Who Needs A Hot Tub When You Have YouTube Time Machine?

For anyone who has ever wished they could travel through time and revisit their own past or see what life was like before they were born, it’s now possible with YouTube. Well…sort of. A new site called YouTube Time Machine, which launched last week, lets viewers travel through time YouTube-style and watch clips sorted by the year they were launched.

YouTube Time Machine is the brainchild of Justin Johnson, who you may know from his Tumblr marriage proposal. Justin describes the inspiration behind the site on his Tumblr blog. After a night of watching Michael Jordan videos from 1996, Justin had been filled with an amazing feeling of reminiscence, “like it was Sunday afternoon, and I was 14, sipping on a milkshake and watching my fav team play. That Jordan-fest lurched into a 4 am search for Primal Rage videos, and countless other mid-90s stuff. I realized then, that it wasn’t specifically Jordan or Primal Rage videos I was searching for…it was 1996…the feeling of being in 1996.” And thus, the idea for YouTube Time Machine was born.

To travel back in time via YouTube videos, site visitors simply drag a sliding bar across a timeline and stop on the year that they want to “travel to.” Once you arrive at the year that interests you, you can toggle on and off specific topics to narrow down the topics, including video games, television, commercials, current events, sports, movies and music. With YouTube Time Machine you can travel all the way back to the year 1860.

But enough of the minor details. Let’s take a trip through time with the YouTube time machine, right here right now. Are you with me?


Lets go back as far as the YouTube Time Machine will take us, to hear an audio clip of the first sound ever recorded. Back in 1860, Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville made the first ever recording, using a device called the “phonautograph”. It may sound like some kind of weird bird, but this sound is actually a woman singing, “Au Clair de la Lune.”


Now lets travel 34 years down the road to 1894, when the first woman stepped foot in front of a motion picture camera, in Thomas Edison’s Black Maria studio. While we’re here, maybe she can teach us a few of her dance moves.


Now it’s time to take a trip to San Francisco to see what things looked like after a major earthquake struck the city on Wednesday April 18.


Here we are in 1914, and it looks like our sense of humor hasn’t evolved much over the years. This short film, called ‘W-H-O-R-K a la Pimple’ (whatever that means!), features a fat man trying (unsuccessfully) to write a bike. Could it be the world’s first ever FAIL film?


Let’s make a pit stop in 1933 to see the first episode of Popeye The Sailor. Do you have a can opener? I’d like to eat some spinach while we’re here.


Uh oh! We’ve landed right in the heart of World War II, as allies overrun German positions and push into the heart of Germany.


After all that war I’m ready for something light. Let’s head to 1955 to check out the All Star Baseball game. Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack, I don’t care if I never get back….to 2010, that is.


I wonder if IHOP served their food in weird rooster-shaped bowls in 1969. Let’s go back and check. Ohh, looks like they did (0:33)! And apparently the Wizard of Oz munchkins really enjoyed singing about IHOP in 1969 as well.


After eating all those pancakes I think I’d like to go for a nice walk in the park. I wonder if the weather will be nice enough for us to go for a walk in September 1977.


Let’s head back to 1982, the year I was born, to see what people were doing for fun. Apparently video games were huge, but people wondered if the video game trend would last. The video game companies betted that it would, but I wonder if they had any idea at the time what video games would look like in 2010!


What were you watching on television in 1994? If Nickelodeon was your flavor, then this mash-up of 1994 commercials should bring back some fun memories, from Pete and Pete to Ren and Stimpy, Rugrats, Rocko’s Modern Life and more.


Oops, I did it again! I sent us to the year 2000 when I meant to bring us back home to 2010. Sorry about that!


And here we are, back at home in 2010. You can use the YouTube Time Machine to watch videos of 2010 from the comfort of your home, like footage of the San Bruno Fires. Or, put on your shoes, head outside and see 2010 for yourself. And if you decide you want to do some time traveling on your own, just head over to the YTTM website and get to it!