Every programmer has an origin story.
And many app developers have an iOS origin story.
I find a lot of these stories completely fascinating. It’s like getting a peak at a moment in time that would change that person’s life forever. That’s amazing.
I have been programming in one form or another for a long time. But nothing professionally outside of a summer internship with Lockheed Martin until I went indie. First part time in 2010 and then full time in 2012.
I was a little bit late to the iPhone party. I have a friend, Mike, who bought the original iPhone on day one. He would often tell me how awesome it was. But I sided with the crowd that thought $600 was too much to pay for a phone.
Eventually, though, I succumbed. Shortly after its launch, I bought an iPhone 3Gs. I was in a whole new world.
Some months later, while at Mike’s house, I picked up a book off the shelf.
Despite there already being an AppStore with third party apps for over a year, it had not even occurred to me that I could also write an app. After speaking to Mike in great length throughout the course of the day, I ordered a copy of the book.
Now, there was only one problem. I had no Mac. Luckily, my then-girlfriend-now-wife had a MacbookPro. The original one. She agreed to let me use it nights and weekends. Problem solved. All I had to do was buy a copy of Snow Leopard and I was good to go.
Hebrew Verb Tables
While I can carry on conversations in Hebrew, sometimes I have trouble conjugating verbs. Back in 2009, this was a much bigger problem for me than it is now. I wanted to have a book of verb tables with me, but that was impractical.
As I was working my way through Beginning iPhone 3 Development, I decided I would write a Hebrew verb conjugation app.
So in December 2009, while still reading the book, I started working on the app. This was a challenge. Not only was I learning how to use the Cocoa Touch API, but I was simultaneously learning Objective-C. The project, however, drove my ambition to learn.
I wanted to create something I could see and with which I could interact.
Since I was still going through the book, major app architecture and design decisions were made based on which chapter I was currently reading. That did not create a pretty app. Neither code- nor design-wise.
In March 2010, I scrapped everything and rewrote the entire app from scratch. Even I, a novice iPhoneOS programmer, could see how bad it was. And it was really bad. Since it was just a side project and not a business, I had the luxury to do so. And I learned a ton in the process.
Then, in April 2010, I rewrote the entire app. Again. Seriously. It was still terrible.
I was only working on the project in my spare time, so researching verbs and database entry took a very long time. Still, it was a lot of fun. Based on my use, I would tweak it constantly. Usually for performance but sometimes for functionality.
Finally, in October, I had a product, of which I was proud. In order to put the app on my phone, I had already paid the $99 developer account fee. So I figured why not put it on the AppStore? Being a fairly niche app, I assumed it would get a total of $20 worth of sales. But I didn’t care. This was for me.
With absolutely no marketing Hebrew Verb Tables did and still does surprisingly ok. It sells about 1–2 copies per day. And while it has been updated several times for iPad support, a new iOS 7+ look, and new verbs, it’s still not the prettiest of apps. And that’s ok. It did it’s main job. It gave me a taste for indie app development.
For that, I thank it.
If you have a post about your first app (good or bad), let me know about it. I would love to read your story. Also be sure to let Becky know.
Feel free follow me on Twitter. I’m @yonomitt.
Have a nice day,
Or iPhoneOS. Or Android. Or something. ↩
Specifically my iOS origin story. My initial draft of this post included my early programming days, but it was off topic and a little long. ↩
With varying degrees of success since I was a kid ↩
Tiger was on this machine. Snow Leopard was required to run the latest version of Xcode and the iPhoneOS SDK back then. ↩
At the time, I was working for IBM. I did circuit design for high end server microprocessors. As I cannot afford one of these servers, I never really got to experience the product I helped create. That is extremely demotivating. ↩
Even though now I cringe. ↩
Not a recommended path for people who actually want to turn their app into a business! ↩