Algis Ratnikas: The man behind the website, Timelines of History

Historians in the News

Algis Ratnikas lives in one of the little boxes on a hilltop in Daly City. But he's not like the others in his row. Every day Ratnikas, 60, sits at the computers that have taken over his dining room, entering data into the Timelines of History.

"Timelines of History starts from the Big Bang and continues to the present. It's all on the Web site I get about 8,000 hits per week. There are tens of thousands of entries. The universal timeline, which is the principle collection of files, is organized so that every item is dated, whether it's B.C. or A.D. I have perhaps a thousand entries for each day of the year. The reason it is organized in linear form is to allow people within a couple of clicks to go to any point in time. It's also organized in geographical form such that each country and each state within the United States also have their own timelines.

The whole project was developed to be a tool for writers, researchers, students, anybody who is interested in history. It allows a person within two or three clicks to go to any point in time and space. It is not a commercial product. I make a little bit of income from contributions, from selling licenses, but I don't make a living at it. Until a couple of years ago, I worked as a field service engineer for Becton Dickinson Corp. repairing medical equipment. I retired in order to work on the project full time.

I get up about 6:30 a.m. and start work at 7. By 9:30 I have the day's events downloaded from the Internet. Then I start reading The Chronicle and the Wall Street Journal. I input all that information. That will pull me up until about 1:30 p.m. Then I go out for a hike on San Bruno Mountain. When I get back I have the Economist to deal with. Those are my three main sources because they have pretty good historical information. Every item on my site has a reference as to where I got the data from.

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