The WABAC Machine or Wayback Machine refers to a fictional machine from the cartoon segment Peabody's Improbable History, a recurring feature of the 1960s cartoon series The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. The WABAC Machine is a plot device used to transport the characters Mr. Peabody and Sherman back in time to visit important events in human history.
The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show
Within the Peabody's Improbable History cartoon segment, the machine was constructed by Mr. Peabody, a professorial, bow tie-wearing dog, as a birthday gift for Sherman, Mr. Peabody's (pet) boy, to be able to visit famous historical people or events. At the request of Mr. Peabody ("Sherman, set the Wayback machine to ..."), Sherman would set the WABAC controls to a time and place of historical importance, and by walking through a door in the WABAC machine, the two would be instantly transported there. Examples of places or people visited are the Marquess of Queensberry and the rules of boxing, the imprisonment and memoirs of Casanova, and Jim Bowie and the Bowie knife. The machine apparently later returned Mr. Peabody and Sherman to the present, although the return trip was never shown. The segment traditionally ended with a pun.
Either of the names WABAC or Wayback are in common usage, with the term "WAYBACK" explicitly indicated during the segment in which Mr. Peabody and Sherman visit the "Charge of the Light Brigade". The precise meaning of the acronym WABAC is unknown, but the term is obviously a play on "way back", as in "way back in time", and the names of mid-century, large-sized computers that often ended in "AC" (generally for "Automatic Computer" or similar), such as ENIAC or UNIVAC. Indeed, according to Gerard Baldwin, one of the show's directors, the name "WABAC" is a reference to the UNIVAC I.
The concept or term "Wayback Machine" has been adopted in popular culture as a convenient way to introduce issues or events of the past, often employing the original line "Sherman, set the Wayback machine to ...". This introduction was used by the character Kevin Flynn in the film Tron, for example. As in the original cartoon, the Wayback Machine is often invoked to suggest the audience follow the narrator back to the past. Frequently such visits to the past are trips of nostalgia, remembering times, places, or things of the not-so-distant past.
One example of popular usage occurred in an episode of the TV show NewsRadio ("Goofy Ball", 1995), when station owner Jimmy James (Stephen Root) says: "Dave, don't mess with a man with a Wayback Machine. I can make it so you were never born."
Mr. Peabody and Sherman film (2014)
The movie studio DreamWorks Animation announced in 2006 and again in 2012 that they were creating an animated movie entitled Mr. Peabody and Sherman to be released in the Spring 2014. The WABAC machine is a central element to the plot.
- Back to the Future (film)
- List of television series that include time travel
- Memory hole
- Time travel
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- "Mr. Peabody and Sherman"
- Toonopedia entry on Peabody's Improbable History
- Andy's Anachronisms: Time Travel Television Reviews: Peabody's Improbable History
- The Wayback Machine at archive.org