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"Time flies when you're having a culture."
June 3, 2011 7:50 AM   Subscribe

As part of a 1995 Wired special issue on scenarios of the future, Douglas Coupland ( previously ) noted that most time capsules seem irrelevant to the modern eye, and dared to contemplate:
If you could send a time capsule back 20 years [to 1975], what artifacts [from 1995] would you choose?

"To all you youngsters, sure, you grew up with all the things shown here, but there was a time when music meant (shudder) vinyl, when there were no VCRs, when recycling, decaf coffee, and bottled water were all jokes ... a time when (get this) every single consumer item on Earth didn't have bar codes, and when personal computers were a silly dream".
posted by ZeusHumms (81 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
My eyes! The goggles do nothing!
posted by entropicamericana at 7:55 AM on June 3, 2011 [6 favorites]


I find this funny. The first link leads to:

"The Future of The Future
[an error occurred while processing this directive]"
posted by mrbill at 8:01 AM on June 3, 2011 [5 favorites]


This is as good a time capsule from 1995 to 1975 as it is from 1995 to 2011. Newton MessagePad!
posted by scrowdid at 8:01 AM on June 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


when there were no VCRs

My 4 year old currently likes to hear stories about when I was a baby. Last night, I told him how we had no computer, no video games, no DVD player, no VCR and black and white TV (without a remote). He didn't even know what a "VCR player" is. We own one, but we haven't put a tape in in more years than he's been alive.
posted by DU at 8:01 AM on June 3, 2011 [9 favorites]


EuroDisney!
posted by mippy at 8:02 AM on June 3, 2011


There are lots of weird things that were prevalent during my generation (I'm 29) but not the one before or after. Teletext being a good example. Teletext is why I can read a novel within an hour.

I still secretly want one of those hand-held TVs, though. And the 'souvenir of the Berlin Wall' is quaint given there are people who can legally drink in the US who were not alive when it was knocked down.
posted by mippy at 8:06 AM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


A friend mentioned to me the other day that their Walkman from high school (circa late 80's) still works just fine but that her Watchman (hand-held TV) from the same time period no longer works because of the switch in signals. I hadn't thought about that.
posted by Gronk at 8:12 AM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


The thing that makes the contents of time capsules relevant is gaining insight to what people thought was relevant and important at the time. They can be a small window into the past.
posted by Daddy-O at 8:18 AM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


LOL fake 1995 Web site design. It's the visual design equivalent of talking to the natives in pidgin because that's "their" language.
posted by subdee at 8:19 AM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


When I was a wee lad... no TV, no Telephone, no Air Conditioning, no plastic toys or packaging, no Dialysis, but we had Polio, Smallpox, Measles, Whooping Cough, Steam Locomotives.
posted by Jumpin Jack Flash at 8:20 AM on June 3, 2011 [6 favorites]


Bungie jumping an "extreme" sport? How quaint.
posted by chavenet at 8:25 AM on June 3, 2011


subdee: that's genuine 1995 web you're seeing there!
posted by zsazsa at 8:28 AM on June 3, 2011 [6 favorites]


I had almost all the old issues of WIRED. Ditched them when I moved last, because they just took up too much space. This article, the 100 ways to save apple article and the Gilder & Negroponte "futurist" articles are so much fun to look back on. Like most of the Sci-Fi from my childhood, no one has been able to foresee the computing revolutions (mostly just how FAST and miniature it all gets) very well.
posted by DigDoug at 8:29 AM on June 3, 2011


LOL fake 1995 Web site design.

Not fake at all. Wired TRIED to burn your retinas in the old days. HOTWIRED followed suit.
posted by DigDoug at 8:31 AM on June 3, 2011 [5 favorites]


I would send back a Koosh ball, with the note:

"This is what we use to listen to music in 2011. Pull out the start cord, and rotate 90 degrees. Then select the song you wish to hear, and place it on a smooth flat surface to hear the music. Do not open under any circumstance; the transverse circuits must remain sealed within the anaerobic substrate, or they'll revert to basic rubber (which is something even you 1975 people must be aware of, ha ha! Hope you're still enjoying your rubber-wheeled motor-cars!)"
posted by Greg Nog at 8:32 AM on June 3, 2011 [30 favorites]


If I were to send back one thing to either 1995 or 1975, it would be an iPad with a video of Barack Obama's Presidential Inauguration.
posted by ZeusHumms at 8:39 AM on June 3, 2011 [39 favorites]


Me? Why, I would send an impassioned letter to the U.S Department of Defense, outlining the impracticality of stringing telephone lines through buried lengths of pipe as a deterrant against thermonuclear devestation. Not only would trillions of dollars be saved in the process, but it would allow more effective means of communication to be developed, such as multi-threaded eight track tapes that could enable two way communication through parcel post.
posted by Smart Dalek at 8:40 AM on June 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


I would warn of the bloody and long Holy War between America, Russo-China, and the Middle East, with most of Europe's population migrating to Africa to avoid the radioactive fallout.

I enclose a picture of Sarah Palin and say "She started this war shortly after becoming our president."
posted by mccarty.tim at 8:43 AM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


Jesus Christ. Someone needs to send that link to the DoD so they can weaponize that web design.
posted by Proofs and Refutations at 8:54 AM on June 3, 2011 [7 favorites]


Tears.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:55 AM on June 3, 2011


Teletext is why I can read a novel within an hour.

what
posted by DU at 8:57 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


It appeared on pages, which each had sub-pages. These pages changed very very quickly, so one had to speed-read to take in all the information before it changed.
posted by mippy at 9:06 AM on June 3, 2011


It's an image map! I forgot about those!
posted by spiderskull at 9:06 AM on June 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


A picture of the space shuttle Discovery in the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum.
posted by hat_eater at 9:06 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'd just send back a Segway, with a label affixed that says STOP THEM WHILE YOU STILL HAVE LEGS.
posted by Tomorrowful at 9:11 AM on June 3, 2011 [6 favorites]


If I were to send back one thing to either 1995 or 1975, it would be an iPad with a video of Barack Obama's Presidential Inauguration.

"I swear it was working for a while and had a video of the first black president!"
"Sure it was. So what do with it now?"
posted by Artw at 9:15 AM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


Jesus Christ. Someone needs to send that link to the DoD so they can weaponize that web design.

... which I'm imagining is some kind of effort to emulate the "look" of the print magazine. Meanwhile, between 1995 and now, we have the Magazine itself not so much dead as shoved off into the corner of the culture, much like what happened to horses in the wake of the automobile. And I can't say I really miss it -- particularly the BIG hi-concept design stuff that WIRED was so full of. So many pages. So many eye grabbing colors and shapes and pictures. So few actual words (and related lack of substance).

1995 in a nutshell.
posted by philip-random at 9:17 AM on June 3, 2011


I suppose if you were feeling generous you could send the connector cable as well. When did USB become a thing?
posted by Artw at 9:17 AM on June 3, 2011


I'd send them an almanac of all of the avoidable disasters, e.g. Chernobyl, the WTC bombing, etc.

What the hell is wrong with you people? An Ipad, seriously? Do you just hate the people in 1995?
posted by oddman at 9:24 AM on June 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


LOL fake 1995 Web site design.

I'm amused that it emerges from the geocitiesizer practically intact.
posted by 7segment at 9:26 AM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's an image map! I forgot about those!

UGH. I still have to use those at work. This place is a time capsule. We still make spindle plugs for 78 records for christ's sake.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 9:26 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


We should burn them a copy of Wikipedia whilst we still have CD ROM burners.
posted by Artw at 9:30 AM on June 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


Attention humans of the past. Your best and brightest. will spend hours a day in a cult called "Metafilter." Cease research into transistors, magnetism, and the three-dimensional rendering of mines now or your grandchildren will live enslaved.
posted by zippy at 9:34 AM on June 3, 2011 [6 favorites]


Oh man, that sidebar. It's like reading our collective diary from when we were 14 years old.

Nobody worries about oil much these days. 2011 facepalms.

I would send 1995 a letter written entirely in LOL-speak and meme references. oh hai 1995, i'm in ur future lulzing at ur teknologeez. cool story bro. we made u a cookie but we eated it. the cake is a lie! trooooooooooolololooooo! ROFLCOPTER. has u seen mai bukket? oh god how did this get here I am not good with computer. Attached would be a video of "Never Gonna Give You Up."

They would spend terrified years trying to decipher it.
posted by castlebravo at 9:43 AM on June 3, 2011 [22 favorites]


People of the future will look back with astonishment at a time when there was no AOL.
posted by Naberius at 9:43 AM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


We still make spindle plugs for 78 records for christ's sake.

Why would you want to plug the spindle hole on a 78?
posted by Floydd at 9:58 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


TROLL THE PAST, SAVE THE FUTURE
posted by hermitosis at 10:02 AM on June 3, 2011 [6 favorites]


You could just send them a note: "Reagan is considered moderate left in our time." Or include a Real Doll.

On a more optimistic note, you can just tell them "THERE WILL BE SOMETHING CALLED REAL PLAYER. IT WILL PASS."
posted by maxwelton at 10:07 AM on June 3, 2011 [6 favorites]


Why would you want to plug the spindle hole on a 78?

Ugh, brain-fart. I meant to say 45. I'm bad at remembering which RPM numbers go with which disk. I'm too young to have dealt with any of that stuff (besides my tasteful, if hipster-ish vinyl collection).
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 10:13 AM on June 3, 2011


Hey Wired had it moments... remember that epic article on the laying of a transocean cable? Still the longest magazine article I've ever seen... and among the best
posted by jcruelty at 10:15 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


You can't smoke anywhere anymore.

Ha. As I recall it, in 1995 you could smoke everywhere.
posted by something something at 10:31 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Coupland himself is a time capsule at this point. Its nearly impossible to imagine that when that layout was done it was both fresh AND innovative. If anything we should send it back in time and say "no, you had it mostly right when it was mostly text. Don't get too in love anything that works now because its either semantically wrong which will flip out the future -- which is search/scrape -- or you're ultimately doing too much work for it."

I recently came across some giveaway bandannas I'd picked up in 1985 and seized upon their cultural ancientness: no URLs. Nothing in that box of souvenirs had a single URL. WEIRD, MAN.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 10:41 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's the beginning of summer, 1991. Young mark242 is just out of his junior year of high school, and is planning his summer vacation -- which will most likely be spent mainly in front of his Amiga 500 calling up his favorite BBS's and posting messages, uploading and downloading cracked games that go into the shoeboxes crammed full with 3.5" floppy disks, and just in general messing around, poking into the system internals, etc.

Suddenly, a dialog box appears right smack dab in the middle of Amiga Workbench 2.0.

"mark242: This is a message sent from yourself, twenty years in the future. The time you spend on your computer right now is more important than any of your classes in school. -mark242, 2011"

Young mark242 gives the screen a curious look, then takes the rectangular, hard-edge-cornered mouse and dismisses the dialog box. Another one shows up a few seconds later.

"PS - exercise your stock options in InternetCo as soon as you get them in 1999. Don't wait for them to go even higher."
posted by mark242 at 10:44 AM on June 3, 2011 [9 favorites]


Speaking, or rather tweeting, of the Newton.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 11:02 AM on June 3, 2011


Some of the 1995 letters to 1975 are hilarious: "The coolest channel on television is
essentially nothing but commercials for record albums." "Tony Bennett is a hot artist with high school kids."

Some are sad: "The median family income in America is still the same." "There is a sexually transmitted disease that's incurable and lethal."
posted by blucevalo at 11:09 AM on June 3, 2011


"Why don't you guys work on healthy attitudes on sex. So just in case the president ever gets a BJ it's not a huge deal and doesn't swing the subsequent election."
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:20 AM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


Some of the 1995 letters to 1975 are hilarious: "The coolest channel on television is
essentially nothing but commercials for record albums."


That sounds more like it's form 1985. MTV in 1995 was mostly "The Real World" re-runs. And no one considered it "cool."
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:22 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


No, it wasn't until a bit later that The Real World & such totally took over MTV. Like, 1998 or so. 1995, you could get videos on MTV a good 60% of the time.
posted by furiousthought at 11:31 AM on June 3, 2011


What the hell is wrong with you people? An Ipad, seriously? Do you just hate the people in 1995?

Hey, they sent back a Newton.

I suppose if you were feeling generous you could send the connector cable as well. When did USB become a thing?

It was introduced in January 1996. Under the right circumstances, we could end up with a circular causal loop, if we sent the plans for USB back to 1995.
posted by ZeusHumms at 11:41 AM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


1995 -> 1975: "Everyone laughs at the way people dressed in 1975"
2011 -> 1995: "Everyone laughs at the way people dressed in 1995"
posted by ZeusHumms at 11:44 AM on June 3, 2011


body { background: none; }

Ah, that's better.
posted by OverlappingElvis at 11:50 AM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


2011 -> 1995: "2007 is great time to not be heavily invested in real estate"
posted by ZeusHumms at 11:54 AM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


In 1995, I sent back a full Slackware distribution to 1975, source code and all, in an effort to end-run Microsoft. Unfortunately, it was misdelivered, and instead Lou Reed released it as Metal Machine Music.
posted by fings at 11:59 AM on June 3, 2011 [15 favorites]


ATTENTION BILL GATES JR: DON'T BE A FOOL, STAY IN SCHOOL. MR. T.
posted by zippy at 12:04 PM on June 3, 2011 [5 favorites]


Upon further review of the link, my two favorite time-capsule sentences there: "Intense drugs have destroyed social order in the inner cities" and "Calf implants: studly!"

I have no idea what "You can buy greeting cards for incest victims." is supposed to mean. Presumably you could do that anyway?

Also, that page's web design makes a whole ton more sense once you remember you're supposed to be looking at it in a little tiny 800x600 window, tops.
posted by furiousthought at 12:12 PM on June 3, 2011


Moods have now been conquered.

Yeah. Right.
posted by Splunge at 12:16 PM on June 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


2011 -> 1995: "Everyone laughs at the way people dressed in 1995"

2027 -> 2011: "Everyone laughs at the fact that people 'dressed' in 2011"
posted by blucevalo at 12:26 PM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Today is tomorrow's facepalm.
posted by not_on_display at 12:46 PM on June 3, 2011 [6 favorites]


I'd send back the 1975-1995 archives of the daily racing form.
posted by jenkinsEar at 1:09 PM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


jenkinsEar: "I'd send back the 1975-1995 archives of the daily racing form."

You mean Gray's Sports Almanac.
posted by Chrysostom at 1:21 PM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


If anyone is reading this in 2026, hello!
posted by not_on_display at 1:22 PM on June 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


Guys, I'm visiting myself from 20 years in the future. Just wanted to let you guys know that it's nice to visit the Earth back when its atmosphere was not on fire.
posted by mccarty.tim at 1:30 PM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


2011 -> 1995: "Remember how we wanted more new Star Wars movies? That didn't work out so well."
posted by ZeusHumms at 1:44 PM on June 3, 2011 [5 favorites]


Dear 1995:

There are more than three anti-Christs. Here's a partial list:

Napoleon
Hitler
Dick Cheney
Karl Rove
George W. Bush
posted by double block and bleed at 1:51 PM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


You can't smoke anywhere anymore.

Ha. As I recall it, in 1995 you could smoke everywhere.


I remember being greeted by a billowing cloud of cigarette smoke when I opened the door to the teachers' lounge on my first day as a small-town substitute teacher in 1995.

Sometimes I like to amaze my twentysomething students by telling them why it says on their exam booklets, "Smoking is not permitted in the examination room." I love to watch their expressions when I explain that 10 years before they were born, there were ashtrays in the very classroom they're sitting in.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 2:13 PM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


DigDoug: "I had almost all the old issues of WIRED. Ditched them when I moved last, because they just took up too much space. This article, the 100 ways to save apple article and the Gilder & Negroponte "futurist" articles are so much fun to look back on. Like most of the Sci-Fi from my childhood, no one has been able to foresee the computing revolutions (mostly just how FAST and miniature it all gets) very well."

Oh man, the Apple issues were awesome! That was what got me to thinking of investing in them. I didn't know where to go to do so, nor did I really have much money (rural area living + taco bell wages + money spent on weed = no money for capitalist endeavours)... When I moved to Madison, I finally got a job with more money, but never did invest and eventually came to despise capitalism and never invested in anything.

I'd ... have a lot more money now.

Wired, when you could believe the net was a future libertarian utopia.

Goddamnit I miss the 90s.
posted by symbioid at 2:34 PM on June 3, 2011


philip-random: "Jesus Christ. Someone needs to send that link to the DoD so they can weaponize that web design.

... which I'm imagining is some kind of effort to emulate the "look" of the print magazine. Meanwhile, between 1995 and now, we have the Magazine itself not so much dead as shoved off into the corner of the culture, much like what happened to horses in the wake of the automobile. And I can't say I really miss it -- particularly the BIG hi-concept design stuff that WIRED was so full of. So many pages. So many eye grabbing colors and shapes and pictures. So few actual words (and related lack of substance).

1995 in a nutshell.
"

The old Wired was good decent, but when Conde Nast bought it, it went to utter shit with a bajillion more ads. Thank god Reddit figured out how to not get fucked over like that.
posted by symbioid at 2:38 PM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


castlebravo: "...Attached would be a video of "Never Gonna Give You Up."

Would you believe last.fm fucking rickrolled me today? I had autechre tagged music cued up and they played that. WTF?
posted by symbioid at 2:45 PM on June 3, 2011


finally - this thread is making me more and more depressed the more i read. i'm gonna go now :(
posted by symbioid at 2:51 PM on June 3, 2011


2011 -> 1995: "The Bulls eventually win a few more championships. The Cubs, well, keep betting against them."
posted by ZeusHumms at 3:26 PM on June 3, 2011


Douglas Coupland had a funny quip in his novel Girlfriend in a Coma.

His girlfriend goes into a coma in the late 70's. She re-awakens from her coma in the late 90's. Her friends and family immediately start showing off their cordless phones.

Paraphrase: "I've been in a coma for 2 decades, and I should be really impressed by a phone without a cord?"
posted by ovvl at 6:23 PM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: when you could believe the net was a future libertarian utopia.
posted by scrowdid at 7:25 PM on June 3, 2011


2011 -> 1995: "The Bulls eventually win a few more championships. The Cubs, well, keep betting against them."

How about 2011 -> 1995 or 2011 -> 1909: There is a black president before the Cubs win the World Series again. Make big-money bets with your friends.

(PS to 1909: Other things that will happen before the Cubs win the World Series again: Radio. TV. The Internet. The Soviet Union will rise and fall. Haley's Comet, twice. Commercial flight. Vaccine for polio. Penicillin. Man on the moon. Sliced bread. Five more states will join the Union. Air conditioning. Possibly a man on Mars, we'll have to call 2025 to find out.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:40 PM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty sure "Moods had been conqured" as much in 1995 as 1975
posted by delmoi at 7:50 PM on June 3, 2011


Hey Wired had it moments... remember that epic article on the laying of a transocean cable? Still the longest magazine article I've ever seen... and among the best

Written by Neil Stephenson, by the way. If you liked that article you should check out his trillogy The Baroque Cycle about the emergence of science and technology at the turn of the 18th century
posted by delmoi at 8:06 PM on June 3, 2011


Hey, me from 1995 - get off your ass and actually learn an instrument. That hurdy gurdy you are saving up for now is really bloody expensive.

Oh yeah, and that chick? Don't bother with her - she turned out to be a bloody loon.
posted by cerulgalactus at 8:09 PM on June 3, 2011


I'd send back a big ball of white grease, with a note that says: "In our time, we don't have to make anything any more. We just have this gooey stuff. When we want something, we just take it out and tell it what we want. After a couple of hours, if you say it right, it modifies itself and becomes what you want. Enjoy!"
posted by Twang at 8:21 PM on June 3, 2011


in, in 1975, my 18 year old self had been sent a computer with win95 installed, i would have been amazed and astounded - and eventually annoyed, of course
posted by pyramid termite at 8:50 PM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'd send back a simple recording:
This is not a dream... not a dream. We are using your brain's electrical system as a receiver. We are unable to transmit through conscious neural interference. You are receiving this broadcast as a dream. We are transmitting from the year two, zero, one, two. You are receiving this broadcast in order to alter the events you are seeing. Our technology has not developed a transmitter strong enough to reach your conscious state of awareness, but this is not a dream. You are seeing what is actually occurring for the purpose of causality violation.
posted by meehawl at 9:01 PM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


HotWired! The most fun website ever for kids into technology and into feeling smarter and savvier about the future than everyone they knew. That hideous color scheme takes me back. It's kind of weird to think adults read Wired and its associated web properties as I think of it as mostly only cool to preteens and maybe young teenagers.

I too am laughing at the "you can't smoke anywhere" message from 1995. I was 10 in 1995, and my friends and I went to Disneyland a LOT, and I remember perfecting this ridiculous routine of coughing theatrically in line behind smokers, spouting concerned lines about asthma and such extra loud ("Oh no! Nancy, did you leave your inhaler at home again?"), because we really didn't like the smell of smoke and wanted people to put their cigarettes out. We were taught in school that it was unhealthy, so we felt justified in being a little rude and weird to try to pressure adults to cut it out in line at Disneyland. But the fact that we had plenty of practice busting out our "stop smoking in line please" demonstration is pretty telling. To be fair, we became friends in 1992 or so, so we had a good chunk of the early 90s to work on it. I just have the most vivid memories of coughing loudly into our hands waiting in line for the Haunted Mansion.

Now I think about the drama that would ensue IMMEDIATELY if some poor sap were to light up in line at Disneyland. It's honestly kind of hard to even imagine anyone trying it.
posted by troublesome at 9:55 PM on June 3, 2011


People from 1995 couldn't even imagine the kind of smoking bans we'd see in 2011. I mean, Smoking bans outdoors? My home town university banned smoking anywhere on campus recently. Now you see clusters of people smoking right on the edges of the property.
posted by delmoi at 3:03 AM on June 4, 2011


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