Historical Screenshot Recorder

(Not a great title, but maybe I’ll update it when I figure out what the real name of this is.)

I was listening to Leo Laporte’s KFI Podcast this morning when he got a call from a person whose grandmother had spyware on her computer. Now, there are lots of ways that spyware can get on your computer. Mainly, they’re clicking on links, visiting websites, or downloading files. She claims he has never done any of these things. She uses only MSN Messenger. So nobody knows exactly how the spyware got there.

Enter the ‘historical screenshot recorder’. You know there is software that can record screenshots of your system. This lets you make short demos to show people. But with the huge hard drives that people have today, why not store every single screen your computer has ever displayed, ever since you bought it? (Yeah, there are security issues with this, but not much worse than with Google Desktop Search, etc.)

It would need to be fast, lightweight, and use a great compression technology. It should only store differences between frames, so if not much changes (just me typing this blog post, for example), then it wouldn’t take much memory. If your computer is just sitting there with no screen changes, it will use no memory. But it will keep track of time and know exactly when each screenshot was taken and saved.

So think about some of the basic implications. Let’s say I want to see what my computer’s screen looked like 10 minutes ago. I would be able to do that!

Let’s say I want to see what my computer’s screen looked like at this time last month. I’d be able to do that!

Let’s say I’ve copied and pasted text from multiple sources into a couple documents, and I want to know what order I did that in. I could step through a virtual timeline and see my screenshots in chronological order, so I could refresh my memory on whatever happened.

Let’s say I allowed someone else to use my computer. This is somewhat like a keylogger, but much better. I can step through screenshots which reveal exactly what they saw on the screen at any time.

How about if I want to see what my computer’s screen looked like 2 years ago? With the huge hard drives computers have these days, storing this data wouldn’t be a problem.  You’d just need a reasonable compression method, and a fast, clean interface for finding screenshot times and stepping through them.
Wouldn’t this be amazing? Why aren’t we doing this already? Does such a program already exist? Maybe I’ll ask Leo.. unless one of my visitors can answer. Leave a comment or send an email.

3 Responses to “Historical Screenshot Recorder”

  1. Michael says:

    Some of the larger corporations have software to track sites accessed by employees on their PCs. “Big Brother” watching. Don’t know if takes actual screen shots.

  2. mondine says:

    The perfect gift for that person who already obsesses about everything.

    I can see this as a Google product of the future.
    So that not only Everything, Everywhere is stored and searchable; but Everything, at Every Moment, as well.

    Finally ending with such a mamoth aggregation of information for its own sake that humans will only be able to interact with it through the direct interface made possible by the chip nestled warmly in their cerebral cortex.
    Every page visited, every email read or written, every EULA and instructions perused, every image or bits of page information viewed, every diary entry and post-it note….

    How about just digitally storing a video image of a person’s life from cradle to grave?
    Some people might find that handy, as well. But I think rather a few more would just think it odd, and a little scary.

  3. “How about just digitally storing a video image of a person’s life from cradle to grave?”

    Reminds me of the movie “The Final Cut” :)

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