While others at the local app camp were busy entertaining themselves, Malcolm Gordon said he was thinking about how he could make money.
Gordon didn’t want to mimic other shoot ’em or chase ’em apps on the market, he said. He wanted to create something fun, but useful.
He found inspiration at his Cary home, where the family of five took turns trying to entertain the youngest Gordon, 2-year-old Annie Grace.
“The only thing that would make her laugh was Archie jumping out and scaring her,” said Malcolm, referring to his 7-year-old little brother.
Before long, Malcolm had created “tAPPy baby,” an app for infants and toddlers that features colorful icons that make sounds when pressed. Annie Grace, now 3, loves it. And in September, Apple informed the family that it would make the product available for purchase in its iTunes App Store.
Malcolm, a 10-year-old fifth-grader at Highcroft Elementary, now has two apps for sale on the App Store.
Malcolm’s parents say their son’s Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism, helps him thrive in developing technology, which, in turn, boosts his self-esteem.
Malcolm’s mom, Alicia, recalled his demeanor in 2013 when she picked him up from Cary Academy Summer Quest, where he began creating “tAPPy Baby.”
“He positively beamed in the back seat of the minivan,” she said. “He is usually a pretty pensive kid, but not that week. He glowed.”
An eye for design
It’s hard to predict how Malcolm will act around strangers, his mother said. He sometimes can be very shy and anxious, she said. But he was eager to talk about “tAPPy baby” and the spinoff app, “tAPPy holidays,” in a recent interview at his house.
Both apps feature 12 sound-making icons that app users can drag into one of six large positions on the main screen.
“tAPPy baby” mostly includes animal icons, such as a cow that moos. But it also has a baby that plays a recorded sound of Annie Gordon laughing.
“One thing I like is keeping the baby icon in the middle on top, because that’s who (the app) is for,” Malcolm said, demonstrating his eye for design.
“tAPPy holidays,” which Apple made available this month, has icons that make noises associated with Christmas, Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July. The turkey icon gobbles, for example.
It also has a clock at the bottom of the screen that counts down the number of days, hours, minutes and seconds until Christmas.
Like “tAPPy baby,” “tAPPy holidays” includes recordings of Malcolm’s siblings. The mistletoe icon in the holiday app plays a recording of Archie saying “yuck.”
About 50 people have downloaded the apps, which are 99 cents apiece, from the iTunes App Store, Alicia said. It also can be found on the Google Play store for Android devices.
While Malcolm is proud of his first two apps, he says he hopes to develop more successful apps in the future.
“I want to make an app that’s complicated,” he said. “Maybe one where the weather in the game is the same as it is outside.”
Malcolm will likely keep working until he reaches his goal of becoming a robotics engineer, his parents said. His dad Tom Gordon, a software engineer, has no doubt he’ll accomplish anything he sets his mind to.
“Sometimes I expected to have to help him through something,” Tom recalled. “And he was like ‘Dad, it’s OK, I’ve got this.’ ”