Mankind strode across the stars like a god. But veneration of technology and pride led us too close to the sun, and a horrific fate.
The Dark Age of Technology was the zenith of mankind’s scientific knowledge and technological power. Even millennia later mankind has not been able to equal or regain its former height of achievement. This age was long before the Age of the Imperium and knowledge of this time period is now incredibly sparse, and many “facts” about it are mere legend. It was the highest point of scientific achievement accomplished by humanity.
Although a “golden age” in terms of scientific achievement, because of the catastrophic effects of the following Age of Strife, mankind has since come to regard scientific knowledge as abhorrent and dangerous. The Age of Technology is thus considered “dark” in the Imperium’s current age. It is also considered a dark age because mankind in the Age of Technology had come to worship science as God.
The Golden Age
By M18, the Age of Technology brought the development of the Warp drive and the Gellar Field, allowing spacecraft to make short Warp-jumps, traveling vast distances in a relatively short amount of time. One can compare this to the way the Tau ships currently travel.
The Warp drive accelerated the colonization of the Galaxy, and allowed trade and communications between the colonies and Terra. Humanity began encountering other alien races, such as the Orks and Eldar, and clashed with both civilizations during this period.
The second vital development was that of the Navigator gene and the creation of the mutant Navigators, humans who could see the currents of the Warp and navigate a course through them. This allowed spacecraft to make longer and more accurate Warp-jumps than previously possible.
During this era, many forms of Mutants were created by means of genetic experimentation in order to engineer beings that could fulfill set goals as envisioned by their creators. Amongst those created during the Dark Age of Technology is believed to include the ranks of the Navigators though whether their development was with a purpose or by accident is not known
Amongst the creations in this scientific high point were the Standard Template Construct system. These evolved computers allowed colonies to maintain their technological level. The STCs contained all human technological knowledge and provided the instructions to build anything the colonists might need. As most colonists were simple and required only basic equipment, the more advanced technology was rarely utilized.
With Warp Drives and Navigators, mankind was finally able to colonize distant worlds and expanded with great speed. Terra-forming techniques and evolved astroengineering capabilities were developed that allowed them to transform barren worlds into habitable planets. During this time, thousands of colonies were established by humans on distant worlds. The resulting exploration brought mankind new knowledge, wealth and arrogance. Science is said to have become God. Humanity had encountered several alien races. With their discovery began the first human-alien wars. With mankind at the height of its power the threat of aliens was trivial and eventually, non-aggression pacts were signed with many of the alien races. At this time the human colonies were federated to Terra – allowing the human race to remain unified.
Mankind during this period was able to finally create true artificial intelligence in the form of the Men of Iron. Used as servants, these beings eventually rebelled and nearly brought humanity to ruin. After a devastating war, the Men of Iron were defeated and subsequent developments of artificial intelligence were outlawed. This edict remains in effect even to this day – one of the absolutes of Adeptus Mechanicus creed.
During the Age of Technology psykers were first scientifically verified to exist. It is, however, unexplained how these psykers avoided the danger of daemonic possession for thousands of years, which would have led to the destruction of entire worlds. Where at first the gift of the psychic mutation was limited to a few individuals, who often fell victim to superstitious suppression, towards the end of the age, psykers suddenly began appearing in great numbers, on every human world. On the more progressive human worlds, these psykers – at least until the threat of daemonic possession became apparent – were protected and allowed to develop and explore their abilities. On other worlds, they were often killed in witch-hunts.
The End of an Era
This golden age would not last. By M22, large numbers of Psykers began to appear, many inadvertently heralding Daemonic possession and incursions by various wap entities. As anarchy reigned, some accounts state that a great war with the machines erupted in M23. Faced with these calamities and the sudden appearance of perilous Warp Storms, trade between the human colonies collapsed. With this relative isolation, Abhumans (i.e. new human subspecies adapted to their environments) like the Ogryns, Ratlings, and Squats developed on several planets.
Certain planets, like Terra the ancient homeworld of mankind – relying on the trade with the rest of humanity – were suddenly unable to feed their enormous populations. Hunger and starvation followed. The Human psykers were relatively weak and inexperienced, and at constant risk of possession by daemons and other Warp entities. The sudden impossibility of Warp travel meant that unified humanity broke apart into completely isolated systems and worlds. Daemonic possession, widespread insanity, and isolation led to inter-human conflict, anarchy, and regression to barbarism. The following time period is aptly named the Age of Strife.