Gavin DouchAnatomical human brain

The Story of Recall

software story , 2 min read 10.5281/zenodo.8325818

The first iOS app I created, Recall, is a tool for committing knowledge to long-term memory. Here is how it works and the story of its invention.

What is Spaced Repetition?

Spaced repetition is a method of adding information into your long-term memory. It does this by getting you to recall (hence the name of the app) information just before it would have been forgotten, embedding it further into your long-term memory.

The purpose of this is to teach your brain that the information is important and to build neural pathways to that knowledge. When you do this for long enough, you can remember this information for very long periods of time, if not forever.

Recall uses a method called the Leitner System, which sorts information to memorise into buckets based on how often to review it. When the information could be recalled correctly, it goes into the next bucket that has a longer frequency, otherwise, it goes back to the first bucket to be reviewed daily.

How I Came to the App Idea

In high school, I was a mediocre Italian student, I was alright with the grammar rules, but I had a lot of trouble memorising verbs and nouns.

Two years before I graduated, I came across spaced repetition while browsing YouTube and immediately thought it could help me out. I created a spreadsheet to try it out, put in some words I wanted to memorise, and gave it a spin.

I was astonished by how effective I found it. I added more and more words, anything I could see and couldn’t translate to Italian was added in. It was so effective that my Italian teacher noticed I was doing something new without me telling her, asked me how I got so much better so quickly. I quickly shot to the front of the class.

In order to help my classmates out, I sent them the spreadsheet I made, since no free iOS apps yet existed, but they couldn’t figure out the admittedly very confusing layout. That was the point where I realised that I had found a gap in the market.

Making the App

Once I graduated and finished my exams, I jumped into app development for the first time. I watched a few tutorials on Swift, Xcode, UIKit, etc., and then went straight into making Recall. Almost every challenge was a road-block at first, but with every problem I just had to do a bit more reading and a bit more learning. Eventually, it was done.

Hitting the Top Charts

After spreading the news of the launch to some schools, some online marketing, and a very flattering article in the local news, My app rocketed upwards and upwards. After about a week or so, a friend of mine spotted it on the Australian Top Charts in the Education section.


The process of creating Recall was a wild ride, and one that I could certainly never forget.

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