How I launched three apps at the age of 15

This post tells my personal story of how I went from knowing nothing about computers to launching three apps when I was 15 years old. I hope it inspires others to keep learning and reaching their goals.

Some background information about me:
I’m a student in the twelfth grade and want to study computer science or something similar after school.

Understanding the concept of computers

Growing up, I obviously knew nothing about computers like everyone. The only thing I had to do with them was when I was very young playing games with my father like Trackmania. Once in a while, I could also explore his computer. I don’t know what I did, however, I somehow managed to repeatedly crash the computer so it wouldn’t even turn on anymore. Luckily, we have a good friend who helped my father fixing the error every time.

Many years later, when I was around 11 years old, a friend of mine showed me this awesome game “Minecraft” (I’m sure you have heard of it). It was pretty fun, thus I bought it and played together with him on my father’s laptop. By the way, I owned a basic non-smart phone (with buttons) at this time and didn’t even want to have a smartphone even though I knew what apps are. SMS and phone calls were all I needed. Anyways, we ended up playing the game countless hours for many years more in our circle of friends.

After some time, I heard of modifications you could install to add more features and content to the game. I wanted to install mods and asked my father about it. He didn’t really know how to install them, so we read about it on the internet and watched some YouTube videos that explained what you have to do. We essentially had to install a program that enables the mods to work and move some files downloaded from the mod’s website into a somewhat hidden folder. This has helped me to understand the concept of directories, files, and Windows and allowed me to work with computers on my own.

Getting into programming

So at this point, I had acquired basic computer skills. Someday in 2013, my father and I saw an advertisement for a tool that lets you create apps (it must have been a drag and drop builder thing) and he proposed that it would be kinda cool to develop apps. I agreed and we searched the internet for information about how to program apps. We read in some forum where someone said you need to learn the programming language Java to be able to program apps for Android, which was what I wanted because we use Android smartphones in my family.

Next thing I did was googling how to program in Java and one resource I actually can remember was a YouTube channel that did Java tutorials. I have gone through all of them and coded along to the videos that by the way also taught me object-oriented programming. It was fun because I could use the computer to solve little typical challenges like asking the user for numbers and adding them together or creating multiple choice quizzes. Whenever I had a problem that I couldn’t solve on my own after a long time (e.g. an error message I couldn’t decipher), I went to Google and tried to find an answer. The internet was pretty new to me and I had not much experience. Searching around the web and adjusting search queries to find what I need gave me powerful googling skills, which I think is a very important skill to have, as weird as it may sound. There is lots of knowledge available on the internet, make sure you know how to access it.

For a long time, I only built rather small console programs logging text, understanding data structures and doing simple maths, just getting comfortable with programming. Later, I wanted to be able to actually click on buttons and make “normal” programs with a graphical user interface. I also got a Java book for Christmas, but I already knew the majority of knowledge it provided and never finished it (the book was good, though).

Publishing three apps

I eventually felt proficient in the language and now wanted to try app development. I was searching the internet again and followed tutorials, built many small apps where I tried out and learned a lot. It didn’t take much time for me to find the idea to build my “Vocabulary Book-Multi Language” app that lets you learn your own vocabularies (read more on the Vocabulary Book project page). I built two prototypes and had to figure lots of things out on the way, but on the 29th October 2015, I published my first app! My friends already knew about my app and have seen it, but now they could actually download it officially from the Google Play Store. Total strangers from the other side of the planet were able to use it. How cool is that?

Utilizing the momentum, I published my second app in the next month — this time for a client. I had contact with the “Berlin Bullets” football club and they wanted to have a wallpaper app. Then in April 2016, while I was still 15 years old, I launched my third app “Message To Wake” that turns your screen on when you receive a notification.

Conclusion

Remember how I learned how to install mods for the game? I used the same method for learning how to program. What I want to tell you is that it doesn’t matter if you don’t want or can’t afford a teacher/courses. You can find almost everything you need for free on the internet (that’s true for lots of things obviously, not just software development). Don’t worry if you can’t seem to understand something for a longer time and carry on, you will understand it later. Work towards a clear goal that you have in mind like publishing an app to stay motivated to learn. You will be surprised by how much you will achieve.

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