Net Destinations: MIT School Puts Time Capsule On Net
By Jonathan Oatis
NEW YORK (Reuters) - MIT's business school froze the Internet in time Thursday in a ``digital time
capsule'' that will be opened in only five years -- an eternity in Net years.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management's time capsule includes
predictions by U.N. Secretary-General and Sloan alumnus Kofi Annan, Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq:MSFT - news) Chairman
Bill Gates, Timothy Berners-Lee, the creator of the World Wide Web who is now at MIT -- and business mogul Martha
You can look AT the ``digital archeological dig,'' but you cannot look IN it. It is electronically sealed. For a sneak peek, go to
http://mitsloan.mit.edu, click on ``Visitors' Center'' on the menu on the left, then click on ``Digital Time Capsule'' on the right.
The time capsule was launched at the Cambridge, Mass., school Thursday and will be opened in 2004. It contains a
''complicated and exciting tapestry of contents that may not seem like they belong together but, in their totality, actually fit well
with one another,'' the school said in a statement.
-- An online guide that helps parents talk to their kids about the impeachment of President Clinton, along with an audio clip of
his Senate impeachment trial, as played over a local radio station's Web site.
-- A snapshot of Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan's Jan. 28, 1999, Senate testimony on the Internet stock mania,
along with portions of Web pages and news accounts of the seemingly unrelenting wave of Internet deals.
-- A page from the eBay auction Web site (http://www.ebay.com), along with cyberspace offerings from more traditional
retailers such as Spiegel (http://www.spiegel.com) and Victoria's Secret (http://www.victoriassecret.com), which made an
Internet splash of its own Wednesday evening with a much-ballyhooed ``Webcast'' of a lingerie fashion show.
-- Woman-oriented Web sites such as AdvancingWomen.com (http://www.advancingwomen.com), a service designed to help
working women, and Women-Connect-Asia.com (http://www.women-connect-asia.com), a Web-based network for women
living and working in Asia.
The capsule's contents include digital video and audio, but much of it is in text, according to Mary Schaefer, a spokeswoman
for the school.
``Real'' time capsules -- the kind that get buried in cornerstones or the ground amid solemn ceremony -- are usually meant to
be opened after 25, 50, 100 years or more.
``It will seem like an eternity in cyberspace,'' Schaefer said in a telephone interview.
``It is 25 Net years,'' she said, referring to the blisteringly fast pace of developments on the Internet.
The time capsule will be sealed with encryption, an electronic method of scrambling data, making it unreadable to anyone who
does not have the ``keys'': a pass phrase and algorithm, or mathematical formula. Those ``keys'' are held by Sloan School
Dean Richard Schmalensee.
I asked Schaefer what would happen if, say, the dean were run over by a truck? Would the time capsule remain sealed in
``We'll have a spare (set), and I can't tell you where that is,'' she said.
I also wondered whether the time capsule might be a tempting target for hackers eager to prove their mettle by cracking it
open before 2004.
``In terms of where we're storing it, we're trying to control the access,'' Schaefer said.
``But this is MIT. We don't manage the creativity here,'' she said with a trace of amusement in her voice. MIT is one of those
places whose students are legendary for their technological prowess.
You can ``visit'' the room where the computers housing the time capsule are kept. From the main time capsule page, click on
the link labeled ``View the time capsule.''
The idea for the time capsule came from TheJelly, a start-up Internet media relations company that is one of the Sloan School's
business partners, ``and then it took off from there,'' Schaefer said.
Suggestions for what should go into the capsule came from scores of Sloan alumni, faculty, students and staff, as well as friends
of the school around the world. The final cut was determined by a team of students, faculty and staff at the business school, as
well as other schools at MIT.
The site offers you a chance to add your predictions for the future.
Simply click on the link saying ``Become part of digital posterity, if you dare ...''