Of all the many wonders of the Internet (and I'm not talking about social media, podcasts, or p-o-r-n), perhaps the most amazing thing is that seemingly ephemeral artifacts once lost to history -- or at least locked away or archived someplace so obscure as to be functionally if not literally lost -- can easily be found. Just a few taps on a keyboard and, voila, history -- in the form of documents, articles, new reports, recordings (both audio and visual) and other curiosities of the past -- will instantly appear.
The Internet can be a time machine -- we can make the past present again. Once upon a time we had to rummage through boxes in storage bins or archives or thumb through picture books or wrestle with microfiche to summon up days of yore. Now we just sit at our computer.
Here are two very different but equally fascinating examples of things that seemed lost to the past but that are now very much present again:
1. In the 1980s, the city government launched a project to photograph every building in NYC. All of these photos, some 800,000 of them from the Municipal Archives, are now available in this searchable database. You can scan a map of the city, zoom in, and click on a street to see what it looked like almost 30 years ago. It's quite fascinating -- I can see the block I lived on as a kid and the block I live on now as they appeared back in the day. If you have any fond memories of certain streets or neighborhoods, check this archive out!
2. And then, of course, there's Donald Trump. Specifically, the 15 hours of conversations he had with radio star Howard Stern between 1993 and 2015. These appearances are like the Nixon tapes -- a deep dive into the psyche of a president. Unlike Nixon, who spent his time ranting about Jews, Trump's conversations with Howard are mostly about "broads." Perhaps the wildest conversation is from 1997, after Princess Diana died, where Trump talks about his attempts to woo her and how, according to him, he could have "nailed" her. But oh, he would have made her take an AIDS test first. Yes, that's the 45th President of the United States folks! What a gent he is ...
The great thing about the Internet is that the past is firmly within our grasp (after all, this blog has been around for more than a decade, a living real time recorder of history itself). The bad thing about the Internet: the past is now something that nobody, not even a billionaire POTUS, can ever truly escape.