Digital History: Tapping into the Past

Nick Poyntz looks at the ways in which mobile phone 'apps' can bring historical insight to our everyday environment.

An 'app' - short for application - is a catch-all term for any piece of computer software that runs on a mobile phone. Apps can range from simple tools, such as currency converters or alarm clocks, to complex programmes, such as word processors or video games. Some are produced by enthusiasts and are free to download, others are produced by professional software houses and cost on average a few pounds. Although various apps are written for the specific operating systems used by different mobile phones, a huge catalogue of apps is developing. For example, the Android operating system produced by Google has over 70,000 apps available, while the iOS 4 system used by the Apple iPhone has over 200,000. Whichever kind of mobile phone you own, you are likely to find a wide range of apps available for download, an increasing number of which are aimed at those with an interest in history.

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