The Nostalgia Machine


The theory

The idea started quite randomly, we were sending each other old songs, and Jake said he was going to make a nostalgia playlist. We decided we should do one better and make a nostalgia website. It seemed like a perfect holiday project.

We immediately had an idea of how it would look, the first page asks you for a year, and then it spits out stuff which makes you feel nostalgic. Super minimal amount of options, we wanted the user to get straight to the content.

At first we thought it should show more than just music, such as old TV shows, toys, books, cartoons, stuff from peoples childhood. But we realized for somebody to feel nostalgic about a thing, it had to fulfil the following conditions:

  • The user had to have positive memories about it, not super strongly positive, but more than just, meh.
  • It had to be in the persons life, and then go away for a long time.

Predicting what people enjoyed on a person per person basis is completely luck — you have no idea what they enjoyed as a kid. But you can predict what the majority of people liked in a certain demographic. So there was a third condition

  • The thing had to be popular enough that the majority of people were exposed to it.

Popular music is of course perfect for this — it’s hard to avoid, and a song will have two weeks of fame then never get played again.

Other media such as movies or tv shows had the problem of re-runs, they still get played regularly, so it’s harder for people to forget them. Some types of media are linked to physical location, products, toys, cereal, local tv shows etc. But the US top charts permeate through almost every English speaking country in the world.

So pop music it was.

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