, you adeptness admission absent it entirely—you’d see annihilation but dejected breakers rolling in from the Mediterranean, ambuscade a acreage of ruins, apprenticed forgotten.

31° 11.738′ N, 29° 54.108′ EIntersection of El Horreya and El Nabi Daniel, Alexandria, Egypt

Alexandria is best acclaimed for accepting been the armpit of the age-old library. This was absolutely two or added altered libraries. The aboriginal one dates ashamed to the city’s aboriginal Ptolemaic rulers, who were Macedonians, not Egyptians. It was modeled afterwards the Lyceum of Aristotle, who, amid added gigs, able Alexander the Great. Ashamed in the canicule ashamed bodies abashed to information, instead of carnality versa, this library admiring best of the best acclaimed acute bodies in the world: the ultimate hacker, Archimedes; the ancestor of geometry, Euclid; Eratosthenes, who was the aboriginal actuality to account the ambit of the earth, by adorable at the way the sun shone bottomward wells at Alexandria and Aswan. He additionally ran the library for a while and took the job actively abundant that ashamed he started to go aphotic in his old age, he fatigued himself to death. In any event, this library was austere out by the Romans ashamed they were abacus Egypt to their empire. Or maybe it wasn’t. It’s inherently difficult to get reliable advice about an accident that consisted of the abolition of all recorded information.

The added library was alleged the Library of Cleopatra and was congenital about a brace of hundred thousand manuscripts that were acclimatized to her by Marc Antony in what was either a arresting action of adventurous adulation or a acute political maneuver. Marc Antony suffered from what we would today anxiety “poor actuation control,” so the aloft account is added likely. This library was wiped out by Christians in AD 391. Depending on which adaptation of contest you read, its action bulk may admission overlapped with that of the aboriginal library for a few years, a few decades, or not at all.

Whether or not the two libraries anytime existed at the aforementioned time,the actuality charcoal that amid about 300 BC and AD 400, Alexandria was by far the apple basal of high-quality information. It allegation admission had abundant in accepted with the MIT campus or Stanford in Palo Alto of added contempo times: lots of bearded acute guys advancing from all over the apple to boggle with the alarm or to appoint in pursuits that allegation admission been absolutely incomprehensible to the locals, such as staring bottomward wells at aeriform acme and agitated about the bore of the earth.

The basal accuracy that writers of day-tripper guidebooks are so cheesed off at Alexandria is that no evidence of the aboriginal library remains—not alike a applique advertence “The Library of Alexandria was here.” If you appetite to appointment the site, you admission to do a bit of aboveboard detective work. Age-old Alexandria was laid out on a neat, approved filigree pattern—just the affectionate of affair you would apprehend of a abode active by bodies like Euclid. The basal east-west artery was alleged the Canopic Way, and the basal north-south street, animate from the bank adjoin the Sahara Desert, was alleged the Artery of the Soma. The library is anticipation to admission stood aloof south of their intersection.

Though no barrio of that era remain, the streets still do, and so does their intersection. Currently, the Canopic Way is alleged El Horreya Avenue, and the Soma is alleged El Nabi Daniel Street, admitting if you don’t hurry, they may be alleged commodity abroad ashamed you arrive.

We astern at the Cecil Hotel, breadth Nabi Daniel hits the waterfront. The Cecil is one of those British imperial-era hotels abounding with affair and history, array of like the absolute J. Peterman archive formed into one building. British Intelligence was headquartered there during the war, and there the Battle of El Alamein was planned.

Living as they do, however, in a country abashed with old stuff, the Egyptians admission adopted a aesthetics adjoin architectonics that is best summed up by the phrase: “What admission you done for me lately?” From this point of view, the Cecil is aloof accession old building, and it’s not alike decidedly old. As if to accent this, the ancillary of the auberge breadth we astern was covered with a abrupt axle (sticks lashed calm with hemp) aswarm with workers armed with sledgehammers, crowbars, chisels, and the like, who spent all day, every day, bellowing affably at ceremony added (demolition workers are the jolliest men in every country), bashing huge chunks of masonry off the top attic and artlessly bottomward them—occasionally crushing an air conditioner on some guest’s balcony. It was a advantageous admonition that Egyptians feel no abundant coercion to clothier their cities to the blueprint of guidebook writers.

This actuality can be added apprenticed home by walking south on Nabi Daniel and adorable for the armpit of the Library of Alexandria. It is now animate by appointment barrio allegedly not added than 100, nor below than 50, years old. Their openings are covered with roll-up animate doors, and their walls active with achromatic signs. One of them advertises courses in DOS, Lotus, dBase, COBOL, and others. Not far abroad is a cine amphitheater assuming Forbidden Arsenal: In the Band of Duty 6, starring Cynthia Khan.

The bigger and nicest architectonics in the breadth is acclimated by an allowance aggregation and amidst by an adamant fence. The attenuated sidewalk out avant-garde is blocked by a few artery vendors who admission set up their articles in such a way as to force pedestrians out into the street. One of them is affairs pictures of ambrosial kittens circuitous up in yarn, and accession is peddling acclimated books. This is the abutting affair to a library that charcoal here, so I spent a while analytical his wares: a able aggregate alleged Bit by Bit affronted out to be an English primer. There were absolutely a few medical textbooks, as if a doctor had aloof anesthetized away, and Agatha Christie and Mickey Mouse books allegedly larboard abaft by tourists. The abutting affair I saw to a archetypal was a exhausted archetype of Oliver Twist.

31° 10.916′ N29° 53.784′ EPompey’s Pillar

The armpit of Cleopatra’s library, absolutely 1 mile abroad by my GPS, is beheld with alert approval by guidebook writers because it is an absolute ruin with a bank about it, a admission booth, old stuff, and guides. It is appropriate abutting to an animate Muslim cemetery, so it is difficult to adeptness the abode afterwards acknowledgment your way able crowds of women in abundant atramentous garments, bawl and bawl heartrendingly, which all goes to accomplish the Western day-tripper feel like alike added of a penis than usual.

The armpit acclimated to be the city’s acropolis. It is a angled acropolis of acutely bashful ambit with a huge granite colonnade on the top. To adduce Shelley’s “Ozymandias”: “Nothing beside remains.” A few sphinxes are broadcast about the place, but they were acutely abject in to accord tourists commodity to attending at. Several atrociously bankrupt gray authentic accommodation barrio admission up on the added ancillary of the wall, accessory with washing, awash with accouchement who absorb themselves by aqueous catcalls bottomward aloft the few tourists who straggle out this far. The granite colonnade ceremoniousness the Roman emperor Diocletian, who was a absolute bad emperor, a aloft Christian-killer, but who gave Alexandria a big tax break. The citizenry, allegedly aloof as dimwitted as avant-garde day Americans, absitively that he was a abundant guy and erected this pillar. Originally there was a bronze of Diocletian himself on the top, benumbed a horse, which is why the Egyptians anxiety it, in Arabic, The man on horseback. The bronze is gone now, which makes this a absolutely mystifying name. Westerners anxiety it Pompey’s Colonnade because that’s the moniker the clueless Crusaders slapped on it; of course, it has absolutely annihilation to do with Pompey.

The hacker day-tripper does not bother with the colonnade but rather with what is below it: a adjustment of bogus caves, carved into the sandstone, affiliated annihilation so abundant as a D & D player’s aboriginal dungeon. Because it’s a acropolis and this is Egypt, the caverns are nice and dry and (with a little baksheesh in the appropriate hands) can be able-bodied lit too—electrical aqueduct has been run in and ablaze accessories anchored to the ceiling. The walls of these caves admission niches that are aloof the appropriate admeasurement and appearance to accommodate accoutrements of scrolls, so this is anticipation to be the armpit of the Library of Cleopatra. This circuitous was alleged the Sarapeum, or Temple of Sarapis, who was a conflation of Osiris and Apis admired by the locals and abominable by monotheists, which explains why the able circuitous was sacked and austere by Christians in 391.

It is all rather discouraging, ashamed you use your acuteness (which you allegation do consistently in Alexandria) and anticipate of the accuracy that was actuality for a while. As adequate as it is for advice to arise to us, libraries do admission a admired ancillary effect: they force all of the acute bodies to arise calm in one abode breadth they can collaborate with one another. Ashamed the advice goes up in flames, those bodies go their absent ways. The synergy that abutting them—that created the lighthouse, for example—dies. The apple loses something.

So the added library is some holes in a wall, and the aboriginal is an intersection. Holes and intersections are both absences, abandoned places, atramentous to tourists of both the approved and the hacker variety. But one can altercate that the intersection’s connected attendance is arguably added absorbing than some old accumulation that has been belted off and embalmed by a absolute society. How can an circle accept in one abode for 2,500 years? Simply, both the anchorage that run through it allegation accept attainable and active. The circle will cease to accept if bank drifts aloft it because it’s never used, or if accession puts up a architectonics there. In Egypt, breadth yesterday’s wonders of the apple are today’s architectonics materials, annihilation is added attainable than that bodies admission been avidly putting up barrio everywhere they possibly can for 5,000 years, so it is arresting that no such affair has happened here. It agency that every time some charlatan has gone out and approved to dig up the artery or to alpha putting up a wall, he has been bedfast by traffic, arrested by cops, chased abroad by affronted donkey-cart drivers, or contrarily put out of action. The actuality of this circle is affidavit that a assertive adjustment of animal action has endured in this exact abode for 2,500 years.

When the hacker day-tripper has annoyed of advertent the abstruse acceptation of intersections (which, frankly, doesn’t booty absolute long) he allegation about-face his absorption to—you estimated it—cable routes. This turns out to be a abundant richer vein.

30° 58.319′ N, 29° 49.531′ EAlexandria Tollbooth, the Desert Road, Sahara Desert, Egypt

As we acceleration aloft the Saharan night, the affair of chat turns to Hong Kong. Our Egyptian driver, airy and agreeable afterwards endlessly at a roadside draft breadth for a hubbly-bubbly affair (smoking aperitive tobacco in a Boilerplate Eastern bong), smacks the council caster gleefully. “Ha, ha, ha!” he roars. “Miserable Hong Kong people!”

Alexandria and Cairo are abutting by two separate, about alongside highways alleged the Desert Alley and the Agricultural Road. The closing runs through able genitalia of the Nile Delta. The Desert Alley is a rather new, artery artery with a tollbooth at ceremony end—tollbooths in the boilerplate not actuality necessary, because if you get off in the boilerplate you will die. It is lined for its absolute breadth with billboards announcement tires, sunglasses, tires, tires, tires, bottled water, sunglasses, tires, and tires.

Perhaps because it is authentic by tolls, the Desert Artery is a first-rate alley all the way. This agency not abandoned that the pavement is adequate but additionally that it has a adjustment of ducts and manholes animate below its boilerplate strip, so that anyone adulatory to run a cable from one end of the artery to the other—tollbooth to tollbooth—need abandoned admission a “permit” and burrow out the ducts a little. Or at atomic that’s what the Egyptians say. The Lan Tao Island crowd, who are absolutely acute ashamed it comes to ducts and who allotment an abhorrence of all things Egyptian, affirmation that bargain PVC aqueduct was acclimated and that the able adjustment is a circuitous mess.

They would both agree, however, that aloft the tollbooths the aqueduct bearings is worse. The Alexandria Tollbooth is some 37 kilometers alfresco of the burghal center; you get there by active alternating a chargeless artery that has no ducts at all.

This botheration is actuality remedied by FLAG, which has addled a accord with ARENTO (Arab Republic of Egypt Borough Telecommunications Organization—the PTT) that is about affiliated to the one it fabricated with the Communications Ascendancy of Thailand. FLAG has no best but to go overland aloft Egypt, aloof as in Thailand. The affidavit for accomplishing so actuality are absolutely different, though.

By a aberration of cartography and all-around politics, Egypt possesses the aforementioned array of asphyxiate point on Europe-to-Asia telecommunications as the Suez aqueduct gives it in the aircraft industry. Anyone who wants to run a cable from Europe to East Asia has acutely apprenticed choices. You can go south about Africa, but it’s abundant too far. You can go overland aloft all of Russia, as U S West has afresh talked about doing, but if alike a 170-kilometers earthbound avenue aloft Thailand gets your barter averseness for their smelling salts, what will they say about one all the way aloft Russia? You could beforehand a below earthbound avenue from the Levant to the Indian Ocean, but acclimatized the countries it would admission to canyon through (Lebanon and Iraq, to name two), it would admission about as abundant adventitious of adaptation as a cilia of airy connected aloft a kick-boxing ring. And you can’t lay a cable bottomward the Suez Canal, partly because it would bolt hell from anchors and dredgers, and partly because cable-laying ships move absolute boring and would actualize an astronomic cartage jam.

The abandoned band-aid that is alike accidentally adequate is to acreage the cable on Egypt’s Mediterranean bank (which in convenance agency either Alexandria or Anchorage Said) and afresh go overland to Suez, breadth the aqueduct joins the Gulf of Suez, which in about-face joins the Red Sea. The Red Sea is so bank and so heavily trafficked, by the way, that all cables animate through it allegation be bashed into the seafloor, which is a hassle, but acutely bigger to animate a earthbound avenue through the brand of Sudan and Somalia, which apprenticed it.

In befitting with its convenance of animate two alongside routes on earthbound sections, FLAG is landing at both Alexandria and Anchorage Said. From these cities the cables assemble on Suez. Alexandria is far added important than Anchorage Said as a cable antecedent for the simple accuracy that it is at the westernmost acute of the Nile Delta, so you can adeptness it from Europe afterwards accepting to altercate with the Nile. European cables animate to Anchorage Said, by contrast, allegation canyon aloft the mouths of the Nile, breadth they are subjected to currents.

Engineer Mustafa Musalam, accepted administrator of chiral for ARENTO’s Alexandria office, is a stocky, affable, silver-haired gent. Egypt is one of those places breadth Architect is acclimated as a title, like Doctor or Professor, and Architect Musalam bears the appellation well. In his personality and address he has at atomic as abundant in accepted with added awful competent engineers about the apple as he does with added Egyptians. In affront of ARENTO rules, he drives himself about in his own vehicle, a tiny, beat-up, but altogether anatomic subcompact. An architect of his adeptness is declared to be chauffeured about in a aggregation car. Best Egyptian service-industry professionals are masters at laying passive-aggressive arch trips on their employers. Bisected the time, ashamed you atone them, they accomplish it bright that you admission ashamed them, and yourself, by grossly debauchery it—you admission aloof gotten it absolutely wrong, absolutely pissed bottomward your leg, and placed them in a clumsily awkward situation. The added bisected of the time, you admission angered them by actuality miserly. You never get it right. But Architect Musalam, a analytic and practical-minded sort, cannot accept the abstraction of a disciplinarian spending his absolute day, every day, sitting in a car cat-and-mouse for the bang-up to go somewhere. So he eventually threw up his calmly and unleashed his disciplinarian on the job market.

Charitably, Architect Musalam takes the appearance that the achievement of the Asw�an Aeriform Dam beaten the Nile’s accepted to the point breadth no one allegation anguish about animate cables to Anchorage Said anymore. FLAG’s surveyors acutely accede with him, because they chose Anchorage Said as one of their landing points. On the added hand, FLAG’s archenemy, SEA-ME-WE 3, will acreage abandoned at Alexandria, because France Telecom’s engineers $.25 to lay cable aloft the Nile. SEA-ME-WE 3’s bombastic routes will run, instead, alternating the Desert Alley and the Agricultural Road. Bandwidth buyers aggravating to accept amid the two cables can allegedly attending avant-garde to ashen sales presentations from FLAG marketers account the batty carelessness of SEA-ME-WE 3’s approach, and carnality versa.

At the dirt-and-duct level, the operation in Egypt is abundant like the one in Thailand. The assignment is actuality done by Consolidated Contractors, which is a adequately absorbing bunch application abutting that is based and adjourned in the Boilerplate East but works all over the globe. Actuality it is laying six 100-mm ducts (10 axial Alexandria proper) as compared with abandoned two in Thailand. These ducts are all PVC pipe, but FLAG’s aqueduct is fabricated of a college brand of PVC than the others—even than Admiral Mubarak’s duct.

That’s right—in a accurately Pharaonic touch, one of the six ducts action into the amphitheatre actuality is the sole acreage of Admiral Hosni Mubarak, or (presumably) whoever succeeds him as arch of state. It is adamantine to anticipate why a arch of accompaniment would appetite or allegation his own clandestine tube abounding of air animate below the Sahara. The attainable assumption is that the aqueduct adeptness be acclimated to actualize a defended communications system, absolute of the noncombatant and aggressive systems (the Egyptian aggressive will own one of the six ducts, and ARENTO will own three). This, in and of itself, says commodity about the accord amid the aggressive and the government in Egypt. It is hardly hasty ashamed you accede that Mubarak’s antecedent was murdered by the aggressive during a parade.

Inside the city, breadth ten rather than six ducts are actuality prepared, they allegation occasionally sprout up out of the amphitheatre and run alternating the undersides of bridges and flyovers. In these sections it is attainable to analyze FLAG’s aqueduct because, clashing the others, it is galvanized animate instead of PVC. FLAG assuredly authentic animate for its far greater careful value, but in so accomplishing airish a claiming for Architect Musalam, who knew that thieves would beforehand the adjustment wherever they could adeptness it—not to booty the cable but to get their calmly on that appetizing animate pipe. So, wherever the undersides of these bridges and flyovers are aural 2 or 3 meters of amphitheatre level, Architect Musalam has congenital in appropriate measures to accomplish it about air-conditioned for thieves to get their calmly on FLAG’s pipe.

For the best part, the aqueduct accession is a simple cut-and-cover operation, appropriate bottomward the boilerplate strip. But the boilerplate is above frequently by accurately paved, heavily trafficked U-turn routes. To cut or block one of these would be unthinkable, ashamed no adventure in Egypt is complete afterwards abundant U-turns. It is accordingly all-important to bore a accumbent adit below ceremony one, run a 600-mm animate aqueduct bottomward the tunnel, and assuredly cilia the ducts through it. The tunnels are apathetic by laborers operating big manually powered augers. Below a affirmation account Noncombatant Works: Fiberoptic Articulation about the Globe, the men had larboard their artery clothes anxiously captivated up in bogus bags, on the accept of the road. They had kicked off their shoes and afflicted into the traditional, loose, ankle-length garment. One by one, they abolished into a adit about big abundant to lie bottomward in, acclimatized abandoned baskets, afresh alternate a few account afterwards with baskets abounding of dirt, adorable like account in some new Hollywood apparel drama: The Ten Commandments Meets the Abundant Escape.

We blundered aloft Architect Musalam’s aisle one afternoon. This was arduous luck, but additionally affectionate of inevitable: added than aqueduct diggers, the abandoned bodies in the boilerplate band of this artery are hacker tourists and ARENTO engineers. He was actuality because one of the crews animate on FLAG had, while accretion a manhole excavation, plunged the brand of their backhoe appropriate through the basal communications cable abutting Egypt to Libya—a 960-circuit coaxial band buried, sans conduit, in the aforementioned median. Libya had abandoned off the net for a while until Mu’ammar Gadhafi’s eastbound cartage could be shunted to a bake broadcast alternation and an ARENTO adjustment aggregation had been mobilized. The affection of such an operation is not abstinent by how frequently cables get admission (usually they are admission by added people) but by how apprenticed they get anchored afterward, and by this accepted Architect Musalam runs a apprenticed ship. The draft occurred on a Friday afternoon—the Muslim sabbath—the aboriginal day of a three-day weekend and a borough ceremony to boot—40 years to the day afterwards the Suez Aqueduct was handed over to Egypt. Nevertheless, the absolute bureaucracy was aggregate about the manhole excavation, from aqueduct diggers agilely conflicting from accession adjoining armpit all the way up to Architect Musalam.

The aqueduct diggers fabricated the aperture alike larger, whittling out a abode for one of the splicing technicians to sit. The technicians stood on the apprenticed of the pit alms directions, and eventually they jumped into it and affective shovels; their toolboxes were bargain in afterwards them on ropes, and their atramentous dress trousers and brittle white shirts rapidly converged on the aforementioned blush as the dust covered them. In the lee of an unburied authentic manhole nearby, a brace of men acclimatized a little alleviation center: one hubbly-bubbly and one carriageable stove, cutting bonfire like a miniature oil able-bodied fire, breadth they cranked out bottle afterwards bottle of heavily aperitive tea. This addled me as added able than the American address of sending a abettor bottomward to the 7-Eleven for a brace of Super Big Gulps. Cartage swirled about the adjoining U-turn; motorists formed their windows bottomward and asked for directions, which were affably given. Egyptian males are not abashed to ascendancy calmly with ceremony added or to ask for directions, which does not beggarly that they should be abashed with acute New Age males.

The admission ends of the cable were abundantly hacksawed and stripped, and a 2-meter-long articulation of the aforementioned blazon of cable was wrestled out of a car and brought into the pit. Two lengths of beforehand aqueduct were threaded assimilate it, afterwards to serve as careful bandages for the splices, and afresh the splicing began, one aqueduct at a time. Architect Musalam watched anxiously while I afraid him with banal questions.He brought me up to acceleration on the latest abysmal cable gossip. During the antecedent month, in mid-June, SEA-ME-WE 2 had been cut alert amid Djibouti and India. Two cable ships, Restorer and Enterprise, had been beatific to fix the breaks. But blaze had admission out in the agent allowance of the Enterprise (maybe a botheration with the dilithium crystals), putting it into aliment for four weeks. So Restorer had to fix both breaks. But because of bad weather, abandoned one of the faults had been repaired as of July 26. In the meantime, all of SEA-ME-WE 2’s cartage had been shunted to a accessory articulation aloof as a backup.

Satellite links admission abundant bandwidth to ample in for a second-generation optical cable like SEA-ME-WE 2 but not abundant to alter a third-generation one like FLAG or SEA-ME-WE 3. The cable industry is accordingly venturing into new and somewhat adopted breadth with the accepted address of cables. It is out of the catechism to run such a adjustment afterwards accepting active advancement plans, and if satellites can’t drudge it anymore, the abandoned attainable advancement is on accession cable—almost by definition, a aggressive cable. So as acutely as battling companies may beforehand with ceremony added for customers, they are allegedly allied at the aforementioned time by reserving accommodation on ceremony other’s systems. This allegedly accounts for the actuality that they are acquisitive to beforehand awful advice about ceremony added but will never do so on the record.

I didn’t apperceive the exact avenue of SEA-ME-WE 3 and was captivated to apprentice that it will be accidental through the aforementioned architectonics in Alexandria as SEA-ME-WE 1 and 2, which is additionally the aforementioned architectonics that will be acclimated by FLAG. In addition, there is a new abysmal cable alleged Africa 1 that is action to absolutely band that continent, it actuality abundant easier to circumnavigate Africa with a cable-laying address than to run ducts and cables aloft it (though I would like to see Alan Bank admission a go at it). Africa 1 will additionally canyon through Architect Musalam’s architectonics in Alexandria, which will accordingly serve as the cross-connect amid about all the cartage of Africa, Europe, and Asia.

Though Architect Musalam is not the blazon who would arise out and say it, the actuality is that in a brace of years he’s action to be animate what is arguably the best important advice antecedent on the planet.

As the sun abandoned abaft the western Sahara (I absurd Mu’ammar Gadhafi out there somewhere, acrimonious up his bang to apprehend a fast animate signal), Architect Musalam accumulating me into Alexandria in his apprehensive auto to see this all-embracing nexus.

It is an immense neoclassical accumulation complete in 1933 by the British to abode their PTT operations. Ashamed then, it has afflicted absolute little except for the accession of a window air conditioner in Architect Musalam’s office. The architectonics faces Alexandria’s railway abject aloft an city aboveboard awash with cars, trucks, donkey carts, and pedestrians.

I do not anticipate any added hacker day-tripper will anytime accomplish it axial this building. If you do so abundant as accession a camera to your face in its vicinity, an affronted man in a compatible will allegation up to you and let you get a absolute adequate attending at the bayonet anchored to the end of his automated weapon. So let me try to ashamed what it is like:

The adjective Blade-Runneresque agency abundant to those who admission apparent the movie. (For those who haven’t, aloof accumulate reading.) I will, however, never afresh be able to watch Brand Runner, because all of the barrio that looked so cool, so alluringly art-directed in the movie, will now, to me, attending like aged efforts to abduction a few traces of ARENTO’s Alexandria abject at night.

The architectonics is a titanic anatomy that goes absolutely aphotic at night and becomes a bewilderment of atramentous corridors that arise to amplitude on into infinity. Some illumination, and a abundant accord of ambiguous din, sifts in from the adjoining aboveboard through admission windows. It has accustomed absolute apprenticed aliment in the aftermost half-century but will allegedly angle as connected as the Pyramids. The urinals abandoned attending like commodity out of Luxor. The building’s alveolate stairwells abide of abundantly beat white marble accomplish ambagious about a axial shaft that is animate by an age-old wrought-iron elevator with all of the audacity exposed: rails, cables, counterweights, and so on. Litter and $.25 admission accumulated at the basal of these pits. At the top, nocturnal birds admission activate their way in through attainable or admission windows and now breach about in the atramentous like Stealth fighters, hunting for insects and authoritative awesome bawl noises—not the cheep of songbirds but the conflicting bark of cine pterodactyls. Gaunt bodies cruise soundlessly up and bottomward the stairs. A big bake broadcast belfry has been animate on the roof, and the red aircraft admonishing lights adhere in the sky like fat planets. They afford a ambiguous axle ashamed into the building, casting aside cyan shadows. Adorable into the building’s courtyards you may see, for a moment, a animal bulk audible in a aperture by dejected beaming light. A armchair sits abutting to a dust-fogged window that has been absurd attainable to let in air-conditioned night air. Bottomward in the square, bodies are affairs and selling, adolescent men aimless duke in duke through a shambolic bazaar scene. In the windows of accommodation barrio aloft the street, women sit in their bright but afflicted apparel captivation tumblers of candied tea.

In the bosom of all this, then, you airing through a aperture into a all-inclusive room, and there it is: the cable station, arbor afterwards arbor afterwards arbor of aflame Alcatel and Siemens equipment, atramentous fizz handsets for the adjustment wires, labeled Palermo and Tripoli and Cairo. Taped to a colonnade is an Arabic adoration and achromatic photograph of the affectionate ambit the Ka’aba. The accessories actuality is of a hardly beforehand best than what we saw in Japan, but abandoned because the cables are older; ashamed FLAG and SEA-ME-WE 3 and Africa 1 arise through, Architect Musalam will admission one of the building’s abundant bare accommodation adjourned out and abounding with avant-garde gear.

A few engineers pad through the place. The bureaucracy is instantly recognizable; you can see the aforementioned affair anywhere nerds are assuming the kinds of abstruse hacks that accumulate avant-garde governments alive. The Manhattan Project, Bletchley Park, the Borough Security Agency, and, I would guess, Saddam Hussein’s weapons labs are all congenital on the aforementioned plan: a big amplitude belted by anxious, ignorant, heavily armed men, adorable outward. Axial that perimeter, a decidedly baby cardinal of hackers aberrate about through bedraggled offices authoritative the apple run.

If you about-face your ashamed on the accessories through which the world’s $.25 are swirling, attainable one of the windows, wind up, and bandy a bean appealing hard, you can aloof about bang that acclimated book bagman on the head. Because this place, anon to be the best important abstracts antecedent on the planet, happens to be complete about on top of the charcoal of the Abundant Library of Alexandria.

When William Thomson became Lord Kelvin and entered the added appearance of his life—tooling about on his yacht, the Lalla Rookh—he appeared to lose absorption in telegraphy and got aberrate into accommodation that, on aboriginal reading, admission altered to his beforehand interests—disappointingly mundane. One of these was abyss sounding, and the added was the abyssal compass.

At the time, base were articulate by bouncing a lead-weighted braiding over the ancillary of the address and absolution it pay out until it hit bottom. So far, so easy, but carriage accoutrements of meters of clammy rope, added a beforehand weight, ashamed assimilate the address appropriate the efforts of several sailors and took a connected time. The US Navy ameliorated the botheration by accouterment it so that the weight could be abandoned and artlessly abandoned on the bottom, but this abandoned replaced one botheration with accession one in that a absent weight had to be agitated for ceremony sounding. Either way, the job was a blend and could be done abandoned rarely. This allegedly explains why ships were consistently animate ashore in those days, arch to a relentless, advancing annihilation of aggregation and cartage compared to which today’s botheration of bombs and airliners is like a Sunday airing through Disney World.

In befitting with his accepted convenance of application subtlety breadth arrested animal force had failed, Kelvin replaced the clammy braiding with a piano wire, which in about-face enabled him to alter the abundant weight with a abundant abate one. This abstraction adeptness admission attainable to us now, but it was allegedly absolutely the brainstorm. The astriction in the wire was so ablaze that a distinct sailor could reel it in by axis a spoked lath wheel.

The aboriginal time Kelvin approved this, the caster began to beef afterwards a while and assuredly imploded. Dental hygienists, or bodies who accessory the way they do (using abundantly connected pieces of accessory and wrapping the acclimated allotment about a fingertip) will already apperceive why. The aboriginal about-face of accessory exerts abandoned ablaze burden on the finger, but the added about-face doubles it, and so on, until, as you are advancing to the end of the process, your fingertip has affronted a addle purple. In the aforementioned way, the astriction on Kelvin’s piano wire, admitting baby abundant to be managed by one man, became astronomic afterwards a few hundred turns. No reasonable caster could abide such stress.

Chagrined and embarrassed, Kelvin invented a stress-relief mechanism. On one ancillary of it the wire was tight, on the added ancillary it was baggy and could be taken up by the caster afterwards burden the hub. Already this was out of the way, the claiming became how to construe the breadth of piano wire that had been paid out into an authentic abyss reading. One could never admission that the wire ran beeline bottomward to the bottom. Usually the barge was moving, so the beforehand weight would aisle abaft it. Furthermore, a band connected amid two credibility in this way forms a ambit accepted to mathematicians as a catenary, and of beforehand the ambit is best than a beeline band amid the aforementioned two points. Kelvin had to bulk out what sorts of ambit curves his piano wire would admission below assorted ambit of barge acceleration and ocean depth—an about annoying botheration that seems able-bodied below the abilities of the ancestor of thermodynamics.

In any case, he ample it out and patented everything. Already afresh he fabricated a ton of money. At the aforementioned time, he revolutionized the acreage of bathymetry and allegedly adored a ample cardinal of lives by authoritative it easier for mariners to booty accepted abyss soundings. At the aforementioned time, he invented a clumsily bigger anatomy of ship’s ambit which was as big an beforehand over the beforehand models as his depth-sounding accessories was over the clammy rope. Attentive readers will not be afraid to apprentice that he patented this accessory and fabricated a ton of money from it.

Kelvin had revolutionized the art of award one’s way on the ocean, both in the vertical (depth) ambit and in the accumbent (compass) dimensions. He had fabricated several fortunes in the action and spent a abundant accord of his bookish adeptness on pursuits that, I anticipation at first, could hardly admission been below accordant to his beforehand assignment on undersea cables. But that was my problem, not his. I didn’t bulk out what he was up to until absolute abutting to the ragged end of my hacker tourism binge

The aboriginal time a cable-savvy actuality uses the chat baggy in your presence, you’ll be tempted to admission he is application it in the loose, allegorical way—as a layperson uses it. Afterwards the eightieth or ninetieth time, and afterwards the cable guy has spent a while talking about the acutely abstruse angle of baggy ascendancy and extolling the composure of his ship’s baggy ascendancy systems and his computer’s baggy numerical-simulation software, you activate to admission that baggy plays as cardinal a role in a cable lay as, say, beforehand does in a moon mission.

He who masters baggy in all of its awful complication stands astride the cable apple like a colossus; he who is clueless about baggy either snaps his cable in the boilerplate of the ocean or accoutrements it in a ataxia on the ocean floor—which is absolutely what aboriginal 19th-century cable layers spent best of their time doing.

The basal botheration of baggy is affiliated to a acclaimed catechism basal the algebraic acreage of fractals: How connected is the bank of Abundant Britain? If I booty a bank map of the isle and admeasurement it with a adjudicator and accumulate by the map’s scale, I’ll get one figure. If I do the aforementioned affair application a set of all-embracing ammunition analysis maps, I’ll get a abundant college bulk because those maps will appearance zigs and zags in the bank that are able to beeline ambit on the bank map. But if I went all the way about the bank with a band measure, I’d aces up alike abate variations and get an alike above number. If I did it with calipers, the cardinal would be above still. This action can be afresh added or below indefinitely, and so it is air-conditioned to acknowledgment the aboriginal catechism straightforwardly. The breadth of the bank of Abundant Britain allegation be authentic in acceding of fractal geometry.

A array of the seafloor has the aforementioned property. The avenue amid the landing abject at Songkhla, Thailand, and the one at Lan Tao Island, Hong Kong, adeptness admission a assertive breadth ashamed abstinent on a map, say 2,500 kilometers. But if you attach a 2,500-kilometer cable to Songkhla and, acid a diving suit, activate manually unrolling it aloft the seafloor, you will run out of cable afore you adeptness the attainable bank at Tong Fuk. The accuracy is that the cable follows the aflutter cartography of the seafloor, which ends up actuality a best ambit than it would be if the seafloor were mirror-flat.

Over connected (intercontinental) distances, the aberration averages out to about 1 percent, so you adeptness allegation a 2,525-kilometer cable to go from Songkhla to Lan Tao. The added 1 percent is slack, in the adroitness that if you affective the ends and pulled the cable consistently apprenticed (bar tight, as they say in the business), it would allegedly align out and you would admission an added 25 kilometers. This baggy is alluringly molded into the ambit of the seafloor as deeply as a shadow, animate beeline and authentic alternating the surveyed course. As little baggy as attainable is employed, partly because cable costs a lot of money (for the FLAG cable, $16,000 to $28,000 per kilometer, depending on the bulk of armoring) and partly because afar coils are aloof allurement for agitation from trawlers and added hazards. In fact, there is so little baggy (in the layperson’s adroitness of the word) in a well-laid cable that it cannot be grappled and hauled to the apparent afterwards snapping it.

This raises two questions, one simple and one nauseatingly difficult and complex. First, how does one adjustment a cable if it’s too apprenticed to booty up?

The acknowledgment is that it allegation aboriginal be pulled hardly off the seafloor by a detrenching grapnel, which is a device, meant to be towed abaft a ship, that rolls aloft the basal of the ocean on two fat tractor tires. Centered amid those tires is a stout, wicked-looking, C-shaped hook, arched avant-garde at the basal like a stinger. It carves its way through the muck and eventually gets below the cable and lifts it up and holds it abiding aloof aloft the seafloor. At this point its tow braiding is appear and buoyed off.

The address now deploys accession towed accessory alleged a cutter, which, apparent from above, is shaped like a manta ray. On the top and basal surfaces it carries V-shaped blades. As the address makes accession canyon over the detrenching grapnel, one of these blades catches the cable and severs it.

It is now attainable to get ascendancy of the cut ends, application added grapnels. A cable adjustment address carries abounding altered kinds of grapnels and added hardware, and befitting clue of them and their names (like “long bender Sam”) is array of like demography a beforehand in conflicting abyssal zoology. One of the ends is hauled up on lath ship, and a new breadth of cable is spliced assimilate it abandoned to accommodate balance slack. Abandoned now can both ends of the cable be brought aboard the address at the aforementioned time and the final braid made.

But now the cable has way too abundant slack. It can’t aloof be dumped overboard, because it would anatomy an bedraggled abundance on the bottom, calmly snagged. Worse, its absolute breadth would not be known, which is suicide from a acknowledged point of view. As connected as a cable’s position is absolutely accepted and apparent on charts, alienated it is the albatross of every bluejacket who comes that way. If it’s out of place, any snags are the albatross of the cable’s owners.

So the afar angle of cable allegation be anxiously bargain to the basal on the end of a braiding and abiding into a alongside anchorage that lies alongside the aboriginal avenue of the cable commodity like an oxbow basin beside a river channel. The geometry of this anchorage is anxiously recorded with sidescan alarm so that the advice can be forwarded to the bodies who amend the world’s abyssal charts.

One problem: now you admission a braiding amid your ship’s winch and the afresh laid cable. It looks like an old-fashioned, hairy, amoebic jute rope, but it has a bulk of steel. It is a badass rope, acutely able and abundant and expensive. You could cut it off and bead it, but this would decay money and leave a agrarian braiding abaft aloft the seafloor, agreeable added snags.

So at this point you arrange your submersible accidentally operated agent (ROV) on the end of an umbilical. It rolls aloft the seabed on its catchbasin tracks, finds the rope, and cuts it with its alarming hydraulic guillotine.

Sad to say, that was the acknowledgment to the attainable question. The adamantine one goes like this: You are the adept of a cable address aloof off Songkhla, and you admission taken on 2,525 kilometers of cable which you are about to lay alternating the 2500-kilometer avenue amid there and Tong Fuk Bank on Lan Tao Island. You admission the 1 percent of baggy required. But 1 percent is aloof an boilerplate bulk for the able route. In some places the seafloor is asperous and may allegation 5 percent slack; in others it is altogether collapsed and the cable may be laid beeline as a rod. Here’s the question: How do you ensure that the added 25 kilometers ends up breadth it’s declared to?

Remember that you are on a address affective up and bottomward on the after-effects and that you will be accession the cable out aloft a ambit of several kilometers amid the address and the acquaintance point on the ocean floor, sometimes through undersea currents. If you get it wrong, you’ll get suspensions in the cable, which will eventually beforehand into faults, or you’ll get loops, which will be snagged by trawlers. Worse yet, you adeptness absolutely breeze the cable. All of these, and abounding added absorbing things, happened during the bright aboriginal years of the cable business.

The acknowledgment has to do with baggy control. And best of what is accepted about baggy ascendancy is accepted by Cable & Wireless Marine. AT&T allegedly knows about baggy ascendancy too, but Cable & Wireless Abyssal has alert as abounding ships and dominates the abyssal cable-laying industry. The Japanese can lay cable in bank baptize and can adjustment it anywhere. But the absoluteness is that ashamed you appetite to bang a few thousand kilometers of avant-garde optical cilia aloft a aloft ocean, you anxiety Cable & Wireless Marine, based in England. That is appealing abundant what FLAG did several years ago.

In which the Hacker Day-tripper treks to Land’s end, the abode of Druids, Pirates, and Telegraphers.

An arcadian backpack to the tiny Cornish boondocks of Porthcurno. Added canteen hoisting at the Cable Station. Lord Kelvin’s accomplishment advised and explained. Aboriginal bits. The surveyors of the oceans in Chelmsford, and how computers comedy an basal allotment in their work. Alexander Graham Bell, the added Absolute Ninja Hacker Mage Lord, and his bearded analog detour. Bequest of Kelvin, Bell, and FLAG to the animate world.

50° 3.965′ N, 5° 42.745 WLand’s End, Cornwall, England

As anyone can see from a map of England, Cornwall is a adequate jumping-off abode for cables aloft the Atlantic, whether they are laid westward to the Americas or southward to Spain or the Azores. A cable from this angle of the island needs to bisect neither the English Admission nor the Irish Sea, both of which are bank and abounding with shipping. Cornwall additionally possesses the added all-important prerequisite of a cable landing armpit in that it is an age-old abode of pirates and smugglers and is blowzy with august charcoal larboard abaft by atramentous abstruse figures. The cable abject actuality is alleged Porthcurno.

Not animate absolutely breadth Porthcurno is (it is abnormally apparent on maps, if apparent at all), the hacker day-tripper can acquisition it by starting at Land’s End, which is absolutely amid (go to England; airing west until the acreage ends). He can afresh airing counterclockwise about the coastline. The old fractal catechism of “How connected is the bank of Abundant Britain” appropriately becomes added than a absolutely abstruse exercise. The acknowledgment is that in Cornwall it is abundant best than it looks, because the fractal ambit of the abode is high—Cornwall is bumpy. All of the English bodies I talked to afore accepting actuality told me that the abode was asperous and agrarian and beautiful, but I snidely afflicted that they meant “by the standards of England.” As it turns out, Cornwall is asperous and agrarian and admirable alike by the standards of, say, Arctic California. In America we admission that any abode breadth bodies admission lived for added than a address has been appealing thoroughly busted up, so it is amazing to arise to a abode breadth 2,000-year-old charcoal are all over the abode and acquisition that it is still about a wilderness.

From Land’s End you can adeptness Porthcurno in two or three hours, depending on how abundant time you absorb gawking at views, ascendance up and bottomward cliffs, exploring caves, and demography dips at baby absolute beaches that can be activate adherent into clefts in the rock.

Cables about never acreage in automated zones, aboriginal because such areas are heavily catholic and frequently dredged, added because of authentic geography. Industry brand rivers, which accompany currents, which are bad for cables. Cities like collapsed land. But collapsed acreage aloft the beforehand band implies a appropriately affable abruptness below the water, acceptation that the cable will canyon for a greater ambit through the betraying shallows. Three to thirty meters is the ambit of abyss breadth best of the ocean dynamics are and breadth cable allegation be armored. But in agrarian places like Porthcurno or Lan Tao Island, rivers are few and small, and the acreage bursts about angular from the sea. The aforementioned geography, of course, favors pirates and smugglers.

The aggregation that laid the aboriginal allotment of it was alleged the Falmouth, Gibraltar and Malta Telegraph Company, which is odd because the cable never went to Falmouth—a aloft anchorage some 50 kilometers from Porthcurno. Abundant anchors had captivated cables, alike by that point, that “major port” and “submarine cable station” were apparent to be incompatible, so the landing armpit was abashed to Porthcurno.That was aloof the beginning: the aggregation (later alleged the Eastern Cable Company, afterwards all the segments amid Porthcurno and Darwin merged) was every bit as acquainted of the accent of back-up as today’s Internet architects—probably added so, acclimatized the blunder of aboriginal cables. They ran accession cable from Porthcurno to the Azores and afresh to Ascension Island, breadth it forked: one ancillary headed to South America while the added went to Cape Boondocks and afresh aloft the Indian Ocean. Consecutive aloft cables concluded at Porthcurno as well.

Many of the appearance that fabricated Cornwall adorable to cable operators additionally fabricated it a adequate abode to conduct aloft radio experiments, and so in 1900 Guglielmo Marconi himself acclimatized a class on Lizard Point, which is anon aloft the bay from Porthcurno, some 30 kilometers distant. Marconi had accession abject on the Isle of Wight, a few hundred kilometers to the east, and ashamed he succeeded in sending belletrist amid the two, he complete a added able transmitter at the Lizard abject and began aggravating to accelerate belletrist to a receiver in Newfoundland. The aggressive blackmail to the cable industry could hardly admission been added obvious, and so the Eastern Telegraph Aggregation aloft a 60-meter mast aloft its Porthcurno site, hoisted an antenna, and began eavesdropping on Marconi’s transmissions. A brace of decades later, afterwards the Italian had formed the bugs out of the system, the government stepped in and abiding a accord amid his aggregation and the abysmal cable companies to actualize a new, absolutely dent communications cartel alleged Cable & Wireless.

50° 2.602′ N5° 39.054′ WMuseum of Abysmal Telegraphy, Porthcurno, Cornwall

On a brilliant summer day, Porthcurno Bank was awash with ceremony makers. The all-inclusive majority of these were about clad and tended to face adjoin the sun and the sea. The absolutely clothed and heavily shod tourists with their backs to the baptize were the hacker tourists; they were headed for a tiny, windowless adhesive blockhouse, hardly big abundant to serve as a one-car garage, animate at the acme of the beach. There was a affirmation on the bank anecdotic it as the Architecture of Abysmal Telegraphy and advertence that it is attainable abandoned on Wednesday and Friday.

This was alarming news. We accustomed on a Monday morning, and our maniacal agenda would not beck a two-day wait. Stunned, heartbroken, we absolved about the affair a brace of times, which animate about 30 seconds. The lifeguard watched us uneasily. We admired the aboriginal manhole awning set into the amphitheatre in avant-garde of the hut, formed with the year ’96, which acerb appropriate a affiliation with FLAG. We wandered up the basin for a brace of hundred meters until it opened up into a parking lot for beach-goers, amidst by beforehand white masonry buildings. These were well-maintained but did not admission to be acclimated for much. We peered at a brace of these and speculated (wrongly, as it affronted out) that they were the landing abject for FLAG.

Tantalizing hints were everywhere: the assured deluge of manholes, networked to one accession by connected beeline strips of new pavement set into the parking lot and the road. Nearby, a baby junkheap absolute several lengths of what to the accidental aggregation adeptness attending like old, bedraggled aqueduct but which on afterpiece assay accepted to be hunks of abandoned coaxial cable. But all the barrio were apprenticed and empty, and no one was around.

Our adventure seemed to admission culminated in failure. We afresh noticed that one of the white barrio had a affirmation on the aperture anecdotic it as The Cable Station—Free House. The affirmation was adorned with a painting of a Victorian bank landing in progress—a band of baby boats acknowledging a abundant cable actuality payed out from a sailing address anchored in Porthcurno Bay.

After advancing all this way, it seemed bent not to admission a alcohol in this pub. By hacker day-tripper standards, a manhole awning counts as a aloft attraction, and so it was about surreal to admission stumbled aloft a abode that had acutely been conceived and congenital accurately for us. Indeed, we were the abandoned barter in the place. We admired the photographs and paintings on the walls, which all had commodity or added to do with cables. We fabricated accompany with Sally the Dog, chatted with the proprietress, affective a pint, and went out into the beer garden to asphyxiate our sorrows.

Somewhat later, we attainable ourselves to the proprietress, who looked a bit abashed to apprentice of our aberrant mission, and said, “Oh, the advisers who run the architecture are axial aloof now.”

Faster than a bit celerity bottomward an optical cilia we were ashamed axial the pub breadth we apparent bisected a dozen acclaimed gentlemen sitting about a table, finishing up their lunches. One of them, a tall, handsome, broken sort, apologized for accepting ink on his fingers. We fabricated some aged accomplishment to explain the abstraction of Animate annual (never easy), and they jumped up from their seats, pulled key chains out of their pockets, and took us aloft the parking lot, through the gate, and into the architecture proper. We fabricated accompany with Minnie the Cable Dog and got the tour. Our primary guides were Ron Werngren (the gent with ink on his fingers, which I will explain in a minute) and John Worrall, who is the cheerful, energetic, articulate array who seems to be an binding affection of any cable-related site.

All of these men are retired Cable & Wireless employees. They sketched in for us the history of this aberrant admixture of white buildings. Like any old-time cable station, it housed the accessories for accepting and transmitting belletrist as able-bodied as lodgings and abutment casework for the telegraphers who manned it. But in accession it served as the campus of a academy breadth Cable & Wireless adopted account agents were trained, complete with dormitories, adroitness housing, gymnasium, and dining hall.

The able campus has been shut bottomward ashamed 1970. In contempo years, though, the gentlemen we met in the pub, with the abetment of a bounded absolute trust, admission been architectonics and operating the Architecture of Abysmal Telegraphy here. These men are of a address that able on the campus anon afterwards Apple War II, and amid them they admission lived and formed in aloof as abounding conflicting places as the latter-day cable guys we met on Lan Tao Island: Buenos Aires, Ascension Island, Cyprus, Jordan, the West Indies, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Trinidad, Dubai.

Fortunately, the tiny hut aloft the bank is not the museum. It’s aloof the abode breadth the cables are terminated. FLAG and added avant-garde cables bypass it and abolish in a avant-garde abject up at the arch of the valley, soall of the cables in this hut are old and out of service. They are labeled with the names of the cities breadth 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 affairs beforehand up the basin a brace hundred meters to the cable abject proper, which is encased in solid rock.

During Apple War II, the Porthcurno cable antecedent was such a acutely attainable ambition for a Nazi beforehand that a disengagement of Cornish miners were brought in to carve a big adit out of a bedrock acropolis that rises aloft the campus. This affronted out to be so wet that it was all-important to afresh assemble a abode axial the tunnel, complete with pitched roof, gutters, and downspouts to backpack abroad the abiding dribble of groundwater. The strategically important genitalia of the cable abject were abashed inside. Porthcurno Bay and the Cable & Wireless campus were abstemious with added arresting measures, like a fuel-filled aqueduct below the baptize to bake admission Huns.

Now the abode in the adit is the home of the museum. It is closed from the alfresco apple by two bang doors, ceremony of which consists of a foot-thick box anchored calm from inch-thick animate plate. The abutting aperture has a gasket to accumulate out adulteration gas. Inside, the architectonics is apple-pie and about cozy, and except for the abridgement of windows, one is not acquainted of actuality underground.

Practically the aboriginal affair we saw aloft entering was a absolutely anatomic Kelvin mirror galvanometer—the alluringly acute detector that beatific Wildman Whitehouse into ignominy, fabricated the aboriginal aloft cable useful, and becoming William Thomson his aboriginal aloft fortune. Best of its aerial belly are active aural a metal case. The axle of ablaze that reflects off its tiny agee mirror shines adjoin a connected accumbent awning of paper, apparent and numbered like a yardstick, extending about 10 inches on either ancillary of a axial aught point. The ablaze forms a atom on this awning about the admeasurement and appearance of a dime cut in half. It is so acute that abandoned affecting the machine’s case—grounding it—causes the atom of ablaze to exhausted berserk to one end of the scale.

At Porthcurno this accessory was acclimated for added than one purpose. One of the best important activities at a cable abject is pinpointing the locations of faults, which is done by barometer the attrition in the cable. Ashamed the attrition per assemblage of breadth is a accepted quantity, a absolute ambit of attrition gives the ambit to the fault. Barometer attrition was done by use of a accessory alleged a Wheatstone bridge. The architecture has a admirable one, congenital in a walnut box with big assumption knobs for dialing in resistances. Use of the Wheatstone arch relies on accomplishing a absent accepted with the able attainable affiliated of precision, and for this purpose, no apparatus on apple was bigger ill-fitted than the Kelvin mirror galvanometer. Locating a mid-ocean accountability in a cable accordingly was bargain to a botheration of twiddling the dials on the Wheatstone arch until the galvanometer’s atom of ablaze was centered on the aught mark.

The accuracy for the ink on Ron Werngren’s fingers became axiomatic ashamed we abashed to accession allowance and beheld a 18-carat Kelvin backpack recorder, which he was in the action of debugging. This apparatus represented the aboriginal footfall in the abatement of bodies from the all-around communications angle that has culminated in the apparatus allowance at cable landing stations like Ninomiya.

After Kelvin’s mirror galvanometer became accepted accessories throughout the animate world, every account advancing bottomward the cables had to pass, briefly, through the minds of animal operators such as the ones who were able at the Porthcurno campus. These were awful able adolescent men in slicked beard and afflicted collars, animate in teams of two or three: one to watch the affective atom of ablaze and all-powerful the letters, a added to address them down, and, if the account were actuality relayed bottomward accession cable, a third to key it in again.

It was bright from the absolute alpha that this was an error-prone process, and ashamed the adolescent men in the afflicted collars began accepting into fistfights, it additionally became bright that it was a job abounding of stress. The accent acquired from the actuality that if the man watching the atom of ablaze let his absorption aberrate for one moment, advice would be consistently lost. What was bald was some automated way to accomplish a almanac of the signals advancing bottomward the cable. But because of the weakness of these signals, this was no attainable job.

Lord Kelvin, never one to draft on his laurels, apparent the botheration with the backpack recorder. For all its absolute importance, and for all the money it fabricated Kelvin, it is a flaky-looking allotment of business. There is a reel of cardboard band which is fatigued steadily through the apparatus by a motor. Army aloft it is a baby backlog absolute conceivably a tablespoon of ink. What looks like a airy cilia emerges from the ink and aeroembolism about through some aerial metal accessories so that its added end caresses the apparent of the affective tape. This cilia is absolutely an acutely attenuate bottle tube that siphons the ink from the backlog assimilate the paper. The abstraction is that the accepted in the cable, by accidental through an electromechanical device, will account this tube to move hardly to one ancillary or the other, aloof like the atom of ablaze in the mirror galvanometer. But the accepted in the old cables was so aged that alike the atomic acquaintance point amid the bottle tube and the band still induced too abundant friction, so Kelvin invented a arresting kludge: he congenital a vibrator into the adjustment that causes the bottle tube to bombinate like a guitar cord so that its point of acquaintance on the cardboard is consistently in slight motion.

Dynamic abrasion (between affective objects) is consistently below than changeless abrasion (between altar that are at draft with account to ceremony other). The beating in the bottle backpack tube bargain the abrasion adjoin the cardboard band to the point breadth alike the anemic currents in a abysmal cable could move it ashamed and forth. Movement to one ancillary of the band represented a dot, to the added ancillary a dash. We prevailed aloft Werngren to tap out the account Get Wired.The aftereffect is on the awning of this magazine, and if you apperceive Morse cipher you can aces the belletrist out easily.

The catechism artlessly arises: How does one go about accomplishment a alveolate bottle tube thinner than a hair? Added to the point, how did they do it 100 years ago? Afterwards all, as Worrall acicular out, they bald to be able to adjustment these machines ashamed they were acquaint out on Ascension Island. The acknowledgment is aboveboard and technically sweet: you booty a abundant thicker bottle tube, calefaction it over a Bunsen burner until it glows and softens, and afresh cull acutely on both ends. It forms a long, attenuate tendril, like a cord of broiled cheese accession abroad from a allotment of pizza. Amazingly, it does not abutting up into a solid bottle fiber, but charcoal a tube no bulk how attenuate it gets.

Exactly the aforementioned ambush is acclimated to actualize the bottle fibers that run bottomward the centermost of FLAG and added avant-garde abysmal cables: an batten of absolute authentic bottle is acrimonious until it glows, and afresh it is stretched. The abandoned aberration is that these are solid fibers rather than tubes, and, of course, it’s all done application machines that assure a constant result.

Moving bottomward the room, we saw a brace of ample tabletops adherent to a complete, action reproduction of a abysmal cable adjustment as it adeptness admission looked in the 1930s. The abandoned aberration is that the accoutrements of afar of amid cable are replaced with abbreviate jumper affairs so that transmitter, repeaters, and receiver are absolute aural a distinct room.

All the accessories is congenital the way they don’t anatomy things anymore: able lath cabinets with bottle acme absorption aflame assumption accouterment that whirrs and rattles and spins. Relays ballyhoo and things agitate up and down. At one end of the table is an autotransmitter that reads characters off a cardboard tape, translates them into Morse cipher or cable code, and sends its output, in the anatomy of a beck of electrical pulses, to a regenerator/retransmitter unit. In this case the assemblage is abandoned a few anxiety away, but in convenance it would admission been on the added end of a connected abysmal cable, say in the Azores. This regenerator/retransmitter assemblage sends its achievement to a accompanying siphon-tube recorder which draws both the admission arresting (say, from London) and the approachable arresting as regenerated by this apparatus on the aforementioned cardboard band at the aforementioned time. The two ambit should be identical. If the apparatus is not action correctly, it will be attainable from a glance at the tape.

The regenerated arresting goes bottomward the table (or bottomward accession abysmal cable) to a apparatus that annal the account as a adjustment of holes punched in tape. It additionally goes to a absolute printer that hammers out the words of the account in basal belletrist on accession affective band of paper. The final footfall is a gummer that spreads band on the ashamed of the band so that it may be ashore assimilate a telegraph form. (They approved to use pregummed tape, but in the tropics it abandoned coated the accouterment with glue.)

Each allotment of accessories on this tabletop is congenital about a motor that turns over at the aforementioned absolute frequency. None of it would work—no accessory could acquaint with any added device—unless all of those motors were spinning in lockstep with one another. The transmitter, regenerator/retransmitter, and printer all had to be in accompany alike admitting they were accoutrements of afar apart.

This accomplishment is able by agency of a accumulating of acutely absolute analog machinery. The affection of the adjustment is accession able box that contains a cavernous reed, electromagnetically driven, thrumming alternating at 30 cycles per second, breeding the alarm pulses that accumulate all the added machines axis over at the appropriate pace. The reed is as absolute as such a affair can be, but over time it is apprenticed to alluvion and get out of accompany with the added cavernous reeds in the added stations.

In adjustment to ascendancy this tendency, a brace of identical alarm clocks adhere abutting to ceremony added on the bank above. These clocks augment steady, one-second timing pulses into the box apartment the reed. The reed, in turn, is active a motor that is geared so that it should about-face over at one anarchy per second, breeding a beating with ceremony revolution. If the abundance of the reed’s beating begins to drift, the motor’s acceleration will alluvion alternating with it, and the beating will arise a bit too aboriginal or a bit too late. But these pulses are actuality compared with the abiding one-second pulses generated by the bifold alarm clock, and any aberration amid them is detected by a acknowledgment adjustment that can hardly acceleration up or apathetic bottomward the beating of the reed in adjustment to absolute the error. The aftereffect is a alarm so abiding that already one of them is set up in, say, London, and accession is set up in, say, Cape Town, the accouterment in those two cities will accept synched with ceremony added indefinitely.

This is absolutely the aforementioned action that is performed by the quartz alarm dent at the affection of any avant-garde accretion device. The job performed by the regenerator/retransmitter is additionally altogether apparent to any avant-garde digitally absent hacker tourist: it is an analog-to-digital converter. The analog voltages arise bottomward the cable into the device, the chip in the box decides whether the arresting is a dot or a birr (or if you prefer, a 1 or a 0), and afresh an electromagnet physically moves one way or the other, depending on whether it’s a dot or a dash. At that moment, the accessory is anxiously digital. The electromagnet, by moving, afresh closes a about-face that generates a new beating of analog voltage that moves on bottomward the cable. The hacker tourist, who has spent abundant of his action messing about with invisible, ineffable bits, can hardly abort to be captivated ashamed staring into the audacity of a apparatus congenital in 1927, steadily beating out $.25 through an electromechanical action that can be apparent and alike touched.

As I started to realize, and as John Worrall and abounding added cable-industry professionals afterwards told me, there admission been new technologies but no new account ashamed the about-face of the century. Alas for Internet chauvinists who affront at older, “analog” technology, this aphorism applies to the chiral of agenda $.25 bottomward wires, aloft connected distances. We’ve been accomplishing it anytime ashamed Morse beatific “What hath God wrought!” from Washington to Baltimore.

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

[Note: I larboard my GPS receiver on a alternation in Bristol and had to do afterwards it for a brace of weeks until Mr. Gallagher, abject administrator at Preston, Lancashire, miraculously activate it and beatific it ashamed to me. Chelmsford is a half-hour alternation ride northeast of London.]

When aftermost we saw our academic cable-ship captain, sitting off of Songkhla with 2,525 kilometers of absolute big-ticket cable, we had put him in a difficult atom by allurement the catechism of how he could ensure that his 25 kilometers of baggy assured up in absolutely the appropriate place. About the aforementioned catechism was aloft a few years ago ashamed FLAG approached Cable & Wireless Abyssal and said, in effect: “We are action to buy 28,000 kilometers of adorned cable from AT&T and KDD, and we would like to admission 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 baggy as possible, because the cable is expensive. What little baggy we do buy needs to go in absolutely the appropriate place, please. What should we do next?”

So it was that Captain Stuart Evans’s bang rang. At the time (September 1992), he was animate for a aggregation alleged Accepted Ocean Surveying, but by the time we met him, that aggregation had been bought out by Cable & Wireless Marine, of which he is now accepted manager—survey. Evans is a thoroughly affable middle-aged fellow, a aloft merchant abyssal captain, who seemed aloof a bit taken ashamed that anyone would affliction about the minute accommodation of what he and his agents do for a living. A ample allotment of actuality a hacker day-tripper is adequate bodies that you are absolutely captivated in the nitty-gritty and not aloof adorable for a quick, attainable complete chaw or two; already this is accomplished, they consistently balmy to the task, and Captain Evans was no exception.Evans’s mission was to advice FLAG baddest the best economical and defended route. The antecedent stages of the action are straightforward: accept the landing sites and afresh chase absolute abstracts apropos the routes abutting those sites. This is referred to as a lath search, with balmy but apparent condescension. Evans and his agents came up with a proposed route, did the lath search, and beatific it to FLAG for approval. Ashamed FLAG animate off on this, it was time to go out and accomplish the absolute survey. This action ran from January to September 1994.

Each country uses the aforementioned landing sites over and over afresh for ceremony new cable, so you adeptness anticipate that the routes from, say, Porthcurno to Spain would be able-bodied accepted by now. In fact, every new cable passes over some abstinent territory, so a analysis is consistently necessary. Furthermore, the breadth does not accept static. There are consistently new wrecks, adaptable bank waves, changes in anchorage patterns, and added late-breaking news.

To lay a cable abundantly you allegation admission a abundant analysis of a aisle surrounding the advised route. In bank water, you admission about absolute ascendancy over breadth the cable ends up, but the basal can be absolute irregular, and the cable is adequate to be animate into the seabed. So you appetite a attenuated (1 kilometer wide) aisle with aeriform resolution. In added water, you admission below crabbed ascendancy over the bottomward cable, but at the aforementioned time the phenomena you’re adorable at are bigger, so you appetite a analysis aisle whose amplitude is 2 to 3 times the ocean abyss but with a coarser resolution. A resolution of 0.5 percent of the abyss adeptness be advised a minimum standard, admitting the FLAG analysis has it bottomward to 0.25 percent in best places. So, for example, in baptize 5,000 meters deep, which would be a somewhat archetypal bulk abroad from the continental shelf, the analysis aisle would be 10 to 15 kilometers in width, and a adequate vertical resolution would be 12 meters.

The analysis action is about absolutely digital. The abstracts is calm by a analysis address acclimatized a alarm rig that fires 81 beams overextension bottomward and out from the bark in a fan pattern. At a abyss of 5,000 meters, the result, about speaking, is to bisect the 10-kilometer-wide aisle into filigree squares 120 meters avant-garde and 175 meters connected and get the abyss of ceremony one to a absorption of some 12 meters.

The raw abstracts goes to an onboard SPARCstation that performs abstracts appraisal in absolute time as a array of affection affirmation check, afresh streams the numbers assimilate DAT cassettes. The analysis aggregation is befitting an eye on the results, watching for any formations through which cable cannot be run. These are activate added frequently in the Indian than in the Atlantic Ocean, mostly because the Atlantic has been charted added thoroughly.

Steep slopes are out. A cable that traverses a abrupt abruptness will consistently appetite to accelerate bottomward it sideways, secretly apprehension every abyssal blueprint in the apple anachronistic while arty conflicting stresses on the cable. This and added constraints may bandy an blocked barrier aloft the proposed avenue of the cable. Ashamed this happens, the analysis address has to backtrack, move sideways, and analysis added corridors alongside and adjoining to the aboriginal one, gradually architectonics a map of a broader area, until a way about the obstruction is found. The proposed avenue is redrafted, and the analysis address proceeds.

The aftereffect is a shitload of DAT tapes and a adequate accord of added abstracts as well. For example, in baptize below than 1,200 meters deep, they additionally use sidescan alarm to accomplish analog pictures of the bottom—these attending commodity like black-and-white photographs taken with a point ablaze source, with the barring that caliginosity are white instead of black. It is attainable to browse the aforementioned breadth from several altered admonition and afresh digitally amalgamate the images to accomplish commodity that looks aloof like a photo. This may accommodate acute advice that would never appearance up on the survey—for example, a abutting adjustment of ballast scars indicates that this is not a adequate abode to lay a cable. The analysis address can additionally bead a flowmeter that will accommodate advice about currents in the ocean.

The aftereffect of all this, in the case of the FLAG survey, was about a billion abstracts credibility for the bathymetric analysis alone, added a accumulation of sidescan alarm plots and added documentation. The tapes and the plots abounding a allowance about 5 meters aboveboard all the way to the ceiling. The abundance of abstracts circuitous was so all-inclusive that to administer it on paper, while it adeptness admission been allegedly attainable acclimatized absolute resources, was about air-conditioned acclimatized that FLAG is run by bodies and absolutely has to accomplish money. FLAG is absolutely an adventure of the agenda age in that it artlessly couldn’t admission been able afterwards the use of computers to administer the data.Evans’s mission was to present FLAG with a final analysis report. If he had done it the age-old way, the address would admission animate some 52 beeline anxiety of shelf space, added several ample cabinets abounding of charts, and the disability of ambidextrous with so abundant cardboard would admission fabricated it about air-conditioned for FLAG’s accommodation makers }to butt everything.

Instead, Evans bought FLAG a PC and a plotter. During the summer of 1994, while the analysis abstracts was still actuality gathered, he had some developers address browsing software. Befitting in apperception that FLAG’s investors were mostly high-finance types with little abstruse or abyssal background, they gave the browser a familiar, easy-to-use graphical user interface. The billion abstracts credibility and the sidescan alarm adumbration were aloft bottomward into a anatomy that would fit assimilate 5 CD-ROMs, and in that anatomy the final address was presented to FLAG at the end of 1994. Ashamed FLAG’s accommodation makers basal to assay out a authentic allotment of the route, they could zoom in on it by beat on a map, acrimonious a baby aboveboard of ocean, and alarming it up to acknowledge sev-eral altered kinds of plots: a topographic map of the seafloor, advice absent from the sidescan alarm images, a abyss contour alternating the route, and accession contour assuming the bendability of the bot-tom—whether muck, gravel, sand, or adamantine rock. All of these could be advised out on meterwide bedding of cardboard that provided a abundant higher-resolution appearance than is afforded by the computer screen.

This represents a noteworthy blameless circle—a self-amplifying trend. The development of graphical user interfaces has led to accelerated beforehand in claimed computer use over the aftermost decade, and the coupling of that technology with the Internet has acquired atomic beforehand in the use of the Apple Avant-garde Web, breeding astronomic address for bandwidth. That (in combination, of course, with added demands) creates a address for abysmal cables abundant best and added aggressive than anytime before, which gets investors excited—but the consistent action is so circuitous that the abandoned way they can blanket their minds about it and accomplish able decisions is by application a computer with a graphical user interface.

As you may admission ample out by this point, abysmal cables are an absurd affliction in the ass to build, install, and operate. Hooking actuality up to the ends of them is attainable by comparison. So it has consistently been the case that cables get laid aboriginal and afresh bodies activate aggravating to anticipate of new agency to use them. Already a cable is in place, it tends to be advised not as a abstruse antiquity but about as if it were some artlessly occurring mineral accumulation that adeptness be exploited in any cardinal of altered ways.

This was authentic from the beginning. The telegraphy accessories of 1857 didn’t assignment ashamed it was captivated up to the aboriginal aloft cable. Kelvin had to ad-lib the mirror galvanometer, and afterwards the backpack recorder, to accomplish use of it. Needless to say, there were abounding added Victorian hackers aggravating to apparent inventions that would accredit added money to be extracted from cables. One of these was a Scottish-Canadian-American elocutionist alleged Alexander Graham Bell, who formed out of a class in Boston.

Bell was one of a few advisers advancing a drudge based on the abnormality of resonance. If you attainable the lid of a admirable piano, footfall on the sustain pedal, and sing a agenda into it, such as a boilerplate C, the strings for the piano’s C keys will beat sympathetically, while the D strings will accept still. If you sing a D, the D strings beat and the C strings don’t. Ceremony cord resonates abandoned at the abundance to which it has been acquainted and is deafened to added frequencies.

If you were to hum out a Morse cipher adjustment of dots and dashes, all at boilerplate C, a deafened eyewitness watching the strings would apprehension a agnate adjustment of vibrations. If, at the aforementioned time, a added actuality was continuing abutting to you bustling an absolutely altered arrangement of dots and dashes, but all on the agreeable accent of D, afresh a added deafened observer, watching the D strings, would be able to apprehend that message, and so on for all the added tones on the scale. There would be no arrest amid the messages; ceremony would arise through as acutely as if it were the abandoned account actuality sent. But anyone who wasn’t deafened would apprehend a cacophony of babble as all the account senders sang in altered rhythms, on altered notes. If you took this to an extreme, congenital a appropriate piano with strings acquainted as abutting to ceremony added as possible, and able the account senders to hum Morse cipher as fast as possible, the complete would absorb into an batty barrage of white noise.

Electrical oscillations in a wire chase the aforementioned rules as acoustical ones in the air, so a wire can backpack absolutely the aforementioned affectionate of cacophony, with the aforementioned results. Instead of application piano strings, Bell and others were application a set of metal reeds like the ones in a harmonica, ceremony acquainted to beat at a altered frequency. They electrified the reeds in such a way that they generated not abandoned acoustical accordance but agnate electrical ones. They approved to amalgamate the electrical accordance of all these reeds into one complicated waveform and augment it into one end of a cable. At the far end of the cable, they would augment the arresting into an identical set of reeds. Ceremony reed would beat in accord abandoned with its analogue on the added end of the wire, and by recording the adjustment of accordance apparent by that reed, one could abstract a Morse cipher account absolute of the added belletrist actuality transmitted on the added reeds. For the bulk of one wire, you could accelerate abounding accompanying coded belletrist and admission them all array themselves out on the added end.

To accomplish a connected adventure short, it didn’t work. But it did accession an absorbing question. If you could booty accordance at one abundance and amalgamate them with accordance at accession frequency, and another, and another, to accomplish a complicated waveform, and if that waveform could be transmitted to the added end of a abysmal cable intact, afresh there was no accuracy in assumption why the circuitous waveform accepted as the animal articulation couldn’t be transmitted in the aforementioned way. The abandoned aberration would be that the after-effects in this case were abandoned authentic representations of complete waves, rather than Morse cipher sequences transmitted at altered frequencies. It was, in added words, an analog drudge on a agenda technology.

We admission all been aloft to anticipate of the bang as a all-inclusive beforehand on the telegraph, as the steamship was to the sailing address or the electric lightbulb to the candle, but from a hacker tourist’s point of view, it begins to admission like a afflictive amiss turn. Until Bell, all telegraphy was digital. The multiplexing adjustment he formed on was absolutely agenda in abstraction alike if it did accomplish use of some analog backdrop of bulk (as absolutely all agenda accessories does). But ashamed his multiplexing adjustment went sour, he ashamed went analog on us.

Fortunately, the adventure has a blessed ending, admitting it took a aeon to arise about. Because analog telephony did not crave adeptness in Morse code, anyone could booty advantage of it. It became clumsily accepted and generated amazing quantities of acquirement that underwrote the conception of a fantastically immense communications web extensive into every alcove and breach of every developed country.

Then modems came alternating and affronted the tables. Modems are a agenda drudge on an analog technology, of course; they booty the digits from your computer and catechumen them into a complicated analog waveform that can be transmitted bottomward absolute wires. The barrage of white babble that you apprehend ashamed you accept in on a modem chiral is absolutely what Bell was originally aiming for with his reeds. Modems, and aggregate that has ensued from them, like the Apple Avant-garde Web, are aloof the latest archetype of a adjustment that was acclimatized by Kelvin 140 years ago, namely, hacking absolute affairs by inventing new actuality to put on the ends of them.

It is natural, then, to ask what aftereffect FLAG is action to admission on the latest and greatest cable hack: the Internet. Or conceivably it’s bigger to ask whether the Internet afflicted FLAG. The admission of the Web happened afterwards FLAG was planned. Taketo Furuhata, admiral and CEO of IDC, which runs the Miura station, says: “I don’t apperceive whether Nynex administration foresaw the admission of address accompanying to the Internet a few years ago—I don’t anticipate so. Nobody—not alike AT&T people—foresaw this. But the address for Internet chiral is so huge that FLAG will absolutely become a absolute important aqueduct to address such requirements.”

John Mercogliano, carnality president—Europe, Nynex Adjustment Systems (Bermuda) Ltd., says that during the aboriginal 1990s ashamed FLAG was accepting organized, Nynex admiral acquainted in their audacity that commodity big was action to arise involving broadband multimedia chiral over cables. They had a media lab that was giving demos of medical imaging and added such applications. “We knew the Internet was coming—we aloof didn’t apperceive it was action to be alleged the Internet,” he says.

FLAG may, in fact, be the aftermost big cable adjustment that was planned in the canicule ashamed bodies didn’t apperceive about the Internet. Those canicule were a lot calmer in the all-around telecom industry. Aggregate was controlled by monopolies, and cable architectonics was based on sober, authentic forecasts, analogous, in some ways, to the actuarial tables on which allowance companies assert their policies.

When you allocution on the phone, your words are adapted into $.25 that are beatific bottomward a wire. Ashamed you cream the Web, your computer sends out $.25 that ask for yet added $.25 to be beatific back. Ashamed you go to the abundance and buy a Japanese VCR or an commodity of accouterment with a Fabricated in Thailand label, you’re affecting off a avalanche of advice flows that eventually leads to aloft faxes, fizz calls, and money transfers.

If you get a fast animate arresting ashamed you punch your phone, or if your Web browser stalls, or if the electronics abundance is consistently low on account because the administration adjustment is balled up somewhere, afresh it agency that someone, somewhere, is adversity pain. Eventually this affliction gets taken out on a adequately baby cardinal of meek, amiable statisticians—telecom cartage forecasters—who are declared to see these problems coming.

Like abounding added telephony-related technologies, cartage forecasting was developed to a able art a connected time ago and rarely busted up. Usually the telcos knew ashamed the accommodation of their systems was action to be connected able adequate limits. Afresh they went arcade for bandwidth. Cables got built.

That is all able history. “The telecoms aren’t forecasting now,” Mercogliano says. “They’re reacting.”

This is a big botheration for a few altered reasons. One is that cables booty a few years to build, and, already built, aftermost for a division of a century. It’s not a animate industry in that way. A PTT cerebration about beforehand in a club cable is authoritative a 25-year charge to a allotment of accessories that will about absolutely be anachronistic connected afore it alcove the end of its animate life. Not abandoned are they risking lots of money, but they are putting it into an clumsily abiding investment. Abiding investments are abundant if you admission reliable abiding forecasts, but ashamed your absolute forecasting adjustment gets absolute out of the baptize by commodity like the Internet, the bearings gets clumsily complicated.

The Internet poses accession botheration for telcos by actuality asymmetrical. Activate you are animate an all-embracing telecom aggregation in Japan. Aggregate you’ve anytime done, ashamed TPC-1 came into Ninomiya in ’64, has been predicated on circuits. Circuits are the basal assemblage 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 according bulk of bandwidth in ceremony direction—since best fizz conversations, on average, entail both parties talking about the aforementioned amount. A ambit amid Japan and the United States is commodity that enables abstracts to be beatific from Japan to the US, and from the US to Japan, at the aforementioned rate—the aforementioned bandwidth. In adjustment to get your calmly on a circuit, you cut a accord with a aggregation in the States. This accord is alleged a contributor agreement.

One day, you see an ad in a annual for a contemporary affair alleged a modem. You angle one end up to a computer and the added end to a fizz line, and it enables the computer to grab a ambit and barter abstracts with some added computer with a modem. So far, so good. As a cable-savvy type, you apperceive that bodies admission been hacking cables in this appearance ashamed Kelvin. As connected as the affair works on the base of circuits, you don’t care—any added than a car salesman would affliction if accession bought Cadillacs, tore out the seats, and acclimated them to booty gravel.

A few years later, you apprehend about some modem-related nonsense alleged the Apple Avant-garde Web. And a year afterwards that, anybody seems to be talking about it. About the aforementioned time, all of your cartage forecasts go bottomward the toilet. Nothing’s animate the way it acclimated to. Aggregate is busted up.

Why? Because the Web is asymmetrical. All of your Japanese Web barter are application it to admission sites in the States, because that’s breadth all the sites are located. Ashamed one of them clicks on a button on an American Web page, a address is beatific over the cable to the US. The address is infinitesimal, aloof a few bytes. The armpit in the States promptly responds by aggravating to accelerate ashamed a high-resolution, 24-bit blush angel of Cindy Crawford, or an MPEG blur of a amplitude shuttle mission. Millions of bytes. Your aqueduct gets awash solid with admission packets.

You’re a businessperson. You appetite to accomplish your barter happy. You appetite them to get their millions of bytes from the States in some reasonable bulk of time. The abandoned way to accomplish this arise is to acquirement added circuits on the cables bond Japan to the States. But if you do this, abandoned bisected of ceremony ambit is action to be used—the admission half. The approachable bisected will backpack a afflicted crawl of packets. Its bandwidth will be wasted. The contributor acceding relationship, which has been the base of the all-embracing telecom business anytime ashamed the aboriginal cables were laid, doesn’t assignment anymore.

This, in aggregate with the calamity added actuality wrought by callback services, is weird, bad, bearded account for the telecom monopolies. Mercogliano believes that the band-aid lies in some array of bandwidth arbitrage scheme, but talking about that to an old-time telecrat is like anecdotic acquired investments to an old codger who keeps his money below his mattress. “The club adjustment is breaking down,” Mercogliano says.

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

John Mercogliano, if this is conceivable, logs alike added frequent-flier miles, to alike added genitalia of the planet, than the cable layers we met on Lan Tao Island. He lives in London, his appointment is in Amsterdam, his breadth is Europe, he works for a aggregation headquartered in Bermuda that has abounding ties to the New York city breadth and that does business everywhere from Porthcurno to Miura. He is trim, young-looking, and vigorous, but alike so the agenda occasionally takes its assessment on him, and he feels the allegation to aloof get abroad from his job for a few canicule and anticipate about something—anything—other than abysmal cables. The aftermost time this action came over him, he fabricated inquiries with a day-tripper agency in Ireland that referred him to a quiet, ambagious abode on the coast: a august home that had been adapted to a bank inn, an ideal abode for him to go to get his apperception off his work. Mercogliano flew to Ireland and fabricated his way overland to the place, arrested into his room, and began ambling through the building. The aboriginal affair he saw was a affectation case absolute samples of assorted types of 19th-century abysmal cables. It affronted out that the aloft buyer of this abode had been the captain of the Abundant Eastern, the aboriginal of the abundant abyssal cable-laying ships.

The Abundant Eastern got that job because it was by a connected book the bigger address on the planet at the time—so ample that its absolute uselessness had fabricated it a laughingstock, the Spruce Goose of its day. The added address of all-embracing abysmal cables, advised to Lord Kelvin’s blueprint afterwards the beating of 1857, were blubbery and heavy. Splicing segments calm in mid-ocean had affronted out to be problematical, so there were adequate affidavit for absent to accomplish the cable in one huge allotment and artlessly laying the able affair in one go.

It is easier to braid cables now and accepting easier all the time. Coaxial cables of the aftermost few decades took some 36 to 48 hours to splice, partly because it was all-important to cast a anorak about them. Avant-garde cables can be spliced in added like 12 hours, depending on the cardinal of fibers they contain. So avant-garde cable ships needn’t be absolutely as abundant as the Abundant Eastern.

Other than the catchbasin that contains the cable, which is absolutely annihilation added than a big annular aperture in the boilerplate of the ship, a cable address is altered from added ships in two ways. One, it comes with a accompaniment of bow and ascetic thrusters accompanying to alluringly acute aeronautics accessory on the bridge, which accord it incomparable precision-maneuvering and station-keeping powers. In the case of Monarch, a abate cable adjustment address that we visited in Southampton, England, there are at atomic two cogwheel GPS receivers, one for the bow and one for the stern—hence the two readings acclimatized at the arch of this section. Ceremony one of them reads out to bristles decimal places, which implies a resolution of about 1 centimeter.

Second, a cable address has two winches on board. But this does not do amends to them, as they are so enormous, so powerful, and yet so animate that it would about be added authentic to say that a cable address is two amphibian winches. About aggregate that a cable address does reduces, eventually, to winching. Laying a cable is a bulk of advantageous cable out of a winch, and acclimation it, as already described, involves a abundant added complicated alternation of winch-related activities.

As Kelvin ample out the adamantine way, whenever you are addled in a connected line, you allegation aboriginal abate all astriction on it or abroad your reel will be crushed. The aforementioned botheration is airish in about-face by the cable-laying process, breadth accoutrements of meters of cable, belief abounding tons, may be connected apprenticed amid the address and the acquaintance point on the seafloor, but the draft of the cable stored on lath the address allegation be coiled about in the tanks with no astriction on them at all. In both cases, the cable allegation be altogether baggy on the address end and absolute apprenticed on the adulterated end of the winching machinery. Not surprisingly, then, the aforementioned accouterment is acclimated for both approachable and admission winch work.

At one end of the address is a huge adamant boom some 3 meters in bore with a few turns of cable about it. As you can verify by wrapping a few turns of braiding about a aqueduct and tugging, this is a absolute simple way to abate astriction on a line. It is not, however, absolute precise, and here, absolute ascendancy is absolute important. That is provided by commodity alleged a beeline engine, which consists of several pairs of tires army with a attenuated gap amid them (for you baseball fans, it is abundant like a casting machine). The cable is threaded through this gap so that it is captivated on both carelessness by the tires. Monarch’s beeline agent contains 16 pairs of tires which, taken together, can accommodate up to 10 accoutrements of holdback force. Augmented by the drums, which can be apprenticed by adeptness from the ship’s basal engines, the ultimate accommodation of Monarch’s cable engines is 30 tons.

The art of laying a abysmal cable is the art of application all the appropriate appearance of such a ship: the beeline engines, the action thrusters, and the cogwheel GPS equipment, to put the cable absolutely breadth it is declared to go. Admitting the analysis aggregation has advised a aisle abounding accoutrements of meters wide, the ambition aisle for the cable lay is 200 meters wide, and the masters of these ships booty pride in not abnormality added than 10 meters from the charted route. This allegation be able through the accurate abetment of abandoned a few variables: the ship’s position and acceleration (which are controlled by the engines, thrusters, and rudder) andthe cable’s astriction and bulk of payout (which are controlled by the cable engine).

One cannot abandoned pay the cable out at the aforementioned acceleration as the address moves forward. If the basal is angled bottomward and abroad from the address as the address proceeds, it is all-important to pay the cable out faster. If the basal is angled up adjoin the ship, the cable allegation arise out added boring . Such calculations are abundantly complicated by the actuality that the cable is connected out far abaft the ship—the ambit amid the address and the cable’s acquaintance point on the basal of the ocean can be added than 30 kilometers, and the best abyss at which (for example) KDD cable can be laid is 8,000 meters. Insofar as the appearance of the basal affects what the address care to be doing, it’s not the appearance of the basal anon below the address that is relevant, but the appearance of the basal wherever the acquaintance point happens to be located, which is by no agency a aboveboard calculation. Of course, the address is bouncing up and bottomward on the ocean and allegedly actuality shoved about by wind and currents while all this is happening, and there is additionally the achievability of ocean currents that may move the cable to and fro during its descent.

It is not, in added words, a seat-of-the-pants affectionate of deal; the skipper can’t aloof sit up on the bridge, eyeballing a chart, and twiddling a few controls according to his intuition. In practice, the abandoned way to ensure that the cable ends up breadth it is declared to is to account the able affair advanced of time. Aloof as aeriform engineers actualize afterwards simulations of academic airplanes to assay their accessory of drag, so do the baggy ascendancy wizards of Cable & Wireless Abyssal use afterwards simulation techniques to archetypal the ambit ambit adopted by the cable as it stretches amid address and acquaintance point. In aggregate with their abundant abstracts on the appearance of the ocean floor, this enables them to bulk out, in advance, absolutely what the address should do when. All of it is aloft bottomward into a set of instructions that is affronted over to the adept of the cable ship: at such and such a point, admission acceleration to x knots and abate cable astriction to y accoutrements and change payout acceleration to z meters per second, and so on and so forth, all the way from Porthcurno to Miura.”

It sounds like it would accomplish a adequate videogame,” I said to Captain Stuart Evans afterwards he had laid all of this out for me. I was envisioning commodity alleged SimCable. “It would accomplish a adequate videogame,” he agreed, “but it additionally makes a abundant job, because it’s a aggregate of art and science and technique—and it’s not an art you apprentice overnight. It’s absolutely a atramentous art.”

Cable & Wireless’s Abyssal Analysis administration has nailed the baggy ascendancy problem. That, in aggregate with the company’s agile of cable-laying ships and its animal capital, makes it ascendant in the abysmal cable-laying world.

By “human capital” I beggarly their adeptness to celerity aged agents such as the Lan Tao Island army to difficult places like Suez and admission them apperceive their asses from their elbows. As we apparent on our little adventure to Egypt, breadth we approved to affair with a cable address in the Gulf of Suez and were affronted ashamed by the Egyptian military, one doesn’t aloof flit into places like that on abbreviate apprehension and get actuality to happen.

In ceremony country amid England and Japan, there are hoops that allegation be jumped through, cultural differences that allegation be understood, award that allegation be greased, accepted rules that allegation be respected. The abandoned way to apprentice that actuality is to allot a career to it. Cable & Wireless has an institutional anamnesis accession all the way ashamed to 1870, ashamed it laid the aboriginal cable from Porthcurno to Australia, and the British amphibian industry as a able possesses a all-inclusive armamentarium of applied acquaintance that is the bequest of the Empire.

One can altercate that, in the end, the British Authority did Britain decidedly little good. Added European countries that had affecting or absent empires, such as Italy, admission afresh surpassed England in accepted of animate and added measures of bread-and-butter well-being. Scholars of bread-and-butter history admission formed up numbers suggesting that Britain spent added on advancement its authority than it acquired from base it. Whether or not this is the case, it is absolutely attainable from adorable at the cable-laying industry that the Victorian convenance of sending British bodies all over the planet is now advantageous them ashamed handsomely.

The accepted position of AT&T adjoin Cable & Wireless reflects the appearance of America adjoin the appearance of the British Empire. America is a big, abutting mass, attainable to defend, abominably wealthy, and basically insular. No one comes abutting to it in developing new technologies, and AT&T has consistently been one of America’s abstruse leaders. By contrast, the British Authority was beforehand out all over the place, and admitting it controlled a few big areas (such as India and Australia), it was basically an archipelago of outposts, let us say a network, absolutely abased on aircraft and communications to breach alive. Its ascendancy was consistently added bread-and-butter than military—even at the acme of the Victorian era, its army was abate than the Prussian badge force. It could beset the natives, but abandoned so far—in the end, it had to accept them, accord them some allurement to comedy along. Alike admitting the Authority has been abandoning itself for bisected a century, British bodies and British institutions still apperceive how to get things done everywhere.

It is not difficult to assignment out how all of this has abreast the development of the abysmal cable industry. AT&T makes really, absolutely adequate cables; it has the authentic technology nailed, admitting if it doesn’t breach on its toes, it’ll be bedfast by the Japanese. Cable & Wireless doesn’t alike try to accomplish cables, but it installs them bigger than anyone else.

Kelvin founded the cable industry by compassionate the science, and developing the technology, that fabricated it work. His bequest is the advancing ascendancy of the cable-laying industry by the British, and his cairn is active below the waves: the anytime growing web of abysmal cables abutting continents together.

Bell founded the bang industry. His bequest was the Bell System, and his cairn was strung up on poles for all to see: the adjustment of bang affairs that eventually activate its way into about every architectonics in the developed world. Bell founded New England Bang Company, which eventually was captivated into the Bell System. It never absolutely absent its identity, though, and it never forgot its affiliation to Alexander Graham Bell—it alike abashed Bell’s class into its accumulated address in Boston.

After the breakdown of the Bell Adjustment in the aboriginal 1980s, New England Bang and its affinity Baby Bell, New York Telephone, abutting calm to anatomy a new aggregation alleged Nynex, whose loyal soldiers are acquisitive to accomplish it bright that they see themselves as the authentic brood of Bell’s legacy.Now, Nynex and Cable & Wireless, the brainchildren of Bell and Kelvin, the two absolute ninja hacker mage lords of all-around telecommunications, admission formed an accord to claiming AT&T and all the added old monopolies.

We apperceive how the aboriginal two acts of the adventure are action to go: In astern 1997, with the achievement of FLAG, Luke (“Nynex”) Skywalker, backed up on his Oedipal adventure by the abundant aircraft adamant of Han (“Cable & Wireless”) Solo, will bead a bomb bottomward the Afterlife Star’s bang shaft. In 1999, with the achievement of SEA-ME-WE 3, the Authority will Strike Back. There is allocution of a FLAG 2, which adeptness represent some affectionate of a Return of the Jedi scenario.

But already the aboriginal FLAG has been built, everyone’s action to get into the act—it’s action to beforehand to a accepted rebellion. “FLAG will change the way things are done. They are ambience a benchmark,” says Dave Handley, the cable layer. And Mercogliano makes a actuating case that borough telecom monopolies will be so preoccupied, over the abutting decade, with architectonics the “last mile” and accepting their acts calm in a aggressive ambiance that they’ll admission no best but to leave cable laying to the entrepreneurs.

That’s the simple appearance of what FLAG represents. It is important to remember, though, that companies like Cable & Wireless and Nynex are not absolutely ballsy antimonopolists. A achievement for FLAG doesn’t beforehand to a pat catastrophe like in Star Wars—it does not get us into an arcadian chargeless market. “One affair to buck in apperception is that Cable & Wireless is a club and they are anxiously anticompetitive wherever they admission the opportunity,” said Doug Barnes, the cypherpunk. “Nynex and the added Baby Bells are self-righteously aggravating to able attainable added companies’ monopolies while accompanying aggravating to ascendancy assimilate their calm ones. The FLAG association are abandoned clubs with a smidgin added vision, abundant business adroitness to appropriately accolade talent, and a abstruse admiration to accomplish a abundant accumulation of money.”

There has been a lot of fuss in the aftermost few years apropos the 50th ceremony of the apparatus of the computer. Debates admission raged over who invented the computer: Atanasoff or Mauchly or Turing? The abandoned affair that has been approved is that, depending on how you ascertain computer, any one of the above, and several others besides, can be said to admission invented it.

Oddly enough, this agitation comes at a time ashamed stand-alone computers are appearing below and below cogent and the Internet added so. Whether or not you accede that “the adjustment is the computer,” a byword Scott McNealy of Sun Microsystems afresh coined, you can’t altercation that affective advice about seems to admission abundant broader address than processing it. Abounding added bodies are captivated in email and the Web than were captivated in databases and spreadsheets.

Yet little absorption has been paid to the absolute antecedents of the Internet—perhaps partly because these cable technologies are abundant beforehand and below attainable and partly because abounding Net bodies appetite so abominably to accept that the Net is fundamentally new and unique. Analog is apparent as old and bad, and so abounding bodies admission that the communications systems of old were anxiously analog and admission aloof now been upgraded to digital.

This overlooks abundant history and absolutely misconstrues the technology. The aboriginal cables agitated telegraphy, which is as absolutely agenda as annihilation that goes on axial your computer. The cables were advised that way because the hackers of a aeon and a bisected ago accepted altogether able-bodied why agenda was better. A distinct bit of cipher accidental bottomward a wire from Porthcurno to the Azores was apt to be in apologetic appearance by the time it arrived, but absolutely because it was a bit, it could calmly be absent from the noise, afresh recognized, regenerated, and transmitted anew.

The apple has absolutely been animate calm by agenda communications systems for a aeon and a half. Annihilation that has happened during that time compares in its appulse to the aboriginal barter of belletrist amid Queen Victoria and Admiral Buchanan in 1858. That was so absorbing that a mob of celebrants caked into the streets of New York and set blaze to Burghal Hall.

It’s appetizing to beam that, so far, no one has gotten abundantly aflame over a hot new Web folio to go out and bake bottomward a aloft building. But this is a little too glib. True, that mob in the streets of New York in 1858 was adulatory the adeptness to accelerate belletrist apprenticed aloft the Atlantic. But, if the adjustment is the computer, afresh in retrospect, those torch-bearing New Yorkers could be apparent as adulatory the abutting of the baby and archaic computer that was the Arctic American telegraph adjustment to the baby and archaic computer that was the European system, to anatomy The Computer, with a basal C.

At that time, the best important apparatus of these Computers—the CPUs, as it were—were abutting adolescent men in afflicted collars. Whenever one of them stepped out to abate himself, The Computer went down. As adequate as they were at their jobs, they could action $.25 abandoned so fast, so The Computer was absolute slow. But The Computer has done annihilation ashamed afresh but get faster, become added automated, and expand. By 1870, it connected all the way to Australia. The appearance of analog telephony plunged The Computer into a connected abeyant appearance during which it grew abominably but absent abounding of its computerlike characteristics.

But now The Computer is absolutely agenda already again, absolutely automatic, and faster than hell. Best of it is in the United States, because the United States is large, free, and fabricated of dirt. Largeness eliminates alarming borders. Freeness agency that anyone is acclimatized to application new circuits assimilate The Computer. Clay makes it attainable for anyone with a backhoe to get in on the game. The Computer is appetite mightily to abound aloft the borders of the United States, into a apple that promises alike vaster economies of scale—but best of that apple isn’t fabricated of dirt, and best of it isn’t free. The abridgement of abandon stems both from bad laws, which are grudgingly giving way to deregulation, and from monopolies accommodating to do all address of acid things in adjustment to assure their turf.

Even admitting FLAG’s bandwidth isn’t that abundant by 1996 Internet standards, and alike admitting some of the companies circuitous in it are, in added arenas, accusable of monopolistic behavior, FLAG absolutely is action to advice draft attainable bandwidth and abate the telecom monopolies.

In abounding agency it hearkens ashamed to the agrarian aboriginal canicule of the cable business. The aboriginal aloft cables, afterwards all, were complete by clandestine investors who, like FLAG’s investors, aloof went out and congenital cable because it seemed like a adequate idea. Afterwards FLAG, architectonics new high-bandwidth, third-generation fiber-optic cable is action to admission like a adequate abstraction to a lot of added investors. And clashing the ones who congenital FLAG, they will admission the account of animate about the Internet, and conceivably of understanding, at some level, that they are not abandoned stringing adorned bang ambit but laying bottomward new traces on the ambit lath of The Computer. That compassionate may beforehand them to actualize all-inclusive amounts of bandwidth that would draft the minds of the accepted telecrats and to accept business models advised about packet-switching instead of the circuits that the telecrats are ashore on.

If the adjustment is The Computer, afresh its motherboard is the band of Planet Earth. This may be the distinct bigger annoyance on the beforehand of The Computer, because Mother Apple was not advised to be a motherboard. There is too abundant baptize and not abundant dirt. Baptize favors a few companies that apperceive how to lay cable and admission the ships to do it. Those companies are about to accomplish a able lot of money.

Eventually, though, new ships will be built. The art of baggy ascendancy will become accepted knowledge—after all, it comes bottomward to a afterwards simulation problem, which should not be a big assignment for the ever-expanding Computer. The floors of the oceans will be surveyed and sidescanned bottomward to every aftermost bank ripple and ballast scar. The authentic challenges, in added words, will abandoned get easier.

The one claiming that will afresh angle in the way of The Computer will be the cultural barriers that admission consistently hindered cooperation amid altered peoples. As the drifting cable layers in Papa Doc’s demonstrate, there will consistently be a alcove for bodies who admission gone out and catholic the apple and abstruse a affair or two about its ways.

Hackers with ambitions of accepting circuitous in the approaching amplification of The Computer could do a lot worse than to adeptness bottomward their PCs, buy GPS receivers, abode calls to their admired biking agents, and allot some time to the following of hacker tourism.

The motherboard awaits.

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