The Internet-Enabled Eclipse

We saw the 2017 eclipse in Oregon. Here’s some quick thoughts, and why I think this one was a singular event.

  • I feel lucky on two accounts: 1) having the opportunity to be somewhere to see it with my family, and 2) having good weather. It would be easy to miss it for either of these reasons.
  • The eclipse was very cool, but totality was a whole different level of cool. (There have been lots of good write-ups, but I thought Jason Snell captured it well). The combination of the corona, being able to look at the sun directly (and also see Venus!), and the level of darkness were all a bigger deal then I would have guessed. If you have the opportunity to get to totality in 2024 then definitely do it!
  • The goofy eclipse glasses were totally worth it.
  • The change in temperature was noticeable where we were. Cliff Mass summarized the weather impact in the northwest.. Interesting that some of the stuff was a surprise…..
  • Cliff also mentioned the traffic. In general there were some delays, but quick to get through. HOWEVER, the state of Washington once again proved that they have the doubler whammy of bad roads and bad drivers. Serious traffic jams on I-5 in the middle of nowhere,10 hours after the eclipse and 100 miles north of totality.

This eclipse was “marketed” as the “Great American Eclipse”, but I think what really made it unique was that it was the first total US eclipse of the Internet age. Everything from websites to social media to camera phones to e-commerce played a role in this eclipse. Location selection, travel plans, weather, traffic and sharing - all of these involved the Internet. In short, the 2017 eclipse wouldn’t have been itself prior to the Internet.

Eclipse today: As we were driving away from totality my teenage daughter said “cool, one of my friends saw the eclipse from a plane and just posted the video!” (I don’t have a link to it, but here’s a similar one).

1970’s eclipses: it was interesting for me to go back through the historical list of US total eclipses. I remember being outside my grade school in Wisconsin with the paper-and-pinhole setup viewing an eclipse. From the timeline, I suspect it was in ‘70 or ‘72. The February of ‘79 eclipse happened while I was in high school, and I can attest to the fact that it was a non-event (I actually don’t remember it at all).

In the 1970’s, how would you have known where to travel to? What time the eclipse would peak at that location? Would this info have come from a school? 6 o’clock news? Newspaper? How would you even have known to get excited about it? How would you have gotten eclipse glasses, let alone known about them? How would you have shared your experience? Would you have visited the AAA store to get a Trip-Tik so you had some maps?

As things increasingly happen at “Internet speed”, it gets harder and harder to remember what things were like before it existed. The 2017 eclipse provides a one-time opportunity to contrast the the world before and after the Internet.