Dear Dr. Boli: How does the Internet work? —Sincerely, T. B.-L.
Dear Sir: The Internet works by means of a technique called distributed processing. When you make a request for a Web page, it is immediately typed and drawn for you by expert HTML coders. Obviously, the vast array of information and entertainment available to you through your Web browser would never be possible if all of it emanated from a single source. Instead, the work is distributed to HTML sweatshops throughout the world, so that, for example, one busy young woman in Guangzhou is responsible for every occurrence of the letter A, while a moonlighting divinity student in Aberdeen handles the punctuation, and an eleven-year-old girl in Kuala Lumpur is breathlessly waiting to see whether you will require any ampersands. The illustrations are a comparatively easy matter, since the same three photographs of cats make up most of the graphics on the Internet. All these materials are sorted at vast sorting plants in Bangalore and sent through a series of metaphorical “tubes” (which are really more like conveyor belts) to your Web browser, which adds the proper captions to the cat photographs and displays the results on your screen. If your browser is not currently displaying a captioned photograph of a cat, it probably means that the system has broken down somewhere; but you may be assured that service will be restored shortly, as soon as the foreman takes the proper disciplinary measures.