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Bin Laden’s search period spanned the information revolution

May 2, 2011 - Art Smith
Nearly 10 years ago Osama bin Laden was the mastermind behind horrible acts against America and Americans. The man has been the No. 1 target of the military ever since. Sunday they got him.

How Americans found out bin Laden was dead was in many cases vastly different from the way they found out the United States had been attacked on that September morning so many years ago.

At a Philly’s baseball game Sunday fans learned about the story not from the pubic address system or from the giant scoreboard, they got the information from the tiny computers most of us carry in our pockets. Web-enabled cellphones mean you cannot only get text messages from your friends about an event, you also can check Facebook and Twitter for reactions as well as read a wide range of news sites for the story. Video showed baseball fans and even people in the dugout checking their phones as the story developed last night. Text messaging was around in 2001, but certainly not at the level used today.

Twitter was not even established when the Sept. 11 attacks occurred. It would be the summer of 2006 before people would have to boil down to 140 characters the information they wanted to share. Sunday a person named Sohaib Athar, who happened to be the near the compound in Pakistan when U.S. forces attacked, sent tweets that described what was going on while the attack was occurring.

Facebook, which likely had hundreds of millions of bin Laden status updates today, had no updates on Sept. 11. The site was not launched until Feb. 4, 2004, and now has 600 million users worldwide.

Google Maps were not around in 2001 either. If they had been, we could have looked at the empty field where the compound of bin Laden would later be built. The compound can now clearly be seen on the site, as are hundreds of photos from the town where he lived.

Even news sites, including this one, were by today’s standards, fairly plain and boring sites in 2001.

Big news events today can generate thousands of snippets of information to our cellphones, computers, text messages, televisions, ipad apps, Wii consoles, email, Facebook, Twitter and Google news feed — quickly overwhelming the average consumer of news.

Reading the big story in a newspaper is a great option as well. Remember, newspapers are the original portable ready devices, and they don’t need batteries.


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