Oberlin Blogs

The end of the world as we know it

October 17, 2009

Zoe McLaughlin ’11

The internet went down on Wednesday night. Wednesday night of midterms week. At the time, I was in one of the science center's computer labs, trying to figure out what had happened in the last biochemistry lab I'd done. The data from my lab group didn't match up with the data from another lab group who also happened to be there. I was online, talking to someone else from the lab whose data was a little like ours, but not enough in any way to validate it.

My lab partner wondered aloud if we had mixed up our substrates. I turned and made a comment about how there was no way. Every time we pipetted some mysterious substance from one test tube to another, we said aloud what we were doing. It was obvious, though, that something had gone horribly wrong.

I turned back to my computer to further my electronic communication, and found everyone offline. So I refreshed the page. And it never came back.

At first, I thought it was just my computer. I was working on my laptop, somewhat counter-intuitively, given all the computers around me. I plugged an Ethernet cable into it, figuring that would solve the problem. And at first it appeared to. The internet validation page popped up and I entered in my login information. And it accepted it. And then...nothing.

Still, I thought it was just my computer. Since I was surrounded by computers, I logged into one and opened up the internet. Again, nothing. At this point, the reality of the situation began to dawn on me, though I still believed that it might just be slow. I returned to the document where I was typing my lab write-up, to give the internet a few extra minutes to work.

Then the calm that we'd built up by shared misery was shattered by the presence of a newcomer. He entered, sat down at a computer, and after a few minutes said, "Is the internet down?"

"Yes," I said. "I think so."

"I think it's just in here," someone else said.

"No," he said. "It doesn't work at Asia House, either."

My pessimistic suspicions had been confirmed. There would be no more using the internet to try to solve my problems, at least for one night.

"Yeah," I said. "The internet's definitely down."

There was some shared grumbling, after which I left to go back to Asia House. Apparently I had just missed a freak-out party that had occurred when everyone in the hall realized what was going on with the internet.

"It was great," one of the girls across the hall from me said. "Everyone was outside your door saying 'No more internet! We're going to die!'"

I was sad to have missed it, because the lack of internet had somehow raised everyone's spirits. Sure, it was midterms week and people had papers to write and wanted to look things up online, but now they couldn't. Which meant something radical: sleep. I went to bed early simply because I could. It was nice.

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