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An Excellent History of Time Machines

An Excellent History of Time Machines

By Andrew Tavin

Hello? Hello! If you're reading this, we've successfully sent an article back in time from the year 2024. We can't explain why, but it's extremely important that you read this article about the history of time machines. It's up to you to save the future!

1887: El Anacronopete by Enrique Gaspar y Rimbau

Although it wasn't as well-known as H.G. Wells' work, Spanish writer Enrique Gaspar y Rimbau's novel is actually the first depiction of a machine that lets the user travel through time. The Anacronopete in the novel is a cast-iron box that allows the user to travel back in time and produces a special liquid they can drink to avoid growing younger. The story follows the machine's inventor, Sindulfo Garcia, as he searches through time for the secret of immortality. SPOILER ALERT: It turns out it was all a dream (this was probably less of a cliche back then).

1888: The Chronic Argonauts by H.G. Wells

Not only was H. G. Wells' novel The Time Machine not the first instance of a machine that travels through time, it was actually based on a short story called "The Chronic Argonauts" that Wells wrote for the Royal College of Science. The Time Machine inspired countless time travel stories, movies, and television shows. We traveled back to 1960 to bring you the trailer from the first film adaptation. You can tell it's an old trailer because the narrator feels the need to explain every single detail of the plot:

1941: By His Bootstraps by Robert A. Heinlein

And now we start to enter what we like to call "The Confusing Era" of time travel. Previous stories featured heroes zipping throughout time, but when Wells' time traveler heads to the future, he might as well be on a different planet filled with Morlocks and Eloi. Heinlein introduced the crazy paradoxes we all love and love to argue about. In By His Bootstraps, a man named Bob Wilson meets two other men (who also end up being him) who push him through a "time gate." He lands in the future and conspires to take control from a leader named Diktor (who also turns out to be him). In 1958, Heinlein wrote "All You Zombies," a story in which a man uses a time machine to become every member of his own immediate family.

 

1963: Doctor Who

What can we even say about "Doctor Who" and the T.A.R.D.I.S. that we haven't already said a million times on the site? The Doctor's T.A.R.D.I.S. is unique among time machines due to it being a living, intelligent entity stolen from The Doctor's home planet of Gallifrey. It can also travel anywhere in space as well as time. Oh and there was one other thing we're forgetting. Something about how it's bigger than it is wide? Anyway, here's what we're getting for our birthday this year:

1985: Back to the Future

One of the most well-known representations of a time machine in pop culture and the only reason anyone still remembers what a DeLorean is. Maybe if someone had made a movie where someone turns a Honda CRX into a spaceship, someone would remember it too. Here's the trailer so you can see how far time machine movie trailers had come since the 60s. There's still a narrator but he doesn't talk as much this time:

1989: Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure

This was the film that proved America could do time traveling phone booths just as well as the British! A pioneer in the genre that proved that time machines weren't only for saving lives, they're also for passing your history report.

2004: Primer

The time machine in Primer is a box that works on all sorts of real world science that the movie takes little effort to help the audience understand. It has a reputation as one of the only time travel plots supposedly without contradiction or paradox. As you'll see from the trailer, it also comes from a time so advanced, trailers no longer need any narration at all:

Did we leave out your favorite time machine? Tell us in the comments!

 

Tags: movies, time travel, youtube, time machines, videos

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About the Author
Andrew Tavin

Andrew Tavin is a writer and stand-up comedian living in New York City. His work has been featured on Upworthy and Collegehumor. He writes pretty mediocre bios and can be followed on Twitter @andrewtavin.

Wanna contact a writer or editor? Email contribute@sparknotes.com.