x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

App of the Week: Video Time Machine finds long-lost multimedia memories

Video Time Machine lets smartphone users take easy strolls down pop culture's Memory Lane.

Video Time Machine app
Video Time Machine app

A lot of tragic, historic and cool stuff happened the year I was born.

Robert F Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr were assassinated. Nasa launched Apollo 8, the first human space flight to leave Earth's orbit. The movies Planet of the Apes and Barbarella came out. Simon & Garfunkel were hypnotising beatniks with The Sounds of Silence, and Frank Zappa guest starred on an episode of The Monkeys.

I didn't realise any of this at the time, of course. I was too busy mastering the concept of shapes and hardening that soft spot on the top of my skull.

Fortunately, society was kind enough to tape most of it for me, but then it scattered it all over the place and tracking it down is something that only a driven narcissist would do - I'm more of the layabout variety.

The app

The folks behind the website www.yttm.tv feel my pain and, in response, created Video Time Machine (Dh3.70, iPhone, iPad), a smartphone app that allows you to dial up the past in all its black and white or washed-out colour glory.

The app has compiled more than 10,000 "hand-picked" media files that stretch all the way back to the first audio recording in 1860, a woman's haunting rendition of the song Au Clair de la Lune, created using a sheet of paper and black smoke from an oil lamp 15 years before Thomas Edison invented the phonograph.

Why I find the theme song to the 1960s kids' TV show The Banana Splits more stirring is a sad commentary on my state of mind.

The details

Simple in concept and design, Video Time Machine displays a video screen in landscape mode on the left, and two Rolodex-style menus on the right that let you calibrate the year and media type you want to explore (movies, news, sports, etc).

It chooses a video to stream based on those specs, and two green-arrow buttons then allow you to browse within that year and category.

The interface also has a blue "dice" button that will randomly pick a year and category if you're in a miscellaneous mood.

If you find something that stops you in your tracks as you surf through the past (and you will), you can then comment on it and post your discovery on Twitter and Facebook. This will allow your friends to share in your nostalgic revelations, not to mention deduce exactly how old you really are - so choose wisely.

Video Time Machine entertains and educates, and does all the Memory Lane footwork for ageing egoists everywhere.

It should at least keep me occupied until my Banana Splits DVD arrives from Amazon.com.

Have some great personal finance apps that you want to share? Write to Curt Brandao at cbrandao@thenational.ae