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By now, a lot of us take it for granted. We sit down in front of a glowing tube, and with less than a dozen small movements of one finger, we get a stock report and the latest news on the web, see that our chat buddy from Japan is online, get an e-mail message containing a picture of a new family member, and another with instructions on how we can earn $1,000 a day from our own home.

Is this Internet Thang great, or what?

We all know there's a lot more involved than just flexing a few muscles in your index finger. But the truth is, most of us don't know exactly what happens when we make that simple movement to connect to our Internet Service Provider and check our e-mail. We may have a vague notion of electrons coursing through some unseen machinery, but we can't picture them.

It's time to see the machines.

About These Pictures

The call came one quiet Sunday afternoon: "It's safe."

It was not an official visit. In fact, it was done on a "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" basis. So don't ask me where these pictures were taken, because I won't tell you. They were shot in about 25 minutes with a 35mm camera, a small tripod, and on camera flash, using mainly the existing fluorescent "light," and prayers to the Goddess of One Second Exposures On Vibrating Floors.

I've heard this room referred to by a name, but it seems far too pedestrian for the most electrified and digitized environment I've ever visited. In some ways, it's the personification of this thing we call the Internet, but I just call it The Big Room. I didn't pace it off, but I would estimate it's 35 feet wide by 70 feet long. And the Big Room gives off a Big Hum. There's a constant 90 to 95 decibels just from the air movement and machine hum. It would be hard to hear a normal phone ring in this room. The floor vibrates.

The Big Room
One half of The Big Room
74kb enlargement

In fact, it's so big, and tightly crammed with racks of equipment that it's not possible to get it all in one picture. Shown at right is one half of this room, taken from the central aisle (the left side of the frame).

So what is in this Big Room? While equipment obviously varies from one Internet Service Provider to another, this Big Room contains everything you might encounter as a customer during one simple session online. Follow the links below....

The Big Room
Logging In
E-mail & The Web
Read Newsgroups
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