"Series Of Tubes," Mario Reference, Found In ATT Manual

A testament to the “Series of Tubes” meme’s pervasiveness is its inclusion in an AT&T FastAccess business DSL tech support manual. According to a former employee, her bosses who made the manual were big nerds and read BoingBoing, Gizmodo, and The Consumerist. She also says in one of the the tech support training videos for the new customer Yahoo portal that’s rolling out later this month, it shows how to create a feed for The Consumerist. Note too that the internet is depicted as a giant fluffy cloud.


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  1. MayorBee says:

    At least there’s no dump truck. Everyone knows that the internet is not a big dump truck.

  2. MayorBee says:

    Oh, I just looked at the other little pictures. Apparently the internet is a big, fluffy cloud. That’s kinda the opposite of a dump truck. I wonder what was whited out next to the series of tubes.

  3. MikeF74 says:

    I’m more interested in the censored image to the left of the “Series of Tubes” image. I bet that one is even better.

  4. Buran says:

    I took this during a BF2 match using the Allied Intent Xtended mod:


    Click the icon centered above the thumbnail for the fullsize pic. Look closely at the sign.

  5. rmz says:

    The internet-as-a-cloud actually made me laugh more than the Series of Tubes did. It’s one of the bigger clichés ingrained onto whiteboards everywhere.

  6. blackmage439 says:

    Step 1: Telephone Line
    Step 2: ????
    Step 3: Series of Tubes
    Step 4: PROFIT!!!

  7. chrylis says:

    @rmz: Eh, it works though, especially when you’re wanting to ignore the Internet’s (or any network’s) internal structure. When I can get away with it, though, I typically put stars on the cloud and label it “magic”.

    (network design consultant)

  8. thefncrow says:

    @MayorBee: Actually, using a cloud to represent the general internet as a whole is a fairly standard metaphor. The actual infrastructure of the internet as a whole is a complex diagram, as you can imagine, and further, you couldn’t really truthfully describe the route of your packet through it without defining certain conditions that can change from moment to moment. What’s the load like on different routers, are there any problems where something has kicked over to a secondary line, what routers are down for maintenance, all sorts of little issues that make it difficult.

    Meanwhile, that exact path isn’t really needed, all you need to know is “Message starts here, it travels like this, and at this point, it goes out into the internet at large, and comes out the other end”. What does it do inbetween? There’s a fair bit of uncertainty based on what the current conditions are, but you know it’ll go in, and you know it’ll come out in the right place.

    If you take any networking courses, and you draw end to end diagrams of network communications, your diagrams will typically have the sender sending the message, the message passing through a few systems you know about, and then into a cloud representing the internet as a whole, and out the other side into the systems you know about on the receiver’s side. What happened in the middle? Well, something certainly happened to transport that message, but the path isn’t necessarily known and isn’t really relevant, so it’s obscured by a cloud.

    Here’s an article talking about the standard of using a cloud.

  9. MayorBee says:

    @thefncrow: I knew the internet was commonly depicted as a cloud. I didn’t know the reasons why, so your post was very enlightening. I was just remarking that the internet was not, in fact, a dump truck.

  10. Brain.wav says:

    The “Internet as a cloud” metaphor is pretty much industry standard. When you’re designing a LAN, you don’t care what the interal workings are, they’re irrelevant, you only need to show connections to it. Similarly, you may represent small, internal LANs within a WAN as clouds.

  11. @thefncrow: But I thought the internet was a series of tubes? If the Internet is a cloud, where do the tubes fit in?!

  12. PSUSkier says:

    Just as a heads up, the Internet “big fluffy cloud” is probably the most accurate image one could make for the Internet. The reason? In networking when you can’t directly map out traffic from point A to point B (lets say in this case that A is a router in California and B is a router in New England) you draw a connection going into a cloud that could represent 1 router or 10,000 routers. You just don’t know.

  13. PSUSkier says:

    Crap, didn’t read comments, and didn’t look only a few comments above at the much more in depth explanation. Well done thefncrow.

  14. highmodulus says:

    Ted Stevens: sleazy and stupid- Alaska must be so proud.

  15. themikebrown says:

    the boing boing link is broken. it goes to boingboing.com instead of boingboing.net

  16. dlab says:

    The censored image probably says “AT&T Network” with the death star logo.

    Just a guess.

  17. nitemareglitch says:


    I bet you are right.

  18. henrygates says:

    Anyone notice their ‘central office’ is a shack? :D

  19. @dlab: No, that’s the box where they pipe your traffic through the NSA.

  20. Dakine says:


    “put stars on the cloud and label it “magic”.”

    “I have AOL! What the hell do I need the Internet for?” – (ex-wife)

  21. sean77 says:

    @Buran: wow. Most obnoxious HUD ever.

  22. Annex1 says:

    Speaking from experience, this looks like crappy, “home-made” web software for training at a call center.

  23. aseriesoftubes says:

    Hey alright! I guess AT&T isn’t all bad.

  24. MayorBee says:

    @aseriesoftubes: Awesome name.

  25. Atsumi says:

    The internet is a giant fluffy cloud in our Cisco curriculum too.

    And in a routing simulation we use, Packet Tracer, when you want internet in your simulation, you need to add an “Internet Cloud.”

  26. ivanthemute says:

    Lolz, Teleperformance training for the fail.

  27. TVarmy says:

    @Michael Belisle: A cloud is the essence of a tube, multiplied by a billion. A tube takes water from one place to another following one path. A series of tubes is like that, but with more places and paths. A cloud can take water vapor, a form of water, to anywhere the cloud goes, and independent water molecules can follow near-infinite paths thanks to Brownian motion. Thus, a cloud is merely a series of tubes on cocaine. Anyone who disagrees is on cocaine, or does not understand the dangers crack poses to society.

  28. musitron says:

    As mentioned before, the “cloud” is the standard symbol to represent the internet. There are other network concepts, like MPLS, that are represented or spoken of as a “cloud.”

    As a network engineer, I can attest that since most of what we do is nonvisual abstraction, we commonly use concrete metaphors to describe the network and its components.



  29. komies says:

    dlab is right on the ATT logo guess.