Posted by Michael A. Burstein on Feb 29, 2012 in Apex Publications Blog: Matters of SF, Fantasy, and Horror, Genre Matters | 2 comments
by Michael A. Burstein
With today being February 29, 2012, or Leap Day 2012, it’s a great day for me to once again discuss my love of time travel. After all, one of the better-known time travel television series in recent memory is Quantum Leap, all about a scientist who “leaps” into other people’s lives throughout history as he tries to make the world a better place. So in the spirit of Leap Day, I offer here three recommendations of time travel apps for the iPhone that I’ve downloaded and enjoyed.
Back in 2008, my wife and I first got iPhones. Sometime afterward, it occurred to me to investigate whether or not the Apple App Store sold anything that had to do with time travel (other than, say, free copies of The Time Machine by H.G. Wells.) I don’t remember the exact date I first looked into time travel apps, but I do recall the first one I found.
That was the Flux Capacitor app based on the time-travel device from the Back to the Future series of films. The app manages to amuse me quite a lot. When the phone is held in portrait orientation, the app displays the actual flux capacitor and by pushing a button you can accelerate your phone (I guess?) to 88 miles per hour, at which point the flux capacitor flashes and you (theoretically, at least) travel in time. If you rotate the phone to landscape orientation, the app displays the time circuits car display with the Destination Time, Present Time, and Last Time Departed. On a whim, I set the Destination Time for my actual birthday years ago, and as of today, I still seem to be stuck back there.
After I played with the app for a while, I started to wonder if there were other apps out there related to time travel. It hit me to search on the key term Ziggy, which is the name of the computer that coordinates Project Quantum Leap in the TV show. The first time I did that search, I found only one app, the Ziggy Lights On app.
This app doesn’t purport to send you traveling in time, but it is fun. It turns the iPhone into a simulation of the colorful handlink device used by Admiral Al Calavicci in the later episodes of the show. Al routinely would hit the handlink when it wasn’t working properly and it would produce a short, sad squawk. The app does something similar, but it’s also a game where you try to turn on the colorful blocky lights that make up the handlink. So if you either want to pretend to be talking to a time traveler or want to while away the hours as you wait for time travel to be invented, it’s a nice app to have.
But in the end, the ultimate gold standard app for time travel was one that I just discovered a few months ago, and I’ve already given copies of it to a bunch of friends. Programmer Ben Hallert, whose mind obviously aligns with mine on this issue, developed the Ziggy’s Time Traveler Emergency Reference app. This app is a database for the accidental time traveler. Let’s say you found yourself suddenly thrown back into the past. Would you have the knowledge of upcoming historical events to help you survive or thrive while waiting for a lift back to 2012? Well, if you had your iPhone with you, and this app installed, you would. If you buy this app, you will find a historical database of over 100,000 events. Enter the date on which you have arrived in the past, and Ziggy will pop out a list of the upcoming important events, so you can be prepared if your memory of history is faulty.
Even better, Hallert has included lists of things such as stock market crashes and Super Bowl winners, so you can make investments that you know will pan out in your future. He includes the best performing companies of the last few decades, so I now know that if I find myself tossed back to 1970, buying stock in a company called Keystone would be a good thing. If you get thrown back further than the 20th century, the app includes information on how to perform first aid and make penicillin. Most important of all, the app advises you to buy a solar charger before you get thrust back in time, so you’ll be able to keep your iPhone charged and continue to access Ziggy’s database. As someone who has sometimes worried that I might find myself thrown back in time (or, rather, as someone with a keen interest in history), I am delighted to have this app installed on my phone. (And I’m not just saying that because my birth date is considered a significant event in its historical database.)
Each of these three apps is only 99 cents; even at thrice the price, they’d be a bargain. If you have an iPhone, get them now, before you find yourself trapped in primitive times and bemoaning that you don’t know when the next solar eclipse will be…
Michael A. Burstein, winner of the 1997 Campbell Award for Best New Writer, has earned ten Hugo nominations and four Nebula nominations for his short fiction, collected in I Remember the Future. Burstein lives with his wife Nomi and their twin daughters in the town of Brookline, Massachusetts, where he is an elected Town Meeting Member and Library Trustee. When not writing, he edits middle and high school Science textbooks. He has two degrees in Physics and attended the Clarion Workshop. More information on Burstein and his work can be found on his webpage,http://www.mabfan.com.