A mysterious man from the future had a mission to save the world. In order to do this, he needed to travel back in time to get a 1975 IBM 5100 computer.
This man, known as John Titor, became one of the greatest Internet mysteries of the early 2000s due to his detailed knowledge of time travel and his dark predictions for the future. It was something that captivated me while I was in high school and many people devoted years trying to figure out if there was any truth behind his wild claims, or if they were all just one big hoax.
It all began in July 1998 on the late-night paranormal radio show Coast to Coast AM when host Art Bell received a series of faxes (yes, faxes) from an alleged American Soldier claiming to have detailed knowledge of time travel. The faxes describe how time travel was invented in the year 2034 and tell of an ominous discovery that no one is able to travel beyond the year 2564. They also warn of the devastation to come following the impending Y2K disaster. Here is a transcription of his first fax:
I had to fax when I heard other time travelers calling in from any time past the year 2500 AD. Please let me explain.
Time travel was invented in 2034. Off-shoots of certain successful fusion reactor research allowed scientists at CERN to produce the world’s first contained singularity engine. The basic design involves rotating singularities inside a magnetic field. By altering the speed and direction of rotation, you can travel both forward and backward in time.
Time itself can be understood in terms of connected lines. When you go back in time, you travel on your original timeline. When you turn your singularity engine off, a new timeline is created, due to the fact that you and your time machine are now there. In other words, a new universe is created.
To get back to your original line, you must travel a split second father back, and immediately throw the engine into forward without turning it off.
Some interesting outcomes of this are:
One, you meet yourself. I have done it often, even taken a younger version of myself along for a few rides before returning myself to the new timeline and going back to mine.
Two, you can alter history in the new universe that you have just created. Most of the time, the changes are subtle. Sometimes, I’ll notice car models that don’t exist, or books that come out late.
The oldest one was a skyscraper that wasn’t built in a near favorite store of mine in New York.
Interestingly, when you travel in time, you must compensate for the orbit of the earth. Since the time machine doesn’t move, you have to adjust the engines so you remain on the planet when you turn it off. Unfortunately, it was also discovered that anyone going forward in time, from my 2036, hit a brick wall in the year 2564.
Everyone who has ever been there has reported that nothing exists. When the machine is turned off, you find yourself surrounded by blackness and silence.
Now, most time travelers are trying to find out where the line went bad by going into the past, creating a new universe, and proceeding forward to see if the same thing results in 2564. It appears the line went bad around the year 2000. I’m here now, in this time, to test a few theories of mine before going forward.
Now, for the future you might want to know about.
One, Y2K is a disaster. Many people die on the highways when they freeze to death trying to get to warmer weather.
Two, the government tries to keep power by instituting marshall law, but all of it collapses when their efforts to bring the power back up fail.
Three, a power facility in Denver is able to restart itself, but is mobbed by hundreds of thousands of people and destroyed. This convinces most that maybe we shouldn’t bring the old system back up.
Four, a few years later, communal government system is developed, after the constitution takes a few twists.
China retakes Taiwan, Israel wins the largest battle for their life, and Russia is covered in nuclear snow from their collapsed reactors.
Art, the reason I’m here now is because I believe a nuclear weapon set off by Iraq in the Middle East war with Israel might have something to do with the damaged timeline. I will test that theory and get back to you.
Please pray that we discover the reason why there is no apparent future after 2564.”
Titor then disappeared and was mostly forgotten about until the year 2000 when someone with the username TimeTravel_0 began posting the same story to the Time Travel Institute Forum. This person also began posting to the Art Bell BBS forums under the username John Titor. Here is the fist post from John Titor:
Greetings. I am a time traveler from the year 2036. I am on my way home after getting an IBM 5100 computer system from the year 1975.
“My ‘time’ machine is a stationary mass temporal displacement unit manufactured by General Electric. The unit is powered by two top-spin dual-positive singularities that produce a standard off-set Tipler sinusoid.
“I will be happy to post pictures of the unit.”
John obviously received a lot of attention from his posts and he openly invited any and all questions about his life, his mission, and time travel.
He wrote in detail about how time travel worked and provided technical specs regarding his time machine, the C204 Gravity Distortion Unit. He even posted a few grainy photos of his actual machine along with scans from the machine's manual.
Scan from the technical manual showing a diagram of the field shapes and time vectors produced by the unit during operation.
One of the schematics provided by John Titor for his time machine.
An image of the time machine provided by John Titor.
Another view of the time machine in the back of his vehicle.
A photo John posted of a laser bending due to the gravity distortion from the machine.
According to John, the ability to time travel was discovered in Geneva, Switzerland at CERN, during experiments involving the Large Hadron Collider. Here is an excerpt of what he said about the discovery in one of his posts:
“The source of power for the C204 that allows it to distort and manipulate gravity comes from two micro singularities that were created, captured and cleaned at a much larger and ‘circular’ facility…The breakthrough that will allow for this technology will occur within a year or so when CERN brings their larger facility online.” – January 31, 2001
He claimed his mission was to head back to 1975 in order to obtain an IBM 5100 computer and bring it back to 2036. Why would such an old computer be so important in the future?
An IBM 5100 computer
The answer is that the 5100 series has a unique function that IBM kept secret for years. It is capable of reading old code written before the widespread use of APL and Basic and there are none of these computers left in the future. Government scientists in 2036 need it to debug equipment susceptible to the UNIX Millennium Bug, a problem similar to the Y2K bug that will cause many systems relying on computers to fail.
This "secret" feature was actually confirmed by an IBM engineer who helped design it, which only furthers the John Titor legend because only a very small number of people ever knew about it.
So, if all John needed to do was get a computer and go, what was he doing in the early 2000s posting on time travel and paranormal message boards?
He said his detours in the years 1998 and 2000 were to visit family and possibly himself as a young child, but he also wanted to send out a warning of the possible future to come. Oh yeah, he also claims that he saved the world from Y2K.
Through his discussions on the Art Bell Forums, John Titor described an upcoming Civil War in the United States which would result in the country breaking up into five different regions. Most major cities would be destroyed, leaving Omaha, Neb. as the new U.S. capital. The civil war would last from 2004 until 2015, ending with WWIII and nuclear attacks which would destroy global infrastructure and the environment.
"Perhaps it would be better if you just considered me a fraud. I really don't have a problem with that. If that were the case, could we then have discussions that you were comfortable with?" - John Titor in a post from February 2001.
As the years passed, it became clear that all of John Titor's predictions would be wrong, as there was no Y2K disaster nor any civil war happening after the 2004 election. However, a post from January 30, 2001, helps explain all this away. Due to the fact that he was from a different timeline, the events of our future may not be exactly the same or happen at the times he predicted.
"As far as the future goes, your worldline is about 2.5% different than mine. This is a roughly cumulative measurement based on my arrival in 1975. As far as I can tell right now, you are headed toward the same events I would call "my history" in 2036.
However, the very nature of time travel states that every worldline is unique and you are very much in control of what you do and how you get there. Heck, the fact that I'm here makes it different than mine."
Not long after, John headed back to his own timeline in 2036. But before he left, John Titor posted his final message on March 24, 2001,:
"I will be leaving this worldline shortly and this will be my final post. There are only a handful of people who will know exactly when I will be leaving and I'm sure they will let you know when I'm gone.
[...] My parting thought revolves around something J.C. has been harping on since day one. No, I do not have a secret agenda but I have been paying a great deal of attention to your worldline. My interaction with you was not a direct mission parameter but it was a secondary mission protocol based on standing orders given to all temporal drivers. That secondary objective is basically to gather as much information about a worldline based on a set of observable variables when we first arrive. Your worldline met those conditions. What amazes me is why no one here wonders why Y2k didn't hit them at all?
Bring a gas can with you when the car dies on the side of the road.
And with that, he was gone forever. With the events that have happened at CERN in the past decade and the state of the world today, do you think John was right but just a few years off?