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Can I go to the Internet?

by Katie Ayres

3 minutes

Today we are going to journey into the Internet. It is a real place that you can see, touch and feel.

The internet can feel invisible or just a wispy cloud in the sky. Instead it is hundreds of thousands of computers in which you can connect and retrieve information.

As a web developer who also handles the hosting and upkeep of my client’s websites, I am in the Internet everyday. So how about if you join me while I jump into the Internet and update a website. We can ride our bikes there, so let’s go!

On my bike ride, I am riding in an area where there are a number of Ragingwire data centers, which I find the most architecturally interesting.

Raging Wire Va1 Data Center
Raging Wire VA 1 Data Center

Here are links to two virtual tours of these data centers on the inside, allowing you to get past the much-needed security.

Washington and Old Dominion Trail in Ashburn, Virginia

I am riding on the Washington and Old Dominion trail which is a popular bike trail in the Washington DC metro area. It follows an old train route that used to take Washingtonians out to the countryside for a nice picnic. If I kept riding East for 30 miles, I would find myself at the Washington Monument.

Surprisingly, this trail is where the backbone of the Internet lives, 70 percent of the world’s, yes, that’s the world’s Internet traffic comes through Ashburn, Virginia, where I am.

Riding on the trail - aerial view
Aerial view of where I was riding. The white arrow is following the W&OD bike trail

The bike trail cuts right through the heart of an area containing massive buildings that house banks of computers that are on the Internet network. The bits swirl under the residents in gigantic bundles of fiber optic cabling that hooks these buildings together and out to the world.

Data Centers are where the Internet lives, containing racks of computers humming with Internet activity. We could go into one of these buildings and walk through the racks of computers. However, I can’t because the servers I manage are not here.

So let’s return to my home office and go to the Internet by using the Internet. I want to change 1happyplace.com and I can change it on one file that is accessible to anyone on the Internet.

Updating 1 Happy Place on the server
Updating 1 Happy Place website on the server directly

We can edit the characters in that file and see it change on the live website in realtime. I am working on the command line with an ancient editor called vi, which allows me to work extremely fast.

Let’s find the tagline and add the exclamation point. Now, in the other screen you will see the website update immediately. There it is, the exclamation point that we just typed.

New tag line

So I hope you enjoyed this journey into the Internet! It was fun to take you there.