The internet has become indispensable for our society. Now that wireless has become the norm, the web seems to have become part of the atmosphere. The reality is quite different; the web still has a hard side. The World Wide Web once started with a handfull of pc's, interconnected by phone-lines. These have made way for factory-sized halls full of humming system cabinets and millions of miles of cables. This photo-essay was made on assignment for the magazine NRC-M in 2007.

The internet has become indispensable for our society. Now that wireless has become the norm, the web seems to have become part of the atmosphere. The reality is quite different; the web still has a hard side. The World Wide Web once started with a handfull of pc's, interconnected by phone-lines. These have made way for factory-sized halls full of humming system cabinets and millions of miles of cables. This photo-essay was made on assignment for the magazine NRC-M in 2007.

The first server of the World Wide Web, here on display at the permanent CERN-exhibition in Geneva. Working for a large physics community at CERN in Geneva, Tim Berners Lee developed a computer-network using data and telephone-lines to exchange scientific data across the world. The World Wide Web later became almost synonymous with the Internet.

The first server of the World Wide Web, here on display at the permanent CERN-exhibition in Geneva. Working for a large physics community at CERN in Geneva, Tim Berners Lee developed a computer-network using data and telephone-lines to exchange scientific data across the world. The World Wide Web later became almost synonymous with the Internet.

Underground space with a few thousand consumer-class pc's, parallel connected to create one super-computer. At CERN physics experiments are generating astronomical amount of scientific data. This relatively cheap solution is created to process this data and allow scientists to access it over the internet.

Underground space with a few thousand consumer-class pc's, parallel connected to create one super-computer. At CERN physics experiments are generating astronomical amount of scientific data. This relatively cheap solution is created to process this data and allow scientists to access it over the internet.

A brand new 'Data suite' at the Amsterdam Internet Exchange (AMSIX), one of the largest access points to the internet in the world. This space is still empty but will soon be filled with stacks of routers and servers that will make up another part of the internet. The space provides air conditioning, backup electricity and a direct link to the main arteries of the internet.

A brand new 'Data suite' at the Amsterdam Internet Exchange (AMSIX), one of the largest access points to the internet in the world. This space is still empty but will soon be filled with stacks of routers and servers that will make up another part of the internet. The space provides air conditioning, backup electricity and a direct link to the main arteries of the internet.

Optic fibers for high-speed internet connections are being laid under the pavement in Amsterdam. Supported by local governments, large parts of Holland are made ready for households to be connected to high speed internet. With higher speeds of data-transfer, applications like high-definition on-demand TV or Videophone becomes possible.

Optic fibers for high-speed internet connections are being laid under the pavement in Amsterdam. Supported by local governments, large parts of Holland are made ready for households to be connected to high speed internet. With higher speeds of data-transfer, applications like high-definition on-demand TV or Videophone becomes possible.

A tape robot for storage of and access to large quantities of data accessible via the internet. This robot is at CERN, physics experiments generate so much data that just the ability to process it was one of the main challenges to overcome when building the experiments. Tape is slower than hard-disk, but less costly while storing more information per cubic meter with a lower error rate.

A tape robot for storage of and access to large quantities of data accessible via the internet. This robot is at CERN, physics experiments generate so much data that just the ability to process it was one of the main challenges to overcome when building the experiments. Tape is slower than hard-disk, but less costly while storing more information per cubic meter with a lower error rate.

This stack of equipment is a 'control-centre for specific bandwidth'. Once again at the forefront of internet developments, this equipment was developed at CERN to guarantee the transfer of a certain amount of data to and from other parts of the world (bandwidth), while maintaining the free-flow of information which is the main advantage of the internet.

This stack of equipment is a 'control-centre for specific bandwidth'. Once again at the forefront of internet developments, this equipment was developed at CERN to guarantee the transfer of a certain amount of data to and from other parts of the world (bandwidth), while maintaining the free-flow of information which is the main advantage of the internet.

Data switch for optical fibre at CERN. With actual moving mirrors inside, incoming light-pulses are being switched to different destinations. Every cable can carry up to 10 Gigabits (10 with 9 zero's) of data per second.

Data switch for optical fibre at CERN. With actual moving mirrors inside, incoming light-pulses are being switched to different destinations. Every cable can carry up to 10 Gigabits (10 with 9 zero's) of data per second.

Underground space with a 'disk-farm' at CERN. Thousands of hard-disks are stacked to allow research-groups fast and flexible access to parts of the astronomical amounts of scientific data that are being produced by physics experiments there. Hard-disk storage is more expensive than tape-storage, but data can be accessed faster.

Underground space with a 'disk-farm' at CERN. Thousands of hard-disks are stacked to allow research-groups fast and flexible access to parts of the astronomical amounts of scientific data that are being produced by physics experiments there. Hard-disk storage is more expensive than tape-storage, but data can be accessed faster.

A 'server-cage' with routers and servers at AMSIX. In cages like this, companies put up cabinets of equipment that have direct access to the fastest arteries of the internet.

A 'server-cage' with routers and servers at AMSIX. In cages like this, companies put up cabinets of equipment that have direct access to the fastest arteries of the internet.

A control-terminal at one of the 'disk-farms' at CERN. With a terminal like this, data can be transferred from the 'tape-farms'. Research-groups can demand what part of data they wish to study intensively, so that it will be temporarily available over the internet from faster and easier hard-disks.

A control-terminal at one of the 'disk-farms' at CERN. With a terminal like this, data can be transferred from the 'tape-farms'. Research-groups can demand what part of data they wish to study intensively, so that it will be temporarily available over the internet from faster and easier hard-disks.