Thinking of creating your own app? It’s not as hard as you think, provided you put your mind to it. In our regular feature we take a look at teenage developers, how they got started, what drives them and the challenges they face on the way. This week, from Vancouver in Canada, it’s Josh Trommel..
What got you into all this? Was there a moment where you can remember, “Hey, I like this, I’m going to do this more”?
From a young age I always wanted to be a scientist because I always found it interesting that someone could create something new by mixing together other different things. Until about the end of grade 5 I kept that vision in my head and had my hopes set on that. What I didn’t realize was that what I wanted more was flexible creation at my fingertips. I found that out in grade 6.
When I was 12 years old I found AppleScript,an extremely simple scripting language made for creating basic automatic tasks. The syntax is so simple it’s practically straight English, but I found it extremely interesting that I could do things such as take user input and move files or print text depending on what the inputted text was. I realized that this flexible creation was what I wanted, not to be cooped up in a lab. I continued learning AppleScript for a few more months until I was familiar (enough) with it, and that’s when I started creating things that could actually help me out on a daily basis.
This is when I started realizing the things programming is capable of (even though AppleScript is an extremely limiting “language”). This is when I realized that this is what I want to continue learning.
What has been your biggest achievement? It can be anything, from squashing a bug, seeing your first app work, seeing people download and use your app etc?
My biggest achievement is probably Textymous because it’s a project I can explain to anyone and they’ll immediately understand it. Unlike other projects that consist of libraries only used by other programmers, this is easy to explain.
Textymous has a simple concept and that is that it allows you to anonymously text people. Although this is simple with the use of an app like TextPlus (which you can sign up with and it’ll let you text anonymously through the app) I wanted to make things even simpler by anonymously texting people straight through the native messages app, which I achieved by setting up a server that you can text with the number you want to text as well as the body of the text. The server then parses this information and sends it to the given phone number. When the user receives the text they’ll essentially see the server’s phone number, not yours. It’s been really fun working on it and it’s my first “big” project so I’ve gotten a lot of help from other great developers in the community which I really appreciate. It’s interesting to tinker with something and create it by yourself but it’s a whole different experience when you start working on projects together with others.
How long have you been developing? Is it your main job or something you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I learned my first “language” at 12 years old but I didn’t start actually getting into the community and creating more complex things until about a year ago when I bought my first MacBook. Since then I’ve been learning and developing with Ruby, Python, HTML, CSS, JS, Shell, PHP, Java, Objective-C, and Swift, as well as tinkering around with numerous others. I’m currently in high school so unfortunately I don’t have time to develop full time. For now it’s simply something I enjoy doing in my spare time. Hopefully in the future, however, it can become a full-time thing.
Let us know what you’d like to promote or feature. Is there a project you’re working on, app you have made available or anything of this nature?
I’m not working on anything specific at the moment but like I mentioned above my main project that I’ve been kind of working on for the past 7 or so months would be Textymous. It’s not out of beta yet but I’m slowly working on getting it onto a proper server and making it usable by people out of the area (it’s currently only supported in Vancouver, BC area).
What programming languages do you use and what is your fave if there’s more than one?
My favourite language would have to be Ruby as it has simple syntax but can easily make powerful applications or scripts quickly. I’m currently learning Swift, which is a close second. For most projects I write in Ruby but I’m going to start writing more projects for iOS and OS X soon so I’ll be writing in Swift soon. I also write in front-end web languages (HTML, CSS, JS) as well as other languages such as Python, Java, C#, and Objective-C, but not often enough to say that I’m completely familiar with them.
Tell us a bit about yourself, and anything else you’d like to add or include.
I’m currently a junior attending high school in Langley, BC. I have a passion for programming but I also love photography and video production. If becoming a developer in the future doesn’t work out for me or if I change my mind, my second option would be to join the film industry, as I’ve had a passion for creating films (and taken camps for it) since grade 4.
Any advice for anyone looking to get into this ?
The main thing I learned is that if you start programming “just because it seems interesting” it’s going to be very hard for you to start learning. You want to learn a language for a reason, not just because it seems interesting. Figure out what you want to make beforehand and then learn the language required to create it. If you want to make an iPhone app, figure out what you need to learn and then learn that well instead of cramming tons of small parts of different languages down your throat. You don’t want to be a jack of all trades and not a master of one. I learned this the hard way and starting to learn programming was a challenge for me. This is a tricky thing to tell people as well because when I heard this initially I blew it off, wanting to learn new things instead of practicing the same thing repetitively. Although it may not be fun to stay with the same language and continue learning it, it’ll get better.Once you’re extremely familiar and fluent with a language the fun doesn’t lie solely with the language anymore, it lies with what you create with it.