So it's 1985 and someone shows you this

Here’s the scenario: The year is 1985. You’re a person living in that far-off ice age of the past.

Scientists have invented a device that allows you to snag an image from the future and look at it now. They can’t aim this device, they can only flip the switch and look at what comes back.

They flip the switch for the first time, and the image they get is (unbeknownst to them) a screenshot of today’s articles on CNN’s website. The screenshot here is the one they see.

What do you make of it? Do you think it’s a newspaper? How far into the future do you think it is? What stands out to you about the headlines/articles?

I think I would think it was a page from a glossy magazine, and I don’t know that I’d think much more than that. Maybe if I noticed the “log in” link on the right I’d be confused, since I would have known what “log in” meant, but it wouldn’t have made sense to me on a magazine page.

I don’t think I would have figured out it was a screen shot from a computer, because back then, we were nowhere near that level of detail. At the most, I might have thought it was a screen shot of a futuristic TV.

Honestly, I probably wouldn’t think much of it. I’d glance at a couple of headlines, not recognize any of the names, and move on.

MY 1985 self was incredibly uncurious.

It’s the same old same old. The way Thatcher and Reagan were privatizing services this would be typical news. We also had lots of war, and 3 Mile Island was only 5 years previous. The Federal Government was also trying to set up a national nuclear dump site of which the Wisconsin granite was looking good to the feds. Air traffic controller may be closing airports, well that already happened.

Two weeks ago I was playing my Antiquities cds by Ewan MacColl. It was full of all of all this last month’s issues and that release was from the time of Thatcher and Reagen in the 80’s. Nuclear Means Jobs, Economic Miracle, Just the Tax for Me, etc.

I’d think it was some kind of newspaper or magazine. I’d assume it was published in the U.S., because the stories look U.S.-centric, despite some international news. I’d probably notice that there wasn’t any news about what was happening in the Soviet Union, but think it might just be a slow news day in Moscow – not that the Soviet Union had disappeared, and Russia was no longer so important.

I’d have probably thought it was some kind of futuristic touch-screen TV thing - the way it says “Hi there!” and “log in” (although I’m not sure that would have meant anything to me in 1985). Some of the pictures have “play” symbols, which I think were already ubiquitous on tape recorders/Walkmans etc, which would make me think they might be videos, hence the TV.

As to the actual content… well, Royal Wedding? In 1985, William and Harry were recent arrivals so I might guess that we were looking 25 years or so into the future.

Other things that would seem “futuristic”? The mention of radioactive water in Japan, but I guess in the 1980s people probably assumed nuclear power would be an everyday thing in most places by now.

A kid launching “Peep” into space. No idea what a “Peep” is but wow, even 9-year-olds can launch stuff into space now! That moon base must be coming on nicely.

They still have beer and erotic parties? Good-o.

The word “blog” is mentioned twice, which would be puzzling. One’s a news blog; one’s a fashion blog - would I be able to hazard a guess what a blog was? Not sure.

As a 15-year old, I’d be VERY curious about the Sammy Hagar/Van Halen news.

I think I would make an educated guess that its a computer screen from the future. I would then think, wow, photos on computers of the future look great! Next, I would notice- are those “play” buttons on some of those photos? Seeing the play times listed beneath only the phots with a play button, I would conclude that those are videos. Then I would notice one of the videos is about something to do with a porn star. Then I would think… high quality images… porn star… videos… images…porn star…porn…OH MY GOD IN THE FUTURE I WILL HAVE UNLIMITED PORN AT MY FINGERTIPS !!!

Gadhafi’s STILL around?

Note: I was 14 years old in 1985 but computer savvy (well, with the C=64, Apple IIc, IBM PC anyway - I wouldn’t start using terminals for multi-user systems until 1986).

I agree that based on the captured image, I’d assume it was a page from a magazine. The layout is very similar. Until I noticed the “log in” button and “View more stories”, in which case I don’t think it’d have taken me too much of a leap to realize it was a computer driven interactive interface with a magazine-like layout. I wouldn’t have imagined the Internet as it is today, but would have inferred the existence of a high resolution Kindle or Nook type of device that allowed online reading of magazines and books.

I would recognize Gadhafi and Charlie Sheen’s names. While “Platoon”, “Major League” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” were not yet made by 1985, “Red Dawn” was made in 1984 and I actually saw that in a movie theater - the first movie I ever went to with friends and without my parents - so I’d definitely have recognized him.

Similarly it mentions Boeing being surprised at issues with the “skin, joints” of the 737, an airplane already nearly 20 years into production by 1985 when the Boeing 757 was the latest model of passenger aircraft they made. And the picture they have of a US Passport looks pretty much the same as they did back in 1985.

So between mention of Gadhafi, Charlie Sheen and the Boeing 737 I probably wouldn’t even have guessed it was from as late as 2011 - I would have guessed the mid 1990s.

And actually, web pages like that DID exist by the mid 1990s so when the date rolled around, I still wouldn’t realize I was wrong until 2000 rolled around and Charlie Sheen hadn’t trademarked 22 phrases yet (though I could well believe it just happened and I just missed it, since I often don’t pay attention to that sort of news).

Oh, and I would also recognize “Eddie Van Halen” of course, and wonder why Sammy Hagar was reflecting about him. I’d assume some Hendrix like thing happened to EVH in the late 1980s and that it was “ten year anniversary, I was there when it all went down” kind of thing on Hagar’s part (more reason to think this was from the mid to late 1990s).

A couple of other odd things that haven’t been mentioned:

In 1985 you’d assume it was in printed form, but there are no page numbers. So, how do you get from those headlines to the actual articles? HTTP had not been invented in 1985.

Near the bottom right it says “Facebook social plugin”, so a 1985 reader would wonder what is “Facebook”, what is a “plugin”, and what is a “social plugin”. Socialising on computer networks was very primitive in 1985, before the Internet was widespread, so something like Facebook would be a totally alien concept.

Yup, that was the one that jumped out at me. It’s wording would prompt me to ask if Eddie had died.

With the mentions of CNN (heck, I don’t even think their logo is any different now than it was in 1985), and mentions of “full story”, but no page numbers, I probably would have guessed an interactive TV menu. I was 20 years old in '85, and was already aware of tests of interactive TV (the Qube system, for example).

Agreed that mentions of 1985-relevant names like Gadhafi, Hagar, Van Halen would have likely made me guess it was from 10 or 15 years in the future, not 26.

We didn’t have the Internet as we know it, but by 1985 there were computer networks onto which you could “sign up” and “Log in.” I wasn’t an uber-geek by any means, but I still logged some hours at the U of Illinois computer lab in the early ‘80s. There were images (albeit crude) and you could communicate with people at other terminals (i.e. "Friends’ Activity"). So I don’t think it would be a stretch to assume I was looking at a computer image.

I’m not sure if I’d ever seen a mouse by that time, though, so I might not understand how the interface worked. There were crude touch-screens back then, so I might assume that. I recall this specifically, because there was a help-desk kiosk in the student center when my older brother went off to U of I in 1980 with a touch screen. You had to push it rather firmly, and you could feel the give on the soft outer layer when you did so, and the resolution wasn’t the sharpest, and the screen was dirty and worn – but it was still one of the coolest things I had ever seen!

Anyway, the content of the page isn’t really all that remarkable. Gadaffi’s still around? Charlie Sheen hung out with a porn star? Something about Sammy Hagar and Eddie Van Halen? Plus a bunch of names that mean nothing to me? OK, whatever. Nothing about alien invasions. No clues even to the remarkable things that have happened since 1985, like the breakup of the USSR or 9/11. It looks like a pretty mundane news day.

I would have been really, really confused. Because, like robardin, I was a teenager in 1985 (16). The one thing that stood out to me as I glanced at that page was, “Damn, I had a pair of sunglasses just like that in 1985, only they were black-framed Ray Bans.”

I would agree that – knowing I am getting a snapshot from the future – I would probably deduce some sort of computer-based device for reading publications, but judging by the fashions presented on that particular page (and knowing, as I do now, that we are currently in a retro 80s fashion trend), it looks like I’d guess it was just a protoype created six months or a year into the future. Seriously, look at that chick’s shades. That style was all the rage back then.

Also, “Royal Wedding Contest.” My 1985 self would ask, “Again? But Chuck and Di just got married four years ago!” Fergie got married in 1986, so perhaps I’d assume it was her wedding.

It was a common Sci-Fi theme that in the future you would get your morning news on some sort of TV screen, so I would have assumed it had come to pass. That “login” would be a dead giveaway. I would obviously have supposed that there was some sort of nuclear accident in Japan. If I read so far, the word “blog” would have been mystifying. Still there is an awful lot of “Same old, same old”. One thing would have been perplexing was the idea of a government shutdown. After 1995 it wouldn’t have been though, but ten years earlier, the idea would have been incomprehensible.

I would be really interested to know what Bunga is. (yeah, the woman on her hands and knees caught my attention immediately)

I don’t see any date on the screenshot, so all we would know is that it was from not too far in the future, since some of the names are recognizable.

I wouldn’t necessarily think it was a screenshot. It could have been some kind of 3-D collage. And people used to sign up and log in on paper, so there might be a guest book of some kind out of frame.

But it seems really unlikely that this image could appear randomly. It’s too perfectly cropped. Even if they happened to catch a computer screen, there would likely be more om the monitor visible, and reflections from the surroundings on the monitor screen.

“Revolutions have made us proud to be Arabs”

Revolutions? Plural? That sounds significant.