Dark Age of Technology
[Some cleanup has been done. More may be needed?]
"In ancient times, men built wonders, laid claim to the stars and sought to better themselves for the good of all. But we are much wiser now."
- – Archmagos Ultima Cryol - Speculations On Pre-Imperial History
"The day science begins to study non-physical phenomena, it will make more progress in one decade than in all previous centuries of its existence"
- – Nikola Tesla
"There have been numerous sages among the nations of mankind. The knowledge that has not come down to us is larger than the knowledge that has. Where are the sciences of the Persians that ‘Umar ordered to be wiped out at the time of the conquest? Where are the sciences of the Chaladaeans, the Syrians and the Babylonians, and the scholarly products and results that were theirs? Where are the sciences of the Copts, their predecessors?"
- – Ibn Khaldun - Muqaddimah
The Dark Age of Technology (or just the Age of Technology) was a period of history before the Imperium of Man, where human civilization flourished and spread throughout the stars. It takes place shortly after the discovery of the Warp-drive and the Navigator gene.
Thanks to the discovery of the Warp drive technology, Geller Fields allowing for Warp travel,") and the Standard Template Constructs, humanity was able to spread far and wide, settling planets across the galaxy, and driving out many native xenos-civilizations before them. The result was akin to a golden age for humanity, with technological marvels beyond even the Adeptus Mechanicus's ability to
recreate comprehend being constructed, and laws of physics being re-written.
The Age of Technology ironically ended because humanity had become too dependent on their technology and on Warp travel. They lost the former with the rebellion of the Men of Iron; the latter with the increasing emergence of psykers and the uncontrolled release of their powers. As psykers did not know how to control their powers, let alone shield themselves from the Warp, they became convenient focal points for daemons to enter real space, or turned into them power-hungry, possibly Chaos corrupted slaver-kings )as it happened on numerous worlds during the Age of Strife), and Eldar partying too hard caused Warp storms. Enslaver plagues wiping out entire populations due to the increasing number of Human psykers and the resulting aforementioned close encounters of the daemonic kind on various populated human worlds and spacecraft throughout the galaxy further accelerated the downfall to this "first" human empire preceding the Imperium. With humanity struggling to battle the backlash of this sudden mayhem, humanity turned on itself; gone were the grand ideals, instead humans battled amongst themselves for control of what remained. Stories persist of aliens long thought to have been driven off, or who lived under the "benevolent" care of the human empire, coming back / rebelling for sweet sweet vengeance. Thus, humanity fell into a period that would later become known as the Age of Strife. Interestingly, the emergence of psykers in human coincides with the gestation of Slaanesh.
The "Dark" in "Dark Age of Technology" is misleading, as it implies that the Imperium considers technology to be inherently evuuul. In truth though, one of the major reasons why humanity uses the term "dark" is that the Age of Strife - characterized by civil unrest, daemonic incursions (including but not limited to depopulation of whole planets), and Warp travel/communication becoming impossible (resulting in complete isolation of human-populated worlds) - led to the first major loss of previously obtained knowledge. Following this dark era the wars of the Great Crusade, in particular the Horus Heresy, followed by the long millennia of the Age of the Imperium finally resulted in destroying basically all records of the Age of Strife and the Dark Age of Technology, that may have been preserved until then, leaving only scraps of knowledge and rumours behind. This is similar to how some historians refer to the period between the end of the Roman Empire and the high Middle Ages as "The Dark Ages", because there is very little historical evidence left from that time.
The closest thing to how Humanity may have lived during this Age were the Interex, a civilization that was more advanced than the Imperium, but was unfortunately wiped out at some point by the Luna Wolves. The war started with Erebus secretly stealing an Anatheme (the very same Warp-corrupted sword that was later used to mortally wound Horus in order to engineer his corruption) from one of their museums. This convinced the Interex the Imperials had been corrupted by Chaos already, leading to the start of hostilities.
The "Dark Age" is also called such because it is now considered a spiritual dark age compared to the "glorious modern age", as humanity used to put science first (which may or may not have caused the birth of the Omnissiah) rather than the God-Emperor of Mankind. The irony of all this is lost on every human in the setting. The only remnants of the technological wonders of that age (called "archeotechnology" or "archeotech," which the Adeptus Mechanicus furiously seeks) are the STCs, which could be the Imperiums' salvation. Other creations of that age, like the Men of Iron, are best left forgotten (or better yet, destroyed). Good luck getting a tech-priest to not poke around the possibly-dangerous ancient technology, though. Apparently “enslaved” Men of Iron were used exclusively by the Dark Angels by the Emperor’s order/permission during the Great Crusade so...
Highlights of the technology that has been hinted at canonically include still-pristine warships with bridges made of solid light, something equivalent to time-weapons, and a cloud of sentient nano-machines that can kill you by making your blood explode. The “Cybernetic Revolution”/“Iron War” had humanity using “Sun Snuffers”; serpentine machines that opened up extending to around the size of Saturn’s rings; their job was to draw in the energy of suns until they were consumed entirely. There were also large spacefaring machines that ate their way through planets and shat out the remains into the void. Dark Age of humanity wasn't nothin' to fuck with.
TL;DR: It's basically Star Trek meets Atlantis.
List of reasons why the Dark Age was kickass
aka why the Emperor is kind of a failure. *BLAM* Heresy!
- Widespread immunity to all diseases and poisons (The Panacea).
- Far more widespread use of anti-gravity.
- Imperial Knights were used during the early stages of the DAOT and were used in the defence of many of humanity's colonies across the galaxy. They proved themselves over and over again but the Thrones of these mighty war machines would over time begin to affect the minds of their users, turning them from a protective mindset to a far more authoritarian one.
- Energy guns that created small temporary black holes and also distort time so that even if they miss, the enemy is teleported nanoseconds back in time to occupy the same position as their past selves simultaneously, resulting in both versions being destroyed, i.e. a gun that literally causes targets to telefrag themselves.
- The Speranza from "Priests of Mars" had such a weapon hidden within its body. A vast gun like a great menhir was bought to the surface on heavy-duty rails before it fired a silent dark pulse of energy which would then coalesce into a miniature temporary black hole. Although the Eldar ship Starblade was able to avoid the shot, its solar sail was brushed by the weapons deadly energy, allowing the secondary effects of the chrono-weaponry to shift the target a nanosecond into the past, forcing identical neutrons of the solar mast into the same quantum space. This causes the mast to detonate violently; now crippled and visible the Starblade was destroyed by the circling Kotov fleet. These weapons were designed to crack the hulls of the ships of their enemies. Let that settle in for a moment: these powerful weapons needed to be this strong in order to damage, not destroy, the ships that opposed them.
- Combat augment arrays could be used to transform a person or entire populations into killing machines. Being able to turn normal colonists into soldiers sounds great but it was considered dishonourable and foolhardy; although you could get an instant army, the array's invasive manipulation of nerve pathways, adrenal glands and musculature normally resulted in the death of those affected. You could enhance an entire planets population into super soldiers but you were also more than likely also signing their death warrants, not to mention that reintegrating a generation of young men taught to kill in an ordinary ca. late-M2 fashion into society has been enough of a challenge in our own time.
- These Combat augment arrays, combined with the existence of the Butcher's Nails add a far darker side to what we know about humanity's golden age; the existence of these technologies either show a flagrant disregard for human lives or a desperate attempt to create enough fighting bodies to counter whatever foes they were facing.
- Robots with the strength of Space Marines that numbered in levels close to the Imperial Guard.
- On a similar note, sentient AIs-- or close enough to it to be highly capable if not truly humanlike.
- Not to mention these AIs could control machines the size of planets that fed on stars, swarms of nanomachines that could consume you within moments, and giant robots the size of planets who could eat holes in real space and the warp, all of which humans controlled before they decided that human anus looks just as appetising as the Xenos we were probably using them against-- and humanity survived.
- Average humans performing extremely hazardous duty like deep space mining or maintenance of a voidship's plasma coils had access to Terminator armour. While not exactly Terminator armour as the Space Marines use, the incredibly durable exoskeletons-cum-spacesuit that were used by civilians while performing their day job would later serve as the template from which Terminator armour was developed by the AdMech. After they recovered a bunch of them during the Great Crusade, they only had to add auto-senses, black carapace interfaces and other gubbins to allow a Space Marine to use the suit like a regular set of Power Armour.
- Weapons that could shoot enemy ships in the middle of a warp jump.
- Something like DC Comics' Nth Metal (but human-made) called phase-iron. It is used as restraints for Pyskers since the metal is not only resistant to any form of psychic energy directed against it, but also burns their skin like acid anytime they try to use their powers.
- House Van Saar from Necromunda has its founders originate from the time of the DAOT (after some timey-wimey Warp shenanigans they emerged at their intended destination a lot later then they intended. The Van Saar are actually the closest you are ever going to get to playing humans from the DAOT.
A pretty retarded and nonsensical Fanon timeline of the Dark Age of Technology, which makes Matt Ward's creations seem amazing and logical by comparison. http://www.heresy-online.net/forums/155-homebrew-40k-fluff/211473-fanon-history-dark-age-technology.html#post2375305