In my previous post I mentioned that I wanted to give a bit of the story of developing The Sorcerer’s Apprentice iPhone application. But The Sorcerer’s App was not my first crack at writing an iPhone app. Before we get to the new app, let’s turn the wayback machine to 2009. The App Store was only about a year old (it’s easy to forget that at the initial release, third party developers could not write applications for the iPhone). And I had an idea for what I felt would be a great iPhone application.
The idea of the app was a baseball scoring application. This wasn’t a new idea for me — I had originally thought of it as an application I thought would do well for the Apple Newton. I had even drawn up some screen mock-ups of the Newton app (I still have them in a file around here somewhere). But the Newton wasn’t a long-lived platform and was gone before I ever got a chance to make any serious attempt at developing an application for it.
But the idea didn’t die, so when the iPhone opened up for third party developers, I started thinking about it again, and then working on it. I bought a couple of developer’s guides, and even attended an iOS developers conference in San Jose. Soon pieces of the app were beginning to take shape … a display across the top of the screen for the line score (inning-by-inning runs scored), a lineup on the left, an area for scoring the current play on the right.
As it turns out, this was an incredibly complex application, and in hindsight was really too ambitious for a first project — especially for a single developer, working part time. Things that were uninteresting, but vitally necessary — like handling the roster, lineup, substitutions, etc. — were very time consuming to get right. The interesting part — scoring the plays — really required skills with graphics that I didn’t possess if I was to give the app the polished look I was looking for.
I worked on the app pretty steadily for a number of months. At some point while I was doing this, another baseball scoring app showed up in the app store — but I wasn’t too discouraged, because I looked at it and decided I could do better. Not too long after that, a second scoring app showed up — much more complete, better thought out. Well, I thought, I may have lost the first mover advantage, but I could catch up. Then the newer, better app was re-branded –it became the ESPN scorecard app. At that point it really seemed like Game Over. If I was confident that I was going to turn out an app that was everything I envisioned, perhaps I would have continued at that point — but I was daunted by how long I’d worked on this and how much was still left to do. I knew it would be several more months before I could possibly have anything to market, and then it might very well be second-best.
So, my first iPhone development project was shelved. But I’d learned a lot, and I felt I would return to iPhone development when the right project came along. I really thought that would be in a matter of months, rather than years — but in the intervening time, there has been nothing that struck me as something I wanted to do badly enough that I’d invest the hours required. So time marched on, while millions of new apps were developed and shipped. There had to be an idea that was still out there somewhere, waiting for me to find it.
That’s where the story will pick up in the next post.