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History isn't what it used to be...

Studying modern history in the early-90s I was naturally among the first students to eagerly grasp the potential of new technologies for my studies. I was head of the queue to get go on the Independent's archives on CD-Rom to supplement my micro-fiche marathons and trials by archive when studying the then (very) recent history of the demise of the Soviet Union and various US presidential races.

There was some "Web" about and some internets too. Some news groups and something called "Gopher", but besides CD-Roms, a pokey word-processor and email to my early adopter Dad, friends and fellow students I'd met in the US and Netherlands, my studies were decidedly low-tech.

But oh, to be a history student today. I would probably be wittily blogging about history 2.0 and bamboozling professors with insights gleaned from toys like these too (and I'm sure there are many, many more out there):

  1. Google Earth historical layers: You can take a look at old world maps layered onto Google Earth. Below is a shot of the 1840s map for London, which I've left the modern tube stations on for fun. Via CNet. To access look in the layers menu under Rumsey Historical Maps in the latest version of Google Earth.

2. A tag cloud of US presidential speeches: moving the slider  you can see the changing topics and emphases of keywords in US presidential speeches since the Declaration of Independence. Amazing! Watch "economy" appear with the 20th Century, "soviet" wax and wane, "terror" appear suddenly in the past few years. Via Mark Higginson.


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» History viewed through tag clouds from Teblog
Antony Mayfield's History ain't what it used to be blog post points to a stunning use of tag clouds in showing the emphasis of various US presidential speeches from 1776 to the present day. Chirag Mehta is the man behind [Read More]


I used Gopher to write a paper about potential nuclear proliferation in South Asia back in 1992. Gopher, done by University of Minnesota, if memory serves. And then SuperGopher on the Mac. Graphical and everything.

Amazing how far we've come, especially recently.

Ahh. Gopher. I'd forgotten about using that.

Antony: a similar application is the use of Google Earth images to track the effects of possible near-history mega tsunamis: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/14/science/14WAVE.html?ex=1321160400&en=35b395ffd080eb47&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss

Wow! This is extremely interesting stuff - Mark Higginson's insightful Preidential cloud is fascinating and more insightful than any text book I ever read, and a great concept in alternative History Mapping 2.0?!

The historical layers on Google are also a gem of a find - if I was an archaeologist I'd be excavating myself off into a deep trench somewhere...

On a lighter note, can we finally tell Tony Robinson and his 'Time Team' to piss off with their 'geo-phys', and point them towards a virtual world where they can bicker in West Country accents on VOIP and leave our living rooms in peace and the history to a newly informed & tooled up global community?

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