The Disappointing Truth About John Titor, Internet Time Traveler

"Titor insignia" by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Titor_insignia.jpg#/media/File:Titor_insignia.jpg

The logo of Titor’s military unit, according to him.

After many years of hoaxes, it’s finally October 21st, 2015 – the day Marty McFly went to in Back to the Future 2. Alas, Robert Zemeckis’ vision of a world of hoverboards and the Chicago Cubs knowing success was undone by aerodynamics and the New York Mets.

On this occasion, let’s remember another time traveler, who predicted nothing correctly and vanished, as is the norm with time travelers.

Others have done a good job of recounting who John Titor was. From 2000 to 2001, a man calling himself John Titor posted on time travel- and Art Bell-related message boards claiming to be a traveler from the year 2036, a soldier sent back in time to recover a certain computer in 1975. He stopped in 2000 to visit family and retrieve pictures lost in a second American civil war…and answer questions on a message board, apparently.

A photo of John Titor's time machine; if there was a higher-resolution version, it's gone now.

A photo of John Titor’s time machine; if there was a higher-resolution version, it’s gone now.

Though it’d be tempting to write off Titor as a mere hoaxer, he did have some level of technical knowledge. His mission was trying to avert UNIX’s Year 2038 problem, which is a genuine issue in computer science. This may explain why some were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, though I’ve heard most people were skeptical from the start.

John Titor told us about life in his time and accordingly left many predictions about the future. Let’s take a look at some of them (drawn mainly from http://www.johntitor.com/):

A world war in 2015 killed nearly three billion people.

Hopefully not true, but there are a few more months left for World War III to break out.

No, the ice caps are not melting any faster than they are now.

False. The ice caps are melting faster than ever.

There is a civil war in the United States that starts in 2005. That conflict flares up and down for 10 years. In 2015, Russia launches a nuclear strike against the major cities in the United States (which is the “other side” of the civil war from my perspective), China and Europe. The United States counter attacks. The US cities are destroyed along with the AFE (American Federal Empire)…thus we (in the country) won. The European Union and China were also destroyed. Russia is now our largest trading partner and the Capitol of the US was moved to Omaha Nebraska.

False.

Hats are more common in the future and flashy colors are less common. Dress is much more functional and we “dress up” whenever we get a chance.

Everyone in the future wears hats. Fedoras make a comeback! But I can’t tell you anymore or I’d risk a paradox, m’spacetimecontinuum.

Perhaps I should let you all in on a little secret. No one likes you in the future. This time period is looked at as being full of lazy, self-centered, civically ignorant sheep. Perhaps you should be less concerned about me and more concerned about that.

The future: full of Redditors!

…Entertainment is less centralized. There are “movies” and “TV” but everything is distributed over the net and more people produce their own “shows”.

Not inaccurate, but even in the 90s people could see the internet effecting entertainment in this way.

Wavering western support for Israel is what gives Israel’s neighbors the confidence to attack.

Incorrect! Western support of Israel, or at least American support of Israel, is still high, and it remains undestroyed.

As a result of the many conflicts, no, there were no official Olympics after 2004. However, it appears they may be revived in 2040.

A cutaway of John Titor's supposed time machine.

A cutaway of John Titor’s supposed time machine.

Wrong! Further Olympics have occurred every two years, and hosts are sorted through the next decade. Not even mounting expenses and hosting the Winter Olympics in Beijing can kill it off.

The year 2008 was a general date by which time everyone will realize the world they thought they were living in was over.

Going off their e-mail forwards and Facebook posts, our racist uncles sure thought the world ended in 2008. But this is so vague you can’t possibly judge it false or true.

I would describe it as having a Waco type event every month that steadily gets worse.

I don’t remember a massive siege, or terrorist attack, or weird cult suicide happening every month in 2008. Just your run-of-the-mill mass shootings.

The conflict will consume everyone in the US by 2012 and end in 2015 with a very short WWIII.

Again, no civil war started in 2005, and though WWIII technically could start this year it wouldn’t spring from some divided America’s strife with Russia or China.

John Titor is remembered fondly as one of the web’s strangest mysteries. At least that’s how most people remember him. That’s how I remember him. What I didn’t know until today was that the mystery had been solved long ago – and the truth was disappointing.

Allegedly, a lawyer named Lawrence Haber and his brother were behind the whole thing; that explains Titor’s knowledge of obscure computer problems. As Keith Veronese notes in their io9 article, there’s a chance that someone else was behind the first messages (a series of faxes to Art Bell in 1999). However, much like beloved Russian internet horse horse_ebooks, the basis for John Titor was apparently commercial – in 2003, the John Titor foundation was registered, and they quietly released a book based on the story that year. With the book long-since out-of-print, John Titor has survived as a bizarre internet legend, the tale of a time traveler who stopped by some message boards to do an AMA, one of many strange stories from the wild late-90s/early 00s internet, up there with eBay’s haunted painting and Time Cube.

Other Memetic Time Travelers Who Aren’t Real

Rudolph Fentz, the 19th-century man struck by a car in 1950s New York City, is from a Jack Finney story, which became a real urban legend for some reason; the man from Taured, who vanished from a Tokyo airport, is also from a story, though from a more obscure source than the Fentz tale. That hipster at the bridge opening was wearing an era-appropriate Montreal Maroons sweater, and that woman walking by the premiere of The Circus was just using a hearing aid. And I’m pretty sure the former drummer of Iron Butterfly wasn’t about to crack the code of time travel, either.

Other internet oddities: Weird Wisconsin; “Crowd Demons”, the Lawton Triangle of 2002.

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