Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
The median age in USA is about 35 years. This means that anything that happened longer ago than that (less the first five or six years of one's life, where they're too young to remember cultural events) will be remembered by a minority of people. For example, here in 2012, the majority of Americans are too young to remember the 1970s.
Title Text - This is in reference to the vastly over-saturated programming on VH1 dedicated to the history of the TV universe.
2015 The Falkand Islands War This is in reference to the brief outbreak of hostilities between the UK and Argentina over a small patch of rock off the shore of Argentina claimed by both but controlled by the UK. Even to this date (2012) tensions remain high over the ownership of these islands, and while a majority of people alive weren't alive to remember it first hand, it nevertheless remains present in the collective psyche of both nations.
2018 New Coke References a public relations blunder that the Coca Cola corporation undertook in attempting to reformulate its cola recipe, naming it New Coke. The public backlash so shook the company that even to this date, the reinstated original recipe is referred to as Coke Classic.
2020 Chernobyl Refers to the 1996 meltdown of a nuclear power plant in the Ukranian SSR (then a part of the Soviet Union.)
2023 The Berlin Wall Refers specifically to the tearing down of a soviet-erected barrier through the city of Berlin, up to then divided into soviet-controlled east and western-controlled west portions. With the gradual wane of the Soviet Union, and specifically the reunification of Germany in 1989, the wall was torn down by people on both sides of the division.
2024 HammerTime Refers to a refrain in MC Hammer's 1990 hit song U Can't Touch This; Randall Munroe makes reference to this song elsewhere in his comics, too (specifically xkcd 108 and xkcd 210.)
2025 The Soviet Union Refers to the cold-war adversary of the United States, emerging after the end of World War I and only collapsing in 1991.
2026 The LA Riots Refers to the massive riots occuring at the release of the verdict acquitting the officers accused of the Rodney King beatings in 1992.
2027 Lorena Bobbit Refers to the woman who emasculated her husband in 1993.
2045 Trying to say Eyjafjallajökull Is a reference to a volcano in Iceland that erupted from 20 March 2010 through 23 May 2010. The eruption threw volcanic ash several kilometres up in the atmosphere which led to air travel disruption in northwest Europe for six days from 15th to 21st of April. Source Wikipedia
add a comment! ⋅ add a topic (use sparingly)! ⋅ refresh comments!
I remember Pluto but nothing before or after that.
Also this is a terrible comment system --184.108.40.206 16:04, 27 April 2017 (UTC)
How far off the top of that list is the death of JFK? SteveB (talk) 10:55, 10 August 2012 (UTC)
- Looking at the time table, my guess would be around 2000. ~JJ (talk) 11:01, 10 August 2012 (UTC)
- Assuming that the median age growed monotonically in the past, that was around '98/'99. 220.127.116.11 13:05, 14 August 2012 (UTC)
Ah, the seventies. Bell Bottoms. The Bicentennial. The Munich Olympics. The original Star Wars movie. Except for Star Wars, I suppose much of that could be forgotten. Especially Bell Bottoms.-- IronyChef (talk) 13:50, 10 August 2012 (UTC)
Lorena Bobbitt is misspelled in the comic. It should have two "t's." Source: http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-500185_162-4207517.html [Goingtotryscience, 10 Aug 2012] --Goingtotryscience (talk) 14:59, 10 August 2012 (UTC)
Uploaded corrected version. Both still available if you click on the image and view upload history.--B. P. (talk) 15:46, 17 August 2012 (UTC)
The cold war was after World War II, not World War I. --Ralfoide (talk) 16:18, 10 August 2012 (UTC)
- He didn't say the cold war was after World War I, he said the Soviet Union began after World War I and was the advesary of the United States during the cold war. --Enginesoul (talk) 18:10, 10 August 2012 (UTC)
Let's not forget 2035 when the majority of people will not remember a world berift of XKCD! Loeb (talk) 17:17, 10 August 2012 (UTC)
When Coca-Cola change the formula to New Coke, they kept the name "Coca-Cola" for the reformulated beverage, and discontinued the old formula. Because of the backlash, they reintroduced the old formula as "Coca-Cola Classic" and kept the new formula as "Coca-Cola". After a while, with "Coca-Cola Classic" being by far the biggest seller, the new formula was rebranded "Coke II", and eventually discontinued (I believe). The can I have in front of me is marked simply "Coca-Cola", so I guess "Coca-Cola Classic" was eventually rebranded back to the original name. --Blaise Pascal (talk) 17:55, 10 August 2012 (UTC)
- Coke II was produced and distributed in some Midwestern markets as late as 2002. Supposedly it's still available in the Marshall Islands, or somewhere like that. Daniel Case (talk) 21:22, 14 August 2012 (UTC)
Am I the only one who thinks that there are some other things needing explaining here? I have no idea what "Forgot About Dre" or "Baby Got Back" are about. (Well, not without a little googling.) And Pluto still exists, even if it's not currently classified as a planet (last I heard, they were considering classifying it and Charon as a twin planet system) so people are unlikely to forget about the name.--Joe Green (talk) 07:26, 11 August 2012 (UTC)
- Actually, Pluto is still a planet. To say Pluto is not a planet is the same thing as saying little people aren't people, which is incredibly bigoted against little people. Only a true sociopath would say that Pluto isn't a planet. "Dwarf planet" has planet right in the name. Of COURSE a dwarf planet is a planet.18.104.22.168 15:07, 18 June 2013 (UTC)
- By that logic, "candy corn" is still corn because it has the word corn right in the name. Call me a sociopath if you want to, but I say Pluto is not (and never was) a planet. There was a brief time in history when we mistakenly THOUGHT it was a planet, until we corrected our mistake. The same thing happened with Ceres. It was initially announced to be a planet, until further measurements showed it to be much smaller than we thought, so we reclassified it as an "asteroid". Nowadays, we correctly recognize that Ceres and Pluto belong in the same category as each other. Both of them are rocks floating in a band of other rocks, albeit unusually large examples of such rocks. This comic refers to the fact that we look back with nostalgia on the time when lists of "the planets" included Pluto. Now, the list does not include Pluto.22.214.171.124 15:42, 21 February 2015 (UTC)
Oh and if Chernobyl is considered worthy of explanation, surely so is Challenger? Columbine too. Jeff's initial selection seems a little arbitrary, and while he justifiably never claims to provide a comprehensive explanation, we usually fill in the gaps.--Joe Green (talk) 07:34, 11 August 2012 (UTC)
- Gaps: Filled. By the way, none of the explanation was actually Jeff's. It's the collaboration of multiple users (feel free to pitch in). For example, I made the first revision of the article, with a basic explanation, Jjhuddle added information about the title text (which I skipped over, as I wasn't sure about it), Jilkscom56 added the bit about Eyjafjallajökull, IronyChef added eight more years, MrFlibble fixed an error in one of the dates, AHT expanded the Berlin Wall section, and I filled in the rest of the blanks. Omega Talk • Contribs 08:18, 11 August 2012 (UTC)
The Berlin Wall was constructed by East Germany, not the USSR and it preceded the reunification of Germany. I've sort of fixed it, but it could do with more work. Jeremyp (talk) 10:35, 13 August 2012 (UTC)
- Good. I was just writing a comment about exactly these two points. Although the role of the soviets is not entirely clear, it was the Eastern German (aka German Democratic Republic) Government that decided and (mostly) Eastern German soldiers who built the Wall. And while the "Fall of the Wall" usually refers to the day where suddenly after a very confusing press conference, people could cross the border from east to west, the November 9, 1989, the reunification was a political and formal act in 1990, almost a year later. 126.96.36.199 10:51, 13 August 2012 (UTC)
- Also, the wall was technically not torn down by anyone and especially not from both sides. After a series of weekly demonstrations in Eastern Germany (by a lot of courageous people in different cities), the Government made a decision to lift the travel restrictions, effectively allowing travelling to the West. On November 9, 1989, they made this official in a press conference which did not even receive a lot of attention at first. In this conference, someone raised the question when these new regulation would take effect, and seemingly unprepared, the speaker said "as far as I can see, it's effective immediately". Although there were so many people up that night in both East and West, and although maybe the mass of people prevented a shooting by the unprepared soldiers at the checkpoint, the revolution was not a spontaneous tearing of the wall, it was the demonstrations in the preceeding weeks by the Eastern German People. 188.8.131.52 11:30, 13 August 2012 (UTC)
It seems whoever wrote the explanation for 9/11 has already forgotten the other two planes that crashed that day: one into the Pentagon, and one in a field outside of Shanksville, PA (Presumably on its way to crashing into the Capitol Building)
- Well go change it then!
Actually I found the most crucial part, the math, was done poorly: Why do we have a 32 years gap today and a 35 years gap in the future, when the current median age is "around 35"?. I fixed it, but I'm not a native speaker, so I'd be happy if someone could go over the first paragraph (again). BKA (talk) 13:40, 13 August 2012 (UTC)
"He lost all popularity after he controversially boycotted the 1980 Olympics, in Moscow
" Well, this just proves the point of the comic. Anyone old enough to remember the Carter administration would not have written this. The Olympic boycott was actually supported by most of the American people at the time, albeit a little grudgingly. It was, in fact, one of the few things Carter did at that point that was
The explanation would be more accurate if it read "He lost popularity due to continual high inflation during his administration, failure to resolve the Iran hostage crisis, a speech that was interpreted as blaming the American people for his administration's failings, and a growing perception that he was in over his head." Daniel Case (talk) 21:19, 14 August 2012 (UTC)
- I've rewritten that section to include more information. Wikipedia does say that the Olympic boycott was controversial, and my memory concurs. The real error about the boycott was that it wasn't generally a cold-war issue, but rather a direct response to the Afghanistan invasion. Which is why it was so controversial, as such a boycott was purely political when the spirit of the games was intended to overcome such political differences. Blaisepascal (talk) 21:51, 14 August 2012 (UTC)
This comic makes me feel young. The first event I actually remember is 9/11, and I only remember it because it was my first day of kindergarten. 184.108.40.206
04:21, 14 March 2014 (UTC)
I have extremely vague memories of 9/11 which happened when I was 4, mainly through a dream I had where I built two Lego towers and had them fall on me. I have a few memories of a time before facebook, but I do remember Katrina. I feel so young. Also like. Pokemon's TV show came out when I was born, and I unashamedly still watch it now and then. Literally can't get a show I've watched for a longer period of time than Pokemon haha xD so xkcd makes me feel old and young simultaneously. International Space Station
) 15:41, 22 April 2016 (UTC)