BATHA, Lebanon: The Mir family never expected that the Mac laptop their 12-year-old son Jake bought with his savings would transform him into one of the youngest iOS app developers in the country.
“All I keep telling him now is to focus on his studies as a steppingstone for better universities later on, but his focus now is on creating new games,” says Jake’s mother, Sayde, who welcomed The Daily Star into her home in Batha, Mount Lebanon.
She adds, however, that she intends to support her son any way she can.
“I was inspired by Steve Jobs,” Jake says.
To date, Jake has released two games: Emoji Escape, which was launched in December of last year and earned an Apple rating of 4+, and Emoji Go, released March 9, 2014. Both apps are targeted mainly toward young people and include several challenging levels where emoticons come alive.
“It took me five months to finish the first game, because I was in the process of learning the programming material, but only two months for the second,” Jakes says.
Jake is looking to branch out from games into other types of mobile applications. He is currently working on one that lists the daily and weekly specials featured at restaurants in Lebanon.
“It is still an idea, but I want to work on it,” Jake says with determination, glancing at his mom.
Ever since he was a young boy, Jake says, he had a passion for programming, so he and a friend decided to try to teach themselves. His friend soon gave up, finding the challenge too daunting, but Jake continued to push forward.
His parents, who were in disbelief at first, started to take their son’s hobby more seriously after they received a call from an Apple staff member in response to a letter Jake had sent.
Following the release of his games, Jake became somewhat of a celebrity with several local and international news outlets running stories on the young developer. He even received a letter of recognition from former Culture Minister Gaby Layoun.
Far from being content with his success so far, Jake hopes to travel this summer to Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, California in order to get hands-on experience with the company.
He has already spoken with Apple developers over Skype and successfully met the requirements to be certified as a developer.
His dream is to major in computer science and programming in order to enhance his skills and eventually land a job with Apple. Jake looks forward to working with operating systems such as iOS for iPhone.
While Jake says he received recognition and congratulations from the company, they have refused to credit his name to the games since he is still a minor. Instead, his father’s name, Aziz El Mir, is listed.
His father, who works in the field of informatics, insists he did not help Jake, and that his son taught himself by spending hours on his laptop.
“Everyone can learn the material, even at a young age,” Jake says.
Though he is just 12, Jake fully acknowledges the limitations he faces in Lebanon in terms of finding support for technological innovation.
“I hope to travel and seek opportunities abroad,” he says.