All items about history


The well known sci-fi movie trilogy Back to the Future got a lot of attention online yesterday when it was “revealed” that July 5th, 2010 was the date in the future that Marty and the Doc travel to at the start of the second movie. The only problem is, as the more astute fans will know, that this date never actually featured in the movies. The date in question is actually in 2015.

The mistake originated from Total Film magazine in the UK, and when they discovered their mistake, they jokingly “went back in time to fix it” (a.k.a. photoshopping a screen capture from the movie). Unfortunately, this image then spread around the Internet as “proof” that July 5th 2010 was really in the movie. Soon the Future day meme was trending on Twitter and receiving tens of thousands of searches on Google. There’s even a new variant of the image with July 6th as the date… and the meme continues.

This incident highlights both the speed at which information spreads online, and also how readily people will accept anything they read online, without taking the time to dig deeper or verify facts – something that will become more and more commonplace as we become more saturated with information from so many sources.

Read the full story at Total Film.


The WWW of 18th Century London

A new website, London Lives, has been created by researchers at the University of Sheffield in the UK. 240,000 pages of manuscripts from between 1690 and 1800, from hospitals, courts, local governments and parishes have been digitized and made available online – that’s half the size of the world-wide web in 1996.

What’s new here though is that the documents have been cross-linked so that you can track individual people’s lives across the different institutions of 18th century London, building up a picture of London life in the period much as you might while browsing the web or reading people’s Twitter updates today.

It’s a refreshingly different way to examine the past, and reminds us the value of open data and what we get from having a cross-linked web of public data sources today.

Read more at or browse London Lives directly.


An interview with James Burke

When I was very young, a TV series called Connections changed my life. It was an ADHD-filled ride through history and science, showing us how everything we took for granted stood on the shoulders of giants.

I just found this interview with the author and narrator of that series, James Burke, conducted by Gartner. It’s a great read; if anything, Burke has underestimated the pace of change.

Read more »

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