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The Way Back Machine: Capturing the Digital Age


Do you remember having a long-lost website  and URL that you no longer use.  Or just wondered what a website looked like in the past.  What if you could travel back in time, sort of.  And see the old site?

There is a project that will do just that.  It is called the Way Back Machine.  Using this site, digital artifacts have been preserved, a snapshot of a site taken in time.

Brewster Kahle,  founder of the Internet Archive,  works out of a converted church in San Francisco. He captures internet data including snapshots of the world wide web every 2 months.  They have now amassed over 459 billion web pages (and counting) including millions of YouTube videos and other digital artifacts.

“The Way Back Machine” is an excellent resource to recover the past.  The name Wayback Machine was chosen as a droll reference to a plot device in an animated cartoon series, The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.(Wikipedia)


In one of that animated cartoon’s component segments, Peabody’s Improbable History, lead characters Mr. Peabody and Sherman routinely used a time machine called the “WABAC machine” (pronounced wayback) to witness, participate in, and, more often than not, alter famous events in history.

Since 1996, they have been archiving cached pages of web sites onto their large cluster of Linux nodes. They revisit sites every few weeks or months and archive a new version if the content has changed. The intent is to capture and archive content that otherwise would be lost whenever a site is changed or closed down. Their grand vision is to archive the entire Internet. (Wikipedia)

So, if you want to see what Yahoo looked like, for instance in 1996 when it first launched, you can do that on the Wayback site.  And for you bloggers out there, just type in your blog URL and see what it looked like when it was first captured.  It’s an interesting look back.


NPR: Will Future Historians Consider These Days The Digital Dark Ages?
Wayback Machine: Internet Archive
Wayback Machine (Wikipedia)
How to Use the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine (WikiHow)

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