Origin Story

Every programmer has an origin story.

And many app developers have an iOS[1] 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.

Inspired by Curtis’s answer to Becky’s challenge, here is my origin story.[2]

Wolverine Origin cover

I have been programming in one form or another for a long time[3]. 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.

Beginning iPhone 3 Development

Look familiar?

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[4] 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.

Hebrew Verb Tables app icon

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.[5]

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.

Hebrew Verb Tables screenshot 1 Hebrew Verb Tables screenshot 2

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.

Hebrew Verb Tables screenshot 3 Hebrew Verb Tables screenshot 4

Finally, in October, I had a product, of which I was proud.[6] 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[7] 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,

  1. Or iPhoneOS. Or Android. Or something.  ↩

  2. 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.  ↩

  3. With varying degrees of success since I was a kid  ↩

  4. Tiger was on this machine. Snow Leopard was required to run the latest version of Xcode and the iPhoneOS SDK back then.  ↩

  5. 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.  ↩

  6. Even though now I cringe.  ↩

  7. Not a recommended path for people who actually want to turn their app into a business!  ↩