Learn and Work Hard

The Mac App Store turned one a couple of days ago, and it’s gotten me thinking about the past few years, where I am now, and where I want to be next. I’ve also been thinking about the path that led me to obsession with the Mac, later iOS, and eventually getting to make things for both.

The announcement of the iPhone SDK was, for me, what I imagine the original Macintosh was for people a generation older — huge. For me everything changed, because it let me start a career doing something I love. But before I could get a job making iOS apps — before there were iOS apps — I’d already been absorbing and obsessing over everything I could about Mac development. By 2008 I wanted nothing more than to be a Mac developer.

In high school (and a while after), I was more interested in practicing with my band than teaching myself C[1]. When the band broke up a few years later, I ended up the same place as many early twenties wannabe rockstars before me: Guitar Center. Even though I quickly learned to dislike the job[2], it’s lucky I was there, because it spurred my interest in Apple and the Mac. As part of the “Pro Audio” department, my work days were spent around other recording nerds — a generally Mac-oriented group. I started meeting people who loved their Macs, recorded using Logic, and were eager to talk about both. Within a few months I’d saved up and bought a used G5 tower.

Always a nerd, I started looking at what software was out there for my new Mac. I became enamored of apps like NetNewsWire, Delicious Library and Transmit. Maybe I’m coloring the past, but I feel like the sense came early of these not being just made, but crafted — the same way a great song or album was. Small groups of people — maybe one — had put time into thinking things through to make something great. It was the first time I knew software could be that way, that it could be made by one person who really cared — and that if I worked really hard, I could probably do it too.

As I got into learning Mac development, I found things like Late Night Cocoa (also just getting started), and got to hear indie developers talk about what they do. It didn’t seem to matter where someone came from if they could make cool things, and that was hugely inspiring to me. I didn’t know exactly what it would take, but I became progressively more driven to keep learning and eventually become an indie developer myself. No one could tell me “no,” I just had to learn and work hard.

The iPhone SDK was the opportunity I needed. I got a job shortly after it was announced, and became focused on iPhone apps. I still wanted to write for the Mac too, but since the places I was working were mostly interested in iOS apps, I didn’t know when that would happen. That interest came with the release of the Mac App Store, and this year I’ve gotten to work on awesome Mac apps in addition to ones for iOS. It makes me happy that the thing I got so excited about in the first place has continued to grow and thrive, and even more that I’ve had a chance to be a small part of it.

  1. I was still a pretty big nerd, and played around with programming on and off since I was young.  ↩

  2. At one Guitar Center staff meeting, our store manager told us about how he always wanted to be an artist or musician, but chose the less-risky life of retail management instead. He was very clear in saying that it’s better to not take chances, and that it was a lesson we should all remember. I’ve tried my best to remember to follow the exact opposite of that advice.  ↩

Collin Donnell @collin