The Man Who Told the Internet He Came from the Future

Dec 22, 2011 by
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Image Source: Xetobyte on Deviant Art via I09.

Even at the dawn of the Internet Age, the time-bending and time-altering potentials of Cyberspace were very evident to some.  I09 has just posted a very interesting piece about a message board contributor in the 1990s, one ‘John Titor,’ who told people he had been sent back from the future to retrieve a 70s’-era IBM computer in order to fix computer glitches that would later cause a lot of trouble in the 2030s. He made several dire predictions about world affairs in the early Millennium, some of which have come true. In a twist that sounds like it came straight from DC Comics’ time-gutting continuity manuals (DC had already had one big chronally-driven crossover event in the 1990s that touched on Titor’s premise; it is entitled Zero Hour), Titor also said he came from a slightly different timeline, thus safely granting his futuristic predictions a margin of doubt. As anyone familiar with the Terminator film franchise knows, the time traveller sent back to the present to stop a future calamity became a highly-compelling, widely-used pop culture trope from the mid-1980s onward.

Yet Titor seemed to be a ‘real’ version of this pop cultural trope, which was why his curious claims attracted so much attention. This was an early case of manipulation of the Internet to create false verisimilitude based on virtual reality mimicking the authoritative reference points of actual reality – even if the reference points from actual reality were fictional! It was very clever. Titor’s story has been debunked by I09 as a virtuoso first in viral online marketing.  Nevertheless, it still makes fascinating reading.  For it is, in fact, the Internet that has become our real time machine, as anyone who has spent the last fifteen years staring at a computer screen during most of their waking hours can attest. From the report:

What if someone from the future popped up in our timeline and started answering questions from people on internet message boards? That’s exactly what John Titor did in the late 1990s. Claiming he was sent from the future on a mission to retrieve an antique computer, he talked with thousands of people online and told stories of futuristic life in 2036. Many of his tales warned of imminent disaster for the world, but he said he couldn’t help.

As abruptly as he appeared, Titor vanished in 2001. Did he finish his mission? Who – or what – is behind the legend of John Titor? …

Posted by John Titor on 01-27-2001 12:45 PM. Greetings. I am a time traveler from the year 2036. I am on my way home after getting an IBM 5100 computer system from the year 1975. My “time” machine is a stationary mass, temporal displacement unit manufactured by General Electric. The unit is powered by two, top-spin, dual-positive singularities that produce a standard, off-set Tipler sinusoid. I will be happy to post pictures of the unit.

Life in 2036

Titor talks about his life as well, including living in Florida as a child, his service in the second American Civil War as a member of the Fighting Diamondbacks in 2013, and the communal/agricultural nature of life in 2036.

Titor admits he lives in a parallel timeline, one that varies 1-2% from ours. Enough to be slightly different, but not diverge from the major societal events. Titor is on a mission to obtain an IBM 5100 in order to debug computers in 2036 due predicted problems with Unix in 2038. The IBM 5100 emulates APL and BASIC programming languages, an interesting feature. John also posts pictures of his time travel machine along with schematics and the logo used by his military unit.

Titor’s story eventually falls apart, with answers inconsistent and terse, and the user quits posting in April of 2001. The Titor story contines to grow as the conversations are re-posted onto other sites and through e-mail lists, with Titor fever reaching a peak in 2003, culminating with the release of a book about Titor, John Titor: A Time Traveler’s Tale in late 2003 by the John Titor Foundation, Inc.
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Assistant Editor - Mindscape magazine.



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