The BlackBerry solution
Two big stories out of Europe this week.
First, geneticists announced that they had reconstructed the genome of the bug that caused the so-called Black Death, the plague that killed about 30 million people in Europe from 1347 to 1351.
Then, Research in Motion executives announced that the company had fixed the problem that caused the so-called BlackBerry Death, the outage that began in Europe and killed the BlackBerrys of about 70 million customers on five continents this week.
Now, you might think the plague was worse. But only if you don't own a BlackBerry. For those folks, this week was a look into the abyss:
Denise L. White, 40, chief executive of Entertainers & Athletes Group, a sports management company in El Segundo, realized something was wrong at 7:43 a.m. Wednesday when there were no new messages on her BlackBerry.
"It's been horrible for me. I'm someone who relies on my BlackBerry every second," said White, who normally receives hundreds of emails a day. "It never ceases to amaze me that we can put a man on the moon, but we can't get our BlackBerrys to work."
Which is really a silly thing to say. Because, although we did put men on the moon decades ago, we can't do it anymore. We can't even send astronauts to the space station.
But we can invent complicated stuff to make our lives easier -- which the stuff does, until it stops working.
But do we blame technology? Oh no. We blame the device:
White said the "huge inconvenience" of the latest BlackBerry outage was leading her to think about other options.
"I know there's quirks with technology and it's not perfect, but this certainly makes me rethink the iPhone," she said.
Good thinking: An iPhone, or an Android phone, that's the ticket. Nothing can go wrong then. Just ask Scarlett Johansson.
Still, perhaps the most serious impact was felt in our nation's capital:
In Washington, D.C., many lawmakers and staffers struggled to do their jobs without their BlackBerrys.
People live and breathe with these things here," said Zachary Coile, a spokesman for Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.). "It's the go-to device on Capitol Hill."
So now we know why President Obama's jobs bill is sitting there: It's fallen victim to the BlackBerry Death.
Perhaps Congress could form a committee to look into the whole debacle; you know, hire a big staff, hold hearings (televised, or streamed on the Web straight to your smartphone), subpoena records and the like.
But take heart. Humans are resilient. As The Times’ story on the Black Death said:
Bubonic plague still strikes somewhere between 1,000 and 3,000 people each year, according to the World Health Organization. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control report that on average, 10 to 15 Americans get the disease each year, mainly in rural areas… Bubonic plague responds to antibiotics if discovered and treated quickly.
Likewise, we can now easily overcome BlackBerry Death:
In a conference call with reporters Thursday morning, [Mike Lazaridis, RIM's president and co-chief executive], said any continuing problems experienced by BlackBerry users were likely caused by the lengthy backlog of messages due to the three-day outage.
He also suggested that customers still experiencing problems remove their BlackBerry's battery for a short time to reset the device because the lengthy outage could have affected its ability to synchronize with the network.
So simple, so elegant: The cure for BlackBerry Death -- unplug your phone.
Photo: The BlackBerry logo on a Curve 9300 smartphone, manufactured by Research In Motion. Credit: Simon Dawson / Bloomberg