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What Hell Hath the Blackberry Blackout Wrought?


E-mail has changed the way people communicate. But, the BlackBerry has changed the way people communicate via e-mail.


I can't remember the last time I sent a letter. E-mail has changed the way I-and countless others-communicate. But, the BlackBerry has changed the way people communicate via e-mail.

A lot of people.

Research in Motion (RIMM), the Canadian company behind the ubiquitous BlackBerry, says it has added three million subscribers over the last year, for a total of eight million.

That's the entire population of all five boroughs of New York City.

More than twice the population of Los Angeles.

And almost three times the population of Chicago.

Which has resulted in this:

I don't use a BlackBerry. I get my chain-letter jokes and penis enlargement pitches at the office.

So, I was blissfully unaffected on Tuesday night when a technical glitch interrupted service to more than five million of the eight million BlackBerry users for ten hours.

From what the public reaction reporter Brad Stone describes in The New York Times today, you'd think that five million people had lost the use of their lungs for ten hours.

Stone quotes a man named Stuart Gold, who was on a business trip in Phoenix when the service interruption occurred.

"I started freaking out. I started taking it apart. Turning it off. Turning it on. I took the battery out and cleaned it on my shirt. I was running around my hotel like a freak. It's very sad. I love this thing."

Another quote comes from an insurance salesperson named Elaine Del Rossi.

"I quit smoking 28 years ago, and that was easier than being without my BlackBerry."


Mark Twain would've had a devil of a time without his BlackBerry, had he been around for Tuesday's "disaster."

"Quitting smoking is easy. I've done it a thousand times."

This got me to thinking: did the BlackBerry outage prompt a noticeable spike in tobacco sales on Tuesday? No way of knowing for sure, but here's what Altria (MO) did:

What about desperate BlackBerry users turning to the bottle? Again, Tuesday's sales figures were impossible to obtain, but here's a Diageo (DEO) chart:

I tried to ascertain whether or not more Xanax prescriptions were filled than usual on Tuesday. My local pharmacist wouldn't say, but take a look at Xanax manufacturer Pfizer's (PFE) chart:

In his book Drugs of Abuse, Dr. Samuel Irwin rated the psychological addiction potential for various drugs. The ratings, based on a scale from 0 to 5, with 5 being the highest, are as follows:

  • Heroin: 5
  • Stimulants (cocaine and amphetamines): 5
  • Sedatives: 4
  • Marijuana: 3
  • Inhalants: 3
  • PCP: 3
  • LSD: 2

Might I suggest to Dr. Irwin adding BlackBerries to the list and including a "6" in the scale?

Finally, what did the definitive BlackBerry website, , have to say about the outage?


Oh, man-here come the sweats, the tremors, the paranoia…somebody get me a doctor.


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