TMO Interview: Rodney O. Lain Speaks With 12-Year-Old Mac Programmer, "Atomm"

Do you remember "Atomm"?

Last month, TMOis Editor Bryan Chaffin spotlighted a young man known as "Atomm" at MACWORLD New York. It was interesting that there was an 11-year-old out there who is mentally agile enough to code computer programs with the "big boys" (he was an attendee at MacHack, a gathering of Mac programmers dedicated to a marathon session of writing Mac OS "hacks"). Bryan noticed Atomm at a MACWORLD session in which he appeared with Bob LeVitus.

TMO wanted to learn more about this young man. So, we called, e-mailed and cajoled him into to talking. Below is a transcript of the subsequent talk Atomm had over AIM with Rodney O. "iBrotha" Lain.

(Authoris note: iBrotha and Atomm are using their actual AIM screen names in this transcript, so you can use those to contact them if you like.)

iBrotha: First off, why do you call yourself "Atomm"?

Atomm 9000: Well, Itis just a nickname that I use sometimes; itis based on my real first name.

iBrotha: And, that is?

Atomm 9000: Adam, as in Adam Atlas; age 12; Poughkeepsie, NY

iBrotha: Whereis Poughkeepsie?

Atomm 9000: Itis in the Hudson Valley. The train ride from here to NYC (for the Macworld Expo, of course) is about an hour and 45 minutes.

iBrotha: Now being 12, that means youire in about, what? The 7th grade?

Atomm 9000: Yes, Iim going into 7th grade in the coming school year.

iBrotha: And how long have you been programming?

Atomm 9000: Iid say I started a couple years after I started using computers, so probably when I was around 6 or 7 years old. I think I started with the version of BASIC on my Apple IIGS.

iBrotha: What kinds of programs did your early stuff consist of? Quick-and-dirty programming, or was it more complex stuff?

Atomm 9000: Well, I remember I made this very long (5 or 6 pages when printed) program that did nothing useful; it dealt with secret options you could enter into multiple-choice menus that would present you with more silliness.

iBrotha: So, why do you use Macintosh instead of Windows? (I have to ask :-)

Atomm 9000: I donit. I still use my IIGS. Just kidding. I like the Mac because it is easier, faster, has better eye candy, better programs (not more, but better), etc. Oh yes, and it doesnit crash as often.

iBrotha: that OS X is shipping :-)

iBrotha: The thing that interested me was that you did some OS X programming for OS X at MacHack. Was that your first MacHack?

Atomm 9000: Yes, it was my first MacHack.

iBrotha: Hereis a question for the non programmers in our readership: is it easier to program for OS X than it is for OS 9?

Atomm 9000: With REALbasic, which I use (but Iim trying to learn Objective C so I can use Cocoa) everything is basically the same. An OS 9 app made in REALbasic looks and functions basically the same on OS X, only with the Aqua interface.

iBrotha: Gotcha.

iBrotha: Are these programs on your site the only ones youire working on at the moment? "Ex-Nine" looks promising...

Atomm 9000: Well, I was working on another program called Dock Options that would let you change the dock orientation, and pinning. More Prefs can do this, but Dock Options was supposed to make them stay. Normally they just revert to bottom/middle after a logout/login. But I canceled it because there are already a few programs that do that.

iBrotha: ...and, besides, OS X 10.1 will enable that functionality...

Atomm 9000: On my site Iim going to let registered people who feel cheated send in their More Prefs serial after the release of of10.1, and Iill send them a serial for another one of my programs, that they choose of course. Or I could give them a partial refund.

iBrotha: Very good policy there...

iBrotha: Is it unusual for someone as young as you are to be a full-fledged programmer? Or do you not look at yourself as "full-fledged" programmer?

Atomm 9000: About Part 1 of your next question… No.

Atomm 9000: About Part 2 : I donit know if I look like a "full fledged" programmer. Nobody has ever told me. The stereotypical Programmer usually wears glasses, and I donit.

iBrotha: then we must get you some glasses. Heh.

Atomm 9000: I might be able to figure it out, if you describe what you mean by "full fledged programmer"

iBrotha: ...pocket protectors :-).

iBrotha: But seriously. What I meant by that "full-fledged programmer" is someone who spends lots and lots of time programming. Is this your hobby, or are you writing code in order to make a profit off of it? To me, a full-fledged programmer is also someone who is writing for the money.

Atomm 9000: Thatis me, all of it. I spend lots and lots of time programming for fun, hobby and money.

iBrotha: You are most definitely the stereotypical programmer :-)

Atomm 9000: Only without the glasses and pocket protectors.

iBrotha: Before I go any further, Adam, I must say something that Iim sure every Mac user out there wants to tell you: make sure that when youire out on your on, programming for a living, only program for the Mac. "Resist the Dark Side, Luke!!!!" As Yoda would say: much danger, the Dark Side is.

Atomm 9000: Were you the one who posted a similar comment on the story on me on the Mac Observer?

iBrotha: No, that was someone else. Thatis where I got the idea to ask you that

iBrotha: what kind of Mac do you "drive"?

Atomm 9000: Right now, I use mostly an Indigo iBook with 192 MB of RAM. I donit remember the MHz. Mac OS 10.0.4 & 9.1.

iBrotha: Are your parents programmers?

Atomm 9000: No . I am almost completely self-taught; my mother is an author of vegetarian cookbooks, and my father is an artist in his own time, and works with real estate.

iBrotha: Have you already thought about the type of programming you want to do after high school and college? You do plan to do programming for a living, I assume?

Atomm 9000: Probably… I might do something else related to computers (Macs of course).

iBrotha: Any hopes of working for Apple? Or for companyis writing Mac-related software?

Atomm 9000: Iive wanted to work for Apple since I was 6 or 7.

iBrotha: Now, Iim always interested in what programs that programmers use, so what are you favorite apps?

Atomm 9000: Well, Iid have a very long list if you meant apps in general, but for programing I like ResEdit, Resourcerer, Ressurrection (the three big resource editors), and REALbasic, and for OS X, also REALbasic, most of the contents of the OS X Utilities folder (especially Terminal) and definitely others, but I canit think of all of them right now.

iBrotha: What about games?

Atomm 9000: Iim not that interested in games. If anything, a few video games played on video game system emulators.

iBrotha: Are there other guys (and gals) your age who are into programming like you are?

Atomm 9000: Well, not exactly my age, but there is a boy named Daniel Raugalis who goes to the school I do and loves Macs also. I donit know if heis into programming. Heis going into 12th grade.

iBrotha: So, one day, we will be reading about you and Daniel taking over the reigns of control from Steve Jobs and Bill Gates?

iBrotha: Well, the main reason that I wanted this interview is because I think you are an inspiration for Mac users and programmers everywhere. I hope you will continue to love programming for Macs as much as we all love using them. And we look forward to using a lot of good apps that you will create in the future. Thanks for the interview.

Atomm 9000: OK. Bye!