How-To Geek

How Would a Single Laptop Affect the Past? [Infographic Comic]

What kind of impact could a single laptop have if it were introduced to people during key periods in Western history? This infographic comic provides some speculation on what the results could be like…

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Crave asks: How would you change the past with a laptop? [CNET – Crave]

Akemi Iwaya is a devoted Mozilla Firefox user who enjoys working with multiple browsers and occasionally dabbling with Linux. She also loves reading fantasy and sci-fi stories as well as playing "old school" role-playing games. You can visit her on Twitter and .

  • Published 03/21/12

Comments (24)

  1. bemymonkey

    Depends on how much you can get done with a single battery charge, doesn’t it? :p

  2. Kerensky97

    LOL! Ignorance to technology would swing both ways too.
    “Our deitiy’s magic ‘light paparyus’ went out after only two and a half hours! Sacrifice the false god before Ra is angered!”

  3. UltimatePSV

    Some of this assumes you could get on to the internet though.

  4. Athlonwiz

    Thats assuming you could get anything done before being burned at the stake!

  5. r

    This is likely the most ridiculous article I’ve seen in a while, way too much improbability.
    The first problem be power source & then it all goes downhill from there.

  6. Harrison

    So what your saying is basically you have a problem with the battery charge and internet connection, but that time travel isn’t a deal breaker.

  7. r

    No, what I’m saying is that this is a ridiculous article based on the notion “How Would a Single Laptop Affect the Past”, not “How Would a Single Laptop Affect the Past if Time Travel Weren’t a Deal Breaker.”

  8. jackson

    Good to know about the How Would a Single Laptop Affect the Past? [Infographic Comic]

  9. SlimChance

    LOL. Thanx. Fun article. I assume it was for fun. Pretty easy assumption, really.

  10. Jamesweld

    Okay Time travel, A power source, proving you are not a witch, the weapons of the day could destroy the laptop easily. Galileo, Edison. Einstein, Marconi were these people contacted by someone who owned a laptop? I think that a book could easily change history, if the right one were brought back in time.

  11. David

    Mm, maybe start by looking up the info you saved on Volta before time travelling, and spending a few months (re)inventing the battery?

    But best go prepared, knowing how to source and use contemporary materials. You’d have to survive for a few months and succeed before seeking god or prophet status.

    Going green, and opting for water power might sound attractive -hmm, not much of a god in a drought- but building a generator requires just too much engineering.

  12. Lance

    I bet they knew how to spell the word position without needing a laptop. FAIL.

  13. jeorgekabbi

    i have a laptop from year 3000 ,it does not need charging because it works on nuclear power. everyday i enjoy breaking all the military communications i can get my hand on : AES 256-bit can be decrypted in 10 seconds on that laptop.

  14. r

    You have a laptop from year 3000? cool…has Microsoft fixed Windows 8 yet?

  15. Maria Wendt

    I agree with SlimChance. Loosen up, you people. This is for fun!

  16. Restless Mouse

    This would be sure to cause a rift in the space-time continuum. But then again, I use that excuse to get out of doing laundry.

  17. JM

    Well, The Doctor has no problem using his cellphone thru time and space. So, consider social networking – Jerusalem Spring….

  18. kris

    We could show them who Voldemort is

  19. Me

    kris you ever been on a site called

    you belong there.

  20. I

    humorless crowd…

  21. Riddle

    Everyone missed a very important point :
    what would the future’s gadgets do in today’s world ???
    image this post after ..emmm…. well , many years …
    I imagine someone saying , what could you do with a single lame ***** in 20-21 century ?
    end global warming , feed all these hungry people ?
    discover who the hell killed JFK..
    how about “steal windows’ source code”.
    no this is the best , “use it to ridiculously easily copyright RIAA’s music !!!! ” :-)))

  22. Dark Reality

    Humor issues aside, the infographic ignores several issues. Time travel is not one of them because it was stipulated as possible in the hypothetical. For example, it didn’t say “How would a single laptop with unlimited battery affect the past” or “How would a single laptop affect the past if you could get the information on it to the right people”. Only a laptop was stipulated.

    In this day and age, I wouldn’t bring a laptop. I’d bring an Android phone. Easier to conceal. And you would want to conceal it. Before you even got to anybody important or influential, you’d scare the crap outta a lot of people. And using future technology to establish yourself as a kind of god in a primitive civilization would be all kinds of wrong.

    I look at it a different way. My father passed away 10 years ago (as of this May). He was a huge geek, inspired me to get into computers. I don’t think he ever upgraded to Windows XP. I wonder if he’d say Windows 7 looks like something Apple would make. And while he was never into video games, he did get addicted to Tetris when he confiscated by Game Boy for some reason I forget (honestly — it wasn’t bad grades). He did like his music. So I have to wonder what he’d think of something like Rockband — not just the pattern matching, that’s child’s play (he once explained how a game like Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat worked, made it sound like something a first-level programmer could put together) but how it takes the multi-track and mutes individual tracks as you miss (and how they licensed the multitracks to start with). And Android phones, being able to use a computer remotely with one, getting on the web with something that fits in your pocket, etc.

    That’s just going back 10 years, though. Would any of that really shock an engineer? A little, perhaps, but not really. How about 20 years ago, as in before Windows 95. Windows 7 would pretty much impress everybody. As far as video games, this is when Super NES and Sega Genesis were competing. Xbox 360 — it’s actually usable without a game in? — would blow them away. Something like Rockband would just be showing off, any average/good game would be incredibly impressive, even something as banal as the latest few Call of Duty games; something of a higher quality, e.g. Skyrim, wouldn’t be any more impressive. Well, not by much. And people didn’t even have cell phones in 1992. Maybe the government had something, in Area 51, I don’t know. There wouldn’t be cell towers, so folks would just have to take your word it’s a phone (you could show them the dialer and contacts storage) and ditto for web browsing, but you could still play media on it.

    Speaking of media, forget about showing people from 1992 the newest Star Wars movie or exposing them to Dubstep, just play them some Metallica or Guns n’ Roses from the future. Fans would recognize the voice of James Hetfield or Axl Rose. Play Van Halen III and then something from the new album. Third vocalist, Gary Cherone, then they got David Lee Roth back.

    And of course I’d have to tell 1992 that we elected a black President and that the Red Sox won a world series. Definitely would not tell them about 9/11, though. That could lead to all kinds of bad. And who knows, maybe giving people a little hope for the future would be enough to create a ripple that would change things for the better. Probably not, but you never know.

  23. jeorgekabbi

    “”You have a laptop from year 3000? cool…has Microsoft fixed Windows 8 yet?””

    i don’t know , that laptop uses Linux.

  24. ted34

    @Dark Reality

    you should really try working on how to focus on one idea

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