Video Time Machine for iOS (hands-on)

What's the first thing that comes to mind when the subject of time travel comes up? If you're like us, you probably think of flying DeLoreans or malfunctioning hot tubs; maybe even the HG Wells chair with a brobdingnagian spinning wheel on the back. Since these types of time machines (you know, the ones that actually go back in time) don't exist -- that we know of, anyway -- we need to find other methods of transporting ourselves to another time. That's where Video Time Machine comes in handy: it chronicles over a century of compiled movies, commercials, TV broadcasts, and other forms of moving pictures into one clever iOS app. We had an opportunity to get some hands-on time with both the iPhone and iPad apps and did some time travelling of our own. Did it satisfy our hunger for one hundred years of visual treats? Head past the break to find out.

Video Time Machine's secret sauce is in sorting each one of its moving pictures by year and giving you the option of filtering that selection down to several categories: news, games, sports clips, ads, movies, TV, and music. The ability to narrow our choices didn't make much difference when perusing the first half of the 20th century -- since so few videos are available -- but it turned out to be absolutely essential when scanning the catalog from the last 50 years. 1987, for instance, has 154 clips to choose from, so good luck trying to find something precise.

If you're not looking for a specific year or category, a "random" button is included in the app to provide you with hours of mindless entertainment. This option does exactly what it sounds like -- it selects one at random out of the thousands of clips in the app's index. We liked the inclusion of this feature, though it reminded us too much of flipping through the channels on our TV without finding anything we want to watch. What if you do stumble across something special, perhaps timeless classics like Captain EO, the moon landing, or Doug Flutie's "hail Mary" pass against Miami, and want to share them with the world? Fortunately, VTM added in options to share videos via Facebook and Twitter.

While we would've preferred a search option included somewhere in the app, we should point out that all of the catalogued videos in VTM have been brought over from YouTube, meaning it's easy enough to go through the service itself to find your desired clip. If you're wondering why you should pay for an app that provides the same clips found on YouTube, VTM isn't designed to simply mimic it; rather, the program's meant to act more as a history lesson, giving us a unique opportunity to witness a slice of life. What was pop culture like in the 1950s? What did our parents do or watch when they were kids? What important events occurred? It can even go beyond that by bringing back some of those precious memories from our own youth. Either way, it may be worth digging through your couch cushions for some extra change.