Mother Earth Mother Board

After I linked to Josh Dzieza’s long report about subsea cable repair, I got an email from Joshua Ochs who pointed me to Neal Stephenson’s 1996 essay, published in Wired, about the laying of the FLAG cable.

There is some poetry here. The only way I read that original article, published it, and then received that email is because of all of this infrastructure. I may be writing this on a laptop with no wires coming out of it, but that is not really how I am connected to the internet. Instead, one cable after another has carried my bytes.

If you have not read it before, I think you should set aside some time for it. But do note: it is over forty thousand words. You should still read it. Also, there are parts of it which have not aged well — from predictable cultural perspectives, to a comparison made of the demise of the Library of Alexandria which will make you double-take the dateline. And I recommend spending time with the whole thing because it is amazing.

Tim Maly, writing for Nieman fifteen years after its publication:

The dot-com world’s dangerously myopic narcissism was visible to those with the right kind of eyes, and “Mother Earth Mother Board” is 42,535 words of emergency optical surgery. Stephenson wants to show you that everything’s been done before, only crazier.

The essay is apparently a legendary work but, as with so many critically lauded things, it escaped my field of view. If you have time this weekend, do not let it escape yours.