According to phrases.org.uk, "...the earliest citation of the phrase is from Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice, 1596: "With bated breath, and whispring humblenesse."
Gerrin' there, Willi lad! Don't you wish you could drop the odd Shakespearean iambic pentameter into a conversation just like that? Bugger, maybe you can!
Anyway I have managed to digress before I even finished my first sentence, so even more breath will have been bated in the meantime - apologies for this.
So... erm, ah yes - many of you have been waiting with bated breath, well, I say many... some of you have been waiting... well, I say some... actually I doubt that anyone has been waiting with bated breath for part 2 of my post down below, Three Steps to Heaven, however;
"...this shall not deter me from my course" (iambic pentameter! Shakespearean? No, Neutronian.)
The thing is, I was on about trying to find a way to visualise vast amounts of time, so I suggested imagining one step to be the equivalent of 2000 years back into the past. On this basis you would then need around 6 paces to reach the agricultural revolution when humans first began to settle on bits of land and farm them. Then to get back to the earliest distinctly human fossils you would need about 80 paces - not even the length of a footy pitch. And don't forget each of those paces contains 2000 years of sunny days and rainy days, summers, springs, winters and autumns full of what people do with themselves, being born, reproducing, loving, having arguments, worrying, having fun, getting old, dying, etc., etc.
After 80 paces it's not people doing all that any more but hominids and ancient animals living and dying... in the previous post I posed the question, "how many steps back to the end of the dinosaurs?" Well, keep walking these 2000-year paces... 150, 400, 1000, 1500 (there we pass the time of Lucy our Australopithecus ancestor)... keep going, sunny days, rainy days, etc.
Actually, it might be better to get a bus since you will need to walk over 32 kilometres to get your first glimpse of a dying dinosaur. On my scale the end of the dinosaurs is some 32,500 paces away back into the past!
Is your mind boggled? Is it boggled?
(Apologies to fans of the Flintstones)