High School App Designer Behind Ubershuffle

The future of the world will be shaped by today's middle and high school students, so I always get a kick when a student comes up to me at my public library job and asks, “Do you want to hear about the app I designed?”

I've always got time to hear about a student's programming efforts.

Recently, Jonah Chazan, a sophomore high school student in Takoma Park, Maryland, asked me that very question. He has been programming computers since he was in second grade. In his elementary years he participated in some computer programming projects for youth at the nearby University of Maryland. He developed a fondness for the Processing programming language.In middle school he studied three years of True Basic.

Listening to music on his iPod, Jonah got tired of the randomizing technique used on the iPod, which doesn't take into account that you might have a lot of music from one musical artist or one genre but at the same time you don't necessarily want that musical artist or genre to drown out all the other artists and genres.

So Jonah devised his own randomizing program, Übershuffle, which randomizes music in what he feels is a better way. Now Übershuffle is for sale in the iTunes store. He described his app to me this way: “Übershuffle is an alternate music player that uses a different algorithm for shuffling music than the regular iPod/Music app. Rather than giving each file equal probability of being chosen, Übershuffle allows you to give each song (including multiple copies on different albums), album, artist (as of 1.1, compilations count separately so that albums with lots of artists don’t play way too much), or genre an equal probability of being played.”

He shared with me his press release. I love it when high school students send me their press releases. If that's not an indication of creative fervor in a community, I don't know what is.

I asked Chazan if Apple has been supportive of his programming and entrepreneurial efforts. Surprisingly, Apple is less supportive of youth programmers than Microsoft, Chazan replied. Apple requires computer programmers, also called “developers,” to be 18 years or older, so he had to publish his program under his mother's name. Microsoft has a program called DreamSpark for college and some high school students to have free developer licenses and software.

Listening to Chazan talk about his programming, you just know he has a hundred other computer programs he would like to bring to life. What are those programs going to be? How will Jonah Chazan further develop his natural computer talent? Is he the type of computer programmer who will drop out of college to form his own software company? Perhaps.

For now, I tell him, “Stop by again when you design your next app.” This young programmer is already developing a fan base here at the public library in his town.

--Phil Shapiro

The blogger is an educator at a public library in the Washington, D.C., area and teaches an occasional graduate educational technology class at American University, in Washington, D.C. He can be reached at philshapiroblogger@gmail.com and on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/philshapiro

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