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A Prehistory of the Cloud$
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Tung-Hui Hu

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780262029513

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262029513.001.0001

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The Shape of the Network

The Shape of the Network

(p.1) 1 The Shape of the Network
A Prehistory of the Cloud

Tung-Hui Hu

The MIT Press

How did digital networks come to resemble formless, decentralized ‘clouds’ in their shape? This chapter answers this question by examining a highly charged moment in 1961, when the Bell System was targeted by a series of bomb attacks that tore through Utah and Nevada, at the same time that engineer Paul Baran began to develop his theories on distributed networks. Using Senate hearings on the bombing, the chapter argues that the perfect network is an ideological fantasy, one that has, at its core, the principle of deviance: of having circuits—or people—that are unreliable and untrustworthy. The chapter then turns to the architectural collective Ant Farm, whose Truckstop Network offered a very different vision of a decentralized network in 1970 and 1971, to suggest that in order to approach the perceptual effects of the cloud, one must first think of the network unobscured by the effects of technology.

Keywords:   distributed, decentralized, network, mobile, railroad, Internet, nuclear, counterculture, labor strike

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