The Computus Engine

The Computus Engine

02008 to present


The Project

  • Build a dynamic timeline for exploring all of history.

Project background

I’ve always liked timelines and it often struck me that there should be an interactive timeline with which you could explore all of history – everything from the Big bang to the present day. For a long time I assumed someone would build something like this but by 02008 I stopped waiting and decided to have a go at it myself. This site started as an attempt to keep a journal of that process.

What I learned

It turns out there’s a very good reason why no-one had done this. It requires a vast amount of specialised knowledge and the road to enlightenment is strewn with gotchas, special cases and other temporal arcana. That being said, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the learning process and although many of my personal epiphanies turned out to have been discovered decades earlier; this project has stretched and pushed me into many interesting places.

In the intervening period, a number of other projects have come along attempting to solve similar problems. The closest of these is probably the Big History Project - it’s a great resource and well worth your time. From a technical standpoint the most innovative project has been the Extended DateTime Format (EDTF) from the Library of Congress. This has progressed nicely and at the time of writing is being considered by ISO as an extension to ISO8601.

As for the future of The Computus Engine, I continue to tinker with it and I have a couple of sketchbooks full of ideas so it’ll come back in some form or other. There’s still plenty to learn.