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Video Time Machine: Time Travel on the iPhone?

written by: Elton Gahr•edited by: Simon Hill•updated: 7/21/2011

Part of the reason time travel is so appealing is the ability to relive the feeling of a time. Video Time Machine can help you easily capture the feeling of specific times. So, while you might not be able to give a sports almanac to yourself you can enjoy the feeling of 1955.

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    One of the questions historians always ask is how the future is going to study our time. The handwritten letter has been largely replaced by phone calls of which no record is kept and while emails are sometimes saved they are not written like letters. Instead, they are generally short and quickly written notes.

    The good news is that there are ways to examine our times that never existed before and one of the best is through video. The Video Time Machine makes it possible for anyone to look at any year and get a good feel of the time, as well as some of the important events. This does feel almost like stepping back in time, with the exception of still having one of the most futuristic devices in the world in your hand to watch the video.

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    Basics of Time Travel

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    video time machine 

    Video Time Machine is a remarkably simple app, but at the same time a lot of work was clearly put into it. There is only a single screen for Video Time Machine. This has two spinning menus. The first of these is the year and the second is the type of video that you want to watch. These categories include movies, music, TV, news, sports, games (video), and ads. As you go back in time some of these categories, such as video games, are more likely to be empty and finding any videos in some of the earliest years isn’t easy, but knowing those videos don't exist tells you something about the time as well.

    There are a lot of videos in this app, but they are all from YouTube. This could make the app feel as if it was simply a limited replacement for the free YouTube app that comes on the iPhone. This is not the case when you consider that the true value of this app is not in the simple interface, but in the effort of organizing those videos. With thousands of videos to choose from this is something that is every bit as important and complex as most apps and is different from anything YouTube does.

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    Using the App is Easy

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    There is only a single screen and a very limited number of choices of what to do with Video Time Machine. This means that all you really have to do is choose the year you want. Once you have done that you have the option of scrolling through all of the videos, looking for one at random or choosing a category to browse through. Moving through these videos is also easy with a simple button to explore the videos. Once you have entered the videos themselves they run like any video on the iPhone.

    The only real weakness of the interface comes as you go back further in time. There are a lot of empty categories in many years. This can make finding some of the more obscure videos a bit more difficult. For example, the first video game video is in 1958, two years before the next of the video games and this is ten years before they really begin to show up often. This is obviously because video games were not common in the 1950’s but if you don’t know to look for it you could easily miss this video. Having a way to search specific categories more specifically would be good, but it would have to be done in a way that didn't make the app more difficult to use as the simplicity of the app is useful. In addition, a search function could be nice, even though the limited number of videos would mean that often you wouldn't find anything.

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    Value for Money

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    There is nothing in Video Time Machine that you couldn’t find on your own on YouTube. In fact, there is an excellent chance you will have seen many of these videos. This may make paying for it seem like it is a bad deal. The truth, though, is that the value of this app is more in its organization than in any single video. With ten thousand videos organized into both year and category it is well worth paying 99 cents simply for that organization. This is because being able to go to a year and really get a feel for that time is a lot of fun. And the amount of fun that someone who likes strolling through different times could have with this is well more than 99 cents worth of value.

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    Overall Rating

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    This is not a complicated app in itself and you could, theoretically, find every video that exists in it for free. That said, the ability to watch a good number of videos in any year is a lot of fun and while remembering a time when you were a kid is interesting. Even more interesting is when you go to a time years before you were born and get a feeling for what your parents were likely doing or at least watching during that time. So, while calling this an educational app is a bit of a stretch there is a lot of history to be seen here for anyone who enjoys understanding the past.

    If you find yourself looking at old ads or news clips on YouTube this app was made for you. The same is true for those who love video game history, sports history or even music history because you can easily stroll through time in each of these categories and it is likely as close to a time machine as you are ever going to find.

    (Cost: 99 cents) Download Link

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