DISPATCH FROM TIME

A New Take on the Old Time Capsule Concept

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By Guy Gugliotta
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 8, 2006

Ever thought about writing down something really profound and putting it in a vault so that when your biographer opens it 50 years from now, people will say, "Gee, Gugliotta was even smarter than we thought."

Or "not as dumb as we thought," or "liked peanuts better than almonds," or "really was a space alien -- look, he says so right here!"

This is the principle behind Earth Capsule, less than 2 months old, and only operational since mid-April. For $1 you can write a message for posterity and file it in an electronic time capsule to be sent to repositories in more than 150 cities around the world and opened in 50 years.

Or you can do a message-in-the-bottle routine and have your communique sealed up in a waterproof cartridge and dumped into the ocean or lake at one of 44 locations, taking your chances on having it wash up at Rehoboth next week, or at Punta Arenas, Chile, 300 or 400 years hence.

Earth Capsule will also upload music, images or documents at $1.95 for the first megabyte, $1 for each additional megabyte. And a portion of each fee can be allotted to charities that are partnering with Earth Capsule.

Whether this ultimately works remains to be seen. Earth Capsule has been "doubling our customer base every couple of days," said Jason Ressler, one of the founding partners, but he acknowledged that after only a month "this is not saying much."

Still, Earth Capsule offers immortality on the cheap, which, as theologians have known for many years, is hard to turn down.

"People like to save things," Ressler said in a telephone interview. "We felt like the best way to preserve stuff was to use the Internet. The Web has socialized communications in terms of news, and we wanted to socialize it in terms of history."

Ressler and co-founder Evan Strome, both 35, are New York-based writers and filmmakers. Ashley Rindsberg, the third member of the triumvirate, is a 24-year-old electronics wiz who put the Web site together and figured out the technology.

Earth Capsule uses "HD-ROM" metal disks to store microprinted information that can be read with a magnifying glass. It is somewhat low-tech in today's terms, "like a supermicrofiche," Ressler said, but the disks "are able to preserve stuff for 1,000 years," which is what Earth Capsule is after.

Ressler said the company plans to collect uploads for a year, then send them to repositories in cities around the world, or pack them in aluminum canisters and drop them in Lake Nicaragua, the middle of the Indian Ocean and 42 other bodies of water, your choice.

By the time this happens, Earth Capsule hopes to have trust agreements with organizations in all the repository cities. The company is contacting historical societies, consulates, city halls and other groups to set up the infrastructure.


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© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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