History of the Timewave Zero Software
by Peter Meyer
Written 1999-08-30, slightly revised 2006-03-31 and 2009-02-10
The theory of the Timewave was already essentially enunciated in the 1975 edition of The Invisible Landscape, by Dennis and Terence McKenna, except that the timewave in that exposition was not yet explicitly a fractal. (The original edition of The Invisible Landscape was published by The Seabury Press, New York; it was long out of print, then reprinted in 1994 by Harper San Francisco.) At first calculations relating to the timewave were performed by hand. This was a tedious process and it became clear that only with the help of a computer could the full ramifications of the theory be explored.
Early attempts to understand the mathematical nature of the wave were partial and incomplete. In 1974 or earlier Royce Kelley and Leon Taylor were recruited by Terence McKenna and calculated the wave as 64 tables of 384 terms each. This work was done at the University of California at Berkeley using a FORTRAN program running on a CDC 6400 computer.
In the Acknowledgements in the 1975 edition of The Invisible Landscape we read:
... we wish to especially thank Leon Taylor and Royce Kelley, both of whom were tireless in their dedication to the computer programming involved in the extrapolation and displaying of the I Ching graph. The material in the appendices is their work, as are illustrations 17-27.
One of the appendices contains a table of 384 lines, later known as the "Table of Intermediate and Final Values". This provides a set of 384 numbers in the range 0 - 79 (which used to be known in the jargon of Timewave Zero as the "data points") which were taken by later researchers as primitive values from which the fractal timewave was generated. The quotation above states that this table was made originally either by Royce Kelley or by Leon Taylor (or both). The 1975 edition of The Invisible Landscape contains some FORTRAN source code which is, unfortunately, mostly illegible, and presumably one or both of Kelley and Taylor wrote this code (no other copy of which is known to survive).
In 1978 or 1979 Peter Broadwell (who had been working as a programmer for Ralph Abraham) was recruited by Terence McKenna and developed the first Timewave software to run on a microcomputer, the Apple II+. The program was written in Applesoft BASIC and proceeded from some earlier, preliminary and incomplete, code by an unknown programmer. Peter Broadwell's version was the first actually to display the wave graphically. At this point, however, little manipulation of the wave display was possible.
During the late 1970s knowledge of the Timewave began to cross the Atlantic. The first European known to have studied The Invisible Landscape was Klaus Scharff, a teacher of mathematics and physics, whose main theoretical interest was, and remains, the nature of time (see his Chronolytisches Studio). Around 1981 he read about the theory in Robert Anton Wilson's Cosmic Trigger then purchased a copy of The Invisible Landscape. He thought (correctly) that the derivation of the 384 values from the King Wen Sequence, as described therein, was rather obscure.
Soon after, basing his work on the information in Appendix II of the book, and taking the 384 values as primitive, he wrote a program (in Pascal) which successfully displayed the timewave in a graphical form. Klaus Scharff also found numerous interesting correspondences between the ups and downs of the timewave and historical events.
I was first exposed to the theory of the Timewave when in 1984 a friend of mine gave me a copy of the original edition of The Invisible Landscape.
I first met Terence McKenna in California in the summer of 1985 while visiting Occidental (where he lived at the time, on Bohemian Highway, with his wife Kat). At this time he was selling advice to people based upon the I Ching in combination with the theory of the timewave (at that time called "System Zero"). Terence was never a computer programmer and when he learnt that I was he asked me to begin work on a new version of the Timewave software for the Apple //e.
I started this on March 31st, 1986. Initially the the Timewave theory made little sense to me, and I found Terence's explanations less than clear. Eventually I was able to formulate a new mathematical description of the timewave (different from that presented in the appendices to the 1975 version of The Invisible Landscape) in a precise and rigorous manner. (The archaeoastronomer Simon Cassidy contributed briefly, but significantly, to this effort.) This mathematical formulation, and some timewave theorems, was published as an appendix to the 1994 edition of The Invisible Landscape, and it can be read on the CD-ROM.
It was only at this stage, in the mid-1980s (some years after Mandelbrot's pioneering work on fractals), and during the course of my study prior to the development of the software, that the timewave assumed an explicitly fractal nature. This results from a bidirectional construction, where each point on the wave is calculated as the sum of a doubly infinite series (see The Mathematical Definition of the Timewave). The mathematical formulation given in the appendices to the 1975 edition of The Invisible Landscape is a unidirectional construction (in the direction of the past). A timewave calculated along these lines would not have the infinite complexity characteristic of a fractal, though the complexity could be increased by beginning the construction at smaller and smaller basic time intervals (i.e., 1/64n of a day, for increasing n).
The programming language again was Applesoft BASIC, but this time augmented by 6502 assembly language routines. However, it was still rather slow due to the large amount of calculation involved to determine the value of each point of the wave. The Apple //e version was finally completed in February 1987. It was the first Timewave software to allow automatic calculation of major and minor resonances.
In March 1987 the McKenna family moved to the Big Island of Hawaii and I acted on Terence's suggestion to join them. During the next six months I worked more on the software and wrote some programs for searching the space of possible I Ching hexagram sequences for those with interesting properties. During this time I visited Terence about twice a week, usually walking a good way up the slope of the volcano to his and Kat's botanical garden (partially visible at the left of the photo).
The McKenna house
on the Big Island
(Click for full size)
The claim by "Clarknova" on Wikipedia that I "never knew McKenna personally" is false (as is much else on Wikipedia). Terence and I had many (usually very stoned) conversations in person concerning Timewave Zero and many other topics. In fact it was Terence who prepared and lit the pipe for my first two DMT trips, hardly possible for one who "never knew McKenna personally".
In January 1989 I began work on an MS-DOS version in Germany. This version was written using the C programming language for speed, and the program was entirely rewritten. This was the first Timewave software to permit multiple screens with different segments of the wave. I completed this first MS-DOS version in August 1989.
Owing to the limitations of the Apple //e's representation of real numbers, the Apple //e version could not graph the wave back beyond about 100,000 years. The C version extended the calculation of the wave back to beyond the time of the formation of the Earth, 4.5 billion years ago. This at last permitted examination of the wave at such interesting times as 65 million years ago, the time of the extinction of the dinosaurs.
In 1990, December 21, 2012, became the default zero date used by the software. Previously Terence had usually spoken of the zero date as being December 22 (since the northern winter solstice usually occurs on this date — but not in 2012). A version was released which could use a math coprocessor chip, resulting in a dramatic improvement in the speed of calculation and display of the graph.
In April 1991 a German version of the MS-DOS software was commissioned by Gaia Media in Switzerland. I converted the software to German, assisted in the translation of the text by Klaus Scharff. During the course of this work I discovered that there are parts of the wave that have the same shape but are not major resonances. It turned out that they are trigrammatic resonances, which led me to add to the software the ability to graph these resonances automatically. During 1991-1993 I added numerous enhancements, including the ability to calculate sets of successive trigrammatic resonances.
During 1993-1994 I developed the program WEN_SRCH for searching the hexagram sequence space and the MS-DOS program WEN_GRPH for converting hexagram sequences to the data points usable in the generation of the timewave (or an alternative timewave, if different data points — the 384 numbers — are used).
In January of 1996 Matthew Watkins initiated contact with Terence McKenna to discuss possible collaboration and a refining of the the Timewave theory. Watkins, having recently completed his doctoral studies in mathematics, wished to capture the theory in a formula. After studying the C code in my WEN_GRPH program he succeeded in finding a formula which maps the numbers 0, 1, ..., 383 into the 384 values — a remarkable achievement — though this formula captures only the first part of the derivation of the timewave (the generation of the 384 numbers from the King Wen Sequence) and says nothing about the fractal nature of the timewave (which I had already made explicit ten years earlier).
During the second half of 1997 and in early 1998 I produced new MS-DOS Timewave software designed to be used with Windows (namely, this Fractal Time software), introducing a new way to print the graph, eliminating the need for any external files, implementing a toggle between American and European date formats, extending the number of screens to 12, and adding the ability to find "true" trigrammatic resonances. I also added the ability to switch between timewaves generated by multiple sets of 384 numbers, and included three new number sets, the Watkins, Sheliak and Huang Ti sets.