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Send a letter to the future

A time capsule is a fun way to remember the 'you' of the past

Have you ever wondered what life was like back in the olden days? Imagine having to ride on a horse to the store (instead of in a car). Or writing a letter with a quill pen (instead of typing an e-mail message). Or wearing itchy wool pants to school (instead of Polar Fleece).

What if you could squirrel away a little slice of life from today, so that "the future you" could see what you were like and how you lived in 1999?

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A lot of people are doing just that with time capsules. They are putting all kinds of objects - clothing, toys, newspapers, gadgets, photos - into special sealed containers, or capsules. Then they are burying them or storing them for people in the future to open.

With the calendar soon flipping over to the year 2000, many people want to give themselves or future generations a "gift" to remember them by. Time capsules hold important messages, bits of history, and one-of-a-kind items. But they also contain everyday things that might seem strange or surprising to people in the future.

The idea dates back to the time of the pyramids, when Egyptians packed royal tombs with things like jewelry, weapons, food, and clothing. When the tombs were discovered in modern times, the artifacts told a lot about who the kings and queens were and how they lived.

The first modern container to be called a "time capsule" was made by the Westinghouse Company in 1939. It looked like a silver torpedo. The company buried the capsule at the 1939 World's Fair in Flushing Meadows, N.Y. It's not supposed to be unearthed until AD 6938! The contents include a can opener, electric lamp, a toothbrush, a safety pin, a Mickey Mouse cup, a baseball, and a Bible.

What does that say about people back then? A safety pin seems boring today, but then it was considered a mighty clever invention. What do you think is a cool invention today? Game Boys? GoGurt? Cellular phones?

Today you can buy all kinds of aluminum or stainless-steel time capsules costing from $20 to thousands of dollars. One company even makes an underwater time capsule that will sink to the ocean floor. After 100 or 500 years, it will automatically float back up to the surface. Then, one hopes, someone will find it washed up on a beach!

Many people are making their own time capsules. You can, too. (See accompanying stories.) Experts have some good pieces of advice about time capsules. The main one is: Don't bury it! You're too likely to forget where it is. Better to stick it on a shelf in the basement or put it in a safe-deposit box. The International Time Capsule Society in Atlanta estimates that only 1 out of 1,000 buried capsules is ever found again.

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(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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