I met a promising young app developer at Microsoft in Cambridge the other day, which wouldn’t be unusual except for one key fact: He’s 8 years old.
Mohamed Tariq Jaffar Ali (he goes by Tariq) is the author of a Windows Phone app called Kids Zone that aggregates online videos from popular cartoons, like “Tom and Jerry” and “SpongeBob SquarePants.” It culls YouTube for relevant clips and sorts them into channels.
“That’s the data source,” Tariq told me.
Typical third-grade stuff, right?
Actually, the crazy thing about Tariq’s story is that a lot of other kids his age could do the same thing. He’s uncommonly bright, sure, but it’s not like he spends his days learning Python instead of playing with friends. He simply tagged along with his father, Jaffar, to a Nokia DVLUP Day in Boston in November, and decided to join other novices in a class about App Studio, a simple development tool for Windows Phone that doesn’t require coding skills.
Tariq completed Kids Zone in just a few hours, beating Jaffar, a software engineer who took an advanced course and needed more time to finish his own app the hard way. Kids Zone has been downloaded almost 500 times and has users in such far-flung places as Kenya, Malaysia and the Netherlands.
Microsoft didn’t have 8-year-olds in mind when it designed App Studio, but accessibility was a key objective, said Bob Familiar, the company’s director of technical evangelism for the Northeast.
“The idea is that anyone can become an app developer,” he said.
Next up for Tariq is an app about the solar system, or possibly national capitals. You know, something more serious for when he turns 9.