A timeline is a way of organising future events. The future is a tangled mess of events and happenings - scientific inventions, technological advances, economic changes - which can be hard to decifer.
A creator of a timeline looks at all the events and organises them in a linear fashion sorted by estimated time of arrival.
Timelines can be created for specific areas, such as one particular technology, social or political effects, etc.
The advantage of timelines is that they provide some context - grouping together things that can happen in approximately the same time, making it easier to grasp the connections.
One step further is to add connections between events as well, such as prerequisites and likely consequences for technologies. Ideally this should be done in an interactive graphical way so that changes (in assumptions) can be made and their effects easily seen.
Observations of the Generic Timeline
The generic timeline has several basic properties:
- The first step in the timeline is usually the decisive step leading to the cascade of future events. This first, most basic step is known as the Point of Divergence.
- The inventions build off what came before. This phenomenon is known as recursion.
- As a technology develops, the frequency, complexity, offsprings, number, and variety of its uses become ever more superlative. That is, as the technology evolves, more and more applications are found, and these applications are more and more varied as well as more and more complex.
- This trend results in a quarter-circle curve when modeling with this timeline. The time intervals decrease while the number of applications increases.
- In some other timelines, this trend instead results in a tree formation, as each item branches off into many other items.
- Timelines without branches are best used for timelines with one main point of diverence, or multiple points of divergence without alternative branches.
- AJAX Timeline tool from MIT SIMILE. Uses XML file for data, generates AJAX timeline.
- Timelines - links to various timelines, both on this wiki and elsewhere on the web
- Gantt chart - organising timelines graphically