Monday, October 8, 2012

Time Travel Online

by Julia Buckley
My current project is set in 1986.  Because of this, I'm finding as I write that I have all sorts of questions about what existed in this year and what did not, what songs were popular, which words and phrases were used and which came later, which shows were on television, et cetera.  You would think, since I can remember many things about my own life in this year, that I would remember everything else.  Not true.  It shocks me to think that 1986 was 26 years ago--it sounds like such a long time.

In any case, the Internet is an amazing research tool in this respect.  Here are some fun websites that I found helpful:

The Eighties Club has all sorts of archived information about this great decade.

Word Origins can be investigated at this interesting blog.

You can find all sort of records of television in past decades, and here is one that I consulted.

Gas prices in 1986 can be easily found online.

I needed to translate some of my dialogue into other languages.  Short of consulting a linguist, one can first try a great site like this.

Car and  Driver provides the top cars of the decade in question.

Police officer information is archived on this Chicago website.

The great thing about research, online or otherwise, is that it leads you to all sorts of interesting things you weren't even looking for.  Research is an edifying experience.

The great Sidney J. Harris used to have a column called "Things I Learned On My Way to Looking Up Other Things."  It always made fascinating reading.  Now that I've been looking up a lot of things, I know exactly what Harris means.

Maybe you can do some of your own research via these interesting sites!  Do you have a fun site of your own to share?


Sandra Parshall said...

Isn't the internet wonderful? I'm constantly amazed at how much older material has been archived online. (And like you, I'm astonished that 1986 was so long ago.)

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

I'm in the midst of reading a historical novel about a period when I was already alive: Stephen King's 11/22/63,about a time traveler who steps into the past in September 1958. I'm on page 398, about halfway through, and enjoying it immensely. He does a brilliant job with the details. My only cavil is with the slang, which I don't remember being as heavily used as in the book. I certainly never heard anyone utter "Daddy-O." But then, I lived in New York, not in "America."

Julia Buckley said...

Sandra, Time is elusive, isn't it? But yes, I see the Internet as a sort of miracle--it reminds me of what Sean Chercover quoted in his interview about the link between technology and magic.

Liz, I've heard a lot of great things about that book! I just haven't made the time commitment yet. :)

Anonymous said...

I often find treasures to use in my plots in the New York Times - what a wealth they give us - little nuggets of info - I learn a lot about people in watching C-Span - people reveal so much by their facial expressions and body movement. Thelma Straw in Manhattan

Julia Buckley said...

Great sources, Thelma--yes, watching body language can be so instructive.

Diane said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Diane said...

Remember having a encyclopedia set at home? I would start to look up something - a particular something - but end up coming across a lot of other things along the way. Sort of made looking things up interesting. Time consuming, but very interesting. At least with the internet I can find what I'm looking for faster:) Just without as much fun in the search.