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Return of Dark Ages thwarted

Posted by: | October 1, 2009 | No Comment |

The sacking of Rome initiated the 500-year period known as the Dark Ages. As the empire crumbled, chaos ensued. People fled the urban centers and formed small agrarian societies, while leaving behind most of the technological advances of the day. Illiteracy became prevalent and news communication came to a screeching halt.

Today, the world is different than it was in the Dark Ages. People now flock to urban centers — taking technology with them. Literacy is widespread and news communication is instantaneous and pervasive.

(Boston Globe / Dan Wasserman)

(Boston Globe / Dan Wasserman)

Although the Dark Ages ended more than 1,000 years ago, there are still events that serve as reminders of darker days when communication wasn’t so instantaneous or pervasive.

In 2008, the country of Georgia found itself in the middle of a technological dark age when Russian hackers launched a cyber-attack against its Web sites in the early stages of the Russian-Georgian conflict — crippling the government’s communications.

In 2009, denial-of-service attacks took Twitter, Facebook, and LiveJournal off-line on the one-year anniversary of the Russian-Georgian conflict.  Social networking junkies across the globe were more than annoyed at the downtime.  The attacks on the sites were an attempt to disrupt the postings of a lone blogger in the country of Georgia.

These examples of technological Dark Ages, however, are not limited to the Caucasus.

President Obama also found himself in a technological dark age when he entered the White House. Phone lines were disconnected, computers and software were out of date and nongovernmental e-mail was restricted. Obama staffers also faced other security restrictions, such as no instant messaging.  Obama was even told that he might lose his BlackBerry! Their normal methods of communicating with the outside world had vanished.

Eventually, Obama was allowed to keep his BlackBerry and perpetual technological darkness was averted.

(Getty Images / Ron Sachs)

(Getty Images / Ron Sachs)

(Related reading: “A History of News” – Mitchell Stephens, Chapter 5)

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