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Mike Elgan: How to build a time machine

Mike Elgan | Feb. 26, 2011
The real-time Internet is crowding out the future and the past. Here's what to do about it.

Future Me. This service has been around for years. Just log in and send an e-mail to yourself, and it will be delivered on the future date you specify, whether that date is two weeks or 50 years in the future.

Learn from the past

Wayback Machine. The Wayback Machine, which is a copy of thousands of Internet sites from the past, has been around for years. But in January, a new version was rolled out. It's much better now.

The Wayback Machine archives more than 150 billion pages on the Internet. You can choose the year, and the Wayback Machine will show you all the days archived. Click on a day, and you see a snapshot of the site as it was captured and frozen in amber.

The reality is that a whole lot of information posted on the Internet gets deleted for one reason or another. The Wayback machine helps preserve some of that information.

FwdMail. As more people dump e-mail and embrace texting, chat and social networking, we lose opportunities to retain a record of the past. That's why you should forward, paste or otherwise move as much as possible into an e-mail service like Gmail, then index it all for instant recall. FwdMail is a great tool for doing this.

If you install FwdMail on your iPhone, it will hoover up every word ever written or received in Gmail and then index it for fast retrieval. If you use it right, you can have the past in your pocket, which can be very powerful.

Other similar tools exist for other phones and other e-mail services, and I recommend that everyone find the best tool for the job and use it frequently.

Together, all these services give you most of the benefits of an actual time machine -- without the empty wallet and painful injuries.


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