On This Day
Release Date:March 26, 2010
Summary:A well-presented and well-designed app that lets you root through calendar days in history to read about what happened on that very day.
There haven’t been too many apps lately that have caught my eye. There are so many apps out there already, plus new ones being made for the iPad, not to mention the Android system of apps – it’s simply overwhelming. And, half of those apps – hell, three quarters – are pretty lackluster, or just pale imitations of other apps that do the same thing, only better (Doodle Jump clones, anyone?). So goes the continual saga that is the App Store. Yesterday I was amusing myself by looking through all the apps under specific keywords, and then figuring out which apps have been in the App Store the longest, which have become obsolete, and so on, a bit like a foraging through a digital archive of iTunes history. Plundering amongst the greats and the fallen heroes of the apps, I discovered a history app called On This Day, that reveals tidbits of information specific to whatever day you seek. Realizing that this concept amusingly paralleled my own app plundering, I decided to check it out. Besides, there’s only so much rooting I can do in a day, before I get lost, forget things, overlook something, and generally start losing my mind. At least On This Day can provide some kind of chronological, easily categorized, easily referenced tool for plundering through history.
Thankfully, there’s not much to say about the app. Trust me, this is a good thing. History is too vast, even, to define – have you ever noticed how the most complex things are often the most simply defined, as if we know a whole subject matter cannot be easily winnowed down to scalable proportions, and so a scant, almost trite selection of words are paired up to give meaning, a “study of past events” representing the whole, overwhelming mass that is history? There is no way to contain the entirety of history within a definition, let alone an iPhone app, and so On This Day wisely pares down the information contained within to Births, Deaths, and the vague category of “Events” that generally covers only the most highlighted, or most obscure of factoids, for the purpose of entertaining frivolity. The again, plenty of the history given in this app is amazingly random, which prompts me think, how did they choose what to cover? For today, April 07, one fact given in that in the year 529 the first draft of the Corups Juris Civilis (a fundamental work in jurisprudence, i.e. the theory of law) was issued by Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian I. Well, that’s plenty interesting, but what am I going to do with this little tidbit of information? It’s been a few years since Western Civ in college. Thankfully, On This Day is a step ahead: for each historical listing in the app, there are several highlighted bits that link you to Wikipedia articles should you wish to know more. This is assuming, of course, that you already have Articles – The Wikipedia app – a recent release – but in case you don’t, the app offers you the option to add it.
So, what else happened today, on April 07? In 1860, Will Keith Kellogg, that famous American entrepreneur who created Corn Flakes and other favorite Supermarket cereal brands, was born. El Greco, one of my favorite, undefinable artists, also died on this day in 1614. In 1788, American Pioneers to the Northwest Territory arrived at the confluence of the Ohio and Muskingum Rivers, establishing Marietta, Ohio as the first permanent American settlement of the new United States in the Northwest Territory, and thereby opening westward expansion of the new country. In 1906, Mount Vesuvius erupted, devastating Naples. For every day in this app, it seems as if there are at least 50 entries each for Births, Deaths, and Events, so there’s plenty of reading to be done, should you be of the factoid kind. All of this reading is made easier from the app’s excellent navigation – simple, with the option to rifle through the calender and dates, or just tapping through arrows, day by day - and handsome design, which bears an homage to antiquity with its weathered, yellowed pages, and notepad interface.
It’s not be the most exciting app, or even, arguably, the most productive – I’m sure plenty of people will be miffed about how it needs internet to work, though I think that’s a minor quibble. In all honestly, I probably won’t use it very much, if I use it at all. I’m not sure what I was expecting with this app, but after checking it out, it’s probably the very best it could be. It’s just a collection of facts, in a well-designed package, and if that’s what you’re seeking, then this is the app for you. It won’t win any awards, and likely has a shelf life as dated as the facts contained within, but hey, at least it’s not a thinly veiled attempt at recycling an existing app under the guise of an original one. I actually kind of like it.