If I Had A Time Machine (Lost and Found)

I saw a post about the @ecency-star "If I had a time machine, I would..." writing contest in an entry by @killerwot. It looked interesting so I thought I'd take a chance and enter the contest also.

I love time travel. Time After Time, Timeless, Timecop. My favorite would probably be the Back to the Future trilogy. You know, the one that begins with the scientist stealing plutonium from terrorists and ends with the scientist escaping through time with the girl leaving behind his teenage patsy to off-screen explain to the authorities about the missing plutonium and the Volkswagen station wagon full of dead Libyans found at the Lone Pine Mall parking lot.

What do you mean, "Haven't you watched any time travel that didn't involve crime or some questionably illegal behavior?" Is there any other kind?

Anyway, I digress for some background primer. If I had a time machine my main focus would be recovering lost media that once existed but is now "lost forever". With time travel that isn't the case since any media "lost" can be "found" again by going back in time.

The Lost Media Wiki would be my North Star and compass. A lot of "lost" old time radio could be recovered by a time traveler with an AM radio receiver. Television signals have shifted from the analog format to digital over decades. Trying to capture any of the 147 episodes of United! over the air broadcasts during 1965-67 with modern equipment won't work without adding analog to digital conversion. Any digital AM radio receiver bought off Amazon in 2023 would work just as well taken back to 1943. The modern digital filtering of the radio signal and storage on an SD card are bonuses for a time traveler.

Going back in time to recover lost media wouldn't be cheap. Sure, I could camp out in southern California mid-1930s looking like I belonged in that era with a concealed AM radio recording KNX broadcasts. Recording once lost television broadcasts back in time using concealed equipment is more tricky. It would be easier to rent a room and television in the time era and jerry-rig more modern analog to digial conversion and digital storage to the old television. If all else fails the method of kinescope isn't as great in quality but would be simpler.

Time travel can fund itself. I could go back in time and be somewhere between Seattle and Reno around 8 p.m. on November 24, 1971. I could look up and see some guy who calls himself "Dan Cooper" skydiving from a Boeing 727. Going to see if he is O.K. after he reaches the ground I might see that he died during the jump. Maybe I remember a little something about a hijacking and that $5,800 in cash was found on the banks of the Columbia River in 1980 but none of the other ransom has been found as of 2023. In order to not create a time paradox it would be my duty to make sure that I put $5,800 where it will be discovered later and "store" the rest until I can "discover" it myself in, oh, let's say 2031. A nice 60 year round number since the hijacking event. I most likely would have no legal claim to the "recovered" 1971 stolen money but it involves a significant historical event so there is always media interviews and since I would have to embellish the story of how I found the money while "searching" for lost media to hide my time travel secret I might as well try to secure a book deal.

Recovering lost media films would be the hardest. When it comes to percentages according to film-foundation.org film archivists' estimates are that " ...half of all American films made before 1950 and more than 90 percent of films made before 1929 are lost forever."

It wasn't unheard of for private individuals to buy a copy of a film from a studio before the 1970s but it was very rare. As a time traveler from 2023 I wouldn't have an established identity in pre-1950's America as being an exceedingly wealthy individual or have any authority to screen a movie at the White House. If the point of causing as little interference as possible in the past is critical then I can't hold up a smartphone in a 1916 movie theater recording Valley of Fear without someone noticing the weird rectangle thing I am holding and deducing that an anachronism was afoot.

Recovering a lost film back in time would necessarily require theft of the film copy. Either stealing a copy from a movie theater itself or at some distribution point between the studio and the theater destination. I'd have to become a phantom thief in that case. Some innocent employees might have my theft attributed to them and they'd be fired during the Great Depression or other economic recessions that followed. I might have to seemingly vanish into thin air using my time machine after a smash and grab of a film reel for the sake of preserving cinematic art.

I might even have to ... Oh, my God, they found me, I don't know how, but they found me. Run for it Ecency!

Ecency: "Who? Who?"

Who do you think? Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures!

Link to the current writing contest: https://ecency.com/hive-133311/@ecency-star/writing-contest-if-i-had