5 Ways You Can (Virtually) Time Travel Today

By on October 21, 2015 // Time Travel // 0 Comments

Image: Back to the Future Part II
Image: Back to the Future Part II

So today was Back to the Future Day — the future date that Doc and Marty visited in Back to the Future Part II. October 21, 2015. Now, we can sit back, relax, and just kind of think about how lame 2015 actually is compared to the world of tomorrow we were promised back in 1989.

No rejuvination clinics. No flying cars or hoverboards (yet). No food hydrators. The Cubs aren’t going to win the World Series. We’ve still got some cool stuff, though, like our marching progress toward the robot apocalypse. No sense dwelling on the present.

Anyway, in the spirit of Back to the Future Day, I was thinking about all the different ways we can time travel right now. Not in the literal sense, obviously, unless you’ve figured out how to get one of those HDRs to work. But like Ernetti’s Chronovisor, the Internet allows us to look back, to see how thing were in a different time…

Google Maps

The Memphis Pyramid, 2007 to 2015

The Memphis Pyramid, 2007 to 2015 (Image: Google Maps)

We all know there are some truly bizarre things you can find on Google Maps, but there’s another cool feature available that lets you gaze into the past using Street View.

It doesn’t work everywhere, but if you enter Street View, you may have the option to view images dating back to 2007. Check out your neighborhood, see what’s changed!


Stranger Dimensions circa November 2011

Stranger Dimensions circa November 2011

Well, you’re right, you can do that sort of thing with polaroids. This is the Internet.

In that case, one of my favorite Internet things is Archive.org and its WayBack Machine, which lets you see how websites looked however many years ago. Plug in any website, and you’ll see a calendar (probably) filled with different dates to choose from.

Above, you can see an image of what Stranger Dimensions looked like on November 28, 2011. Wow, that’s almost four years ago.

Computer Emulation

Amiga 500 emulator

Amiga 500 emulator

There’s nothing more nostalgic than outdated operating systems. You have a couple choices, here: The Amiga 500 emulator (which may or may not work in your browser), or PCjs, which emulates “The Original IBM PC.” The latter also gives you the option to run Microsoft Windows 1.01, which released in November 1985.

My 90s TV

My 90s TV

My 90s TV

My 90s TV is a nostalgia trip like no other. While basically nothing more than a fancy YouTube portal, it’s a compilation of TV shows, music videos, movie trailers, commercials, and other media from the 1990s, all served up on a virtual CRT television set. It also comes in My 70s and My 80s varieties. Check it out.

Online Telescopes

Worldwide Telescope

Worldwide Telescope

When we look up at the night sky, the light we see from the stars is actually pretty old, having traversed the cosmos for years and years before finally arriving at Earth.

That doesn’t mean we’re looking at dead stars, but it is a form of time travel, if you think about it. If we could somehow catch up with the light that left Earth hundreds of years ago and turn our telescopes back home, we could view our own history.

That’s a longshot, obviously. Instead, we can do something a bit simpler and use the Internet to look outward through telescopes around the world.

Slooh provides live shows and views through telescopes (though I believe it requires a monthly subscription), and another free option is Worldwide Telescope, a virtual telescope that includes images “from the best telescopes in the world.”

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About the Author

Rob Schwarz is a writer, blogger, and part-time peddler of mysterious tales. He manages Stranger Dimensions in between changing aquarium filters and reading bad novels about mermaids.