Here's the site for living in the past

Posted on November 29, 2000

A rarity on the Web is a site that can keep one entertained for longer than 20 minutes. The only chance most sites have at this is by spending 18 minutes loading some cool program that can do your laundry while you wait.

There are a handful of sites that hold my interest -- ESPN.com, all the games at Zoog Disney (although if you play the volleyball game, be warned that you are allowed to play it off the frame, and if you play the computer, he cheats) and, of course, this site.

But I think I've found a site in which I could spend perhaps decades and still run into new material, or at least material I've forgotten enough to think it's new. It's the History Channel. I like learning history, but unfortunately, most of my high school and college classes have combined so much that I only know history by stream of consciousness. For instance, Harriet Tubman, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Lincoln Stephens, muckrakers, Upton Sinclair, "The Jungle," Frederick Douglass, Stephen Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, Robert E. Lee, Ulysses S. Grant, $50 dollar bill, "Goonies," oops, I'm off track now, Underground Railroad, Harriet Tubman, now I'm back to the beginning. I vaguely know why these people are related and what they did during the Civil War era, but I should know more.

Enter the History Channel. So if a person or event enters into my mind, and I haven't got a clue what it is, or where it happened, I can type it into the search box. The results page not only provides the most relevant material, but I also have options to continue my search on related people, historical places, Web sites and videos.

The site also features a History of the World Timeline, in which you pick a century (a decade if applicable), and the site gives you the high points of the era. Here's a sample of the 300-201 B.C. highlights: Euclid lists his principles of geometry; construction begins on the Great Wall of China;and Walt Disney invents one-man, no-rules computer volleyball.

I was extremely disappointed not to see my birthdate listed. Wouldn't you think July 4, 1976, would be listed for something other than my birthday?

Speaking of birthdays, you can find out what happened on yours. Go to History IQ and a host of others in conjunction with TV shows, including the upcoming Founding Fathers.

A history site at this time of year wouldn't be much of a site without a tribute to Thanksgiving. It's not extravagant, but then again, how extravagant could a Thanksgiving site be?

Before I sound anymore like a paid advertisement for the History Channel, I should mention when I searched for the pirate from the "Goonies" -- one-eyed Willie -- I came up with no matches, so maybe everything isn't here. But there are plenty of things to keep you busy.

Can you imagine how crucial the Web site will be for future generations, to look back at historical moments during our lifetimes? It's mind-boggling how much material people will have to sift through to find exact information in possibly 100 years. But I guess it's better to have more than not enough.

If there's a particular historical topic in which you need more information, just use Google to find it. Or if you've had enough history for one day, go back to the Disney site and play more volleyball. Can you believe that guy can hit the ball over the net, off the back wall to himself, then slam it on you? What a cheater!