Alumnus shares programming experience with Design and Data

Rachel Schwartz

Programmer Jason Fieldman ’98 told the Design and Data Structures Honors class the story of his career on Oct. 10, discussing Objective-C, Apple applications, iOS and entrepreneurship, all of which he says began with early exposure to computer science at Harvard-Westlake.

Fieldman recounted how computer science has changed since the programming he learned in high school.

“Now there are tutorials for everything so it’s easier to pick up and learn,” Fieldman said. “Having that really long foundation of work learning data structures modeled the way I think. It molds your brain into a programmer.”

Fieldman said his initial exposure to the field came from his seventh grade Middle School Introduction to Programming in 1993.

“Computers weren’t as ubiquitous,” Fieldman said. “People weren’t programming. They weren’t using apps all the time.”

During the visit organized by Math Department Head Paula Evans and Computer Science teacher Jacob Hazard, Fieldman discussed his start in Objective-C, the programming language used for Apple apps.

He  said that although getting started in the new syntax was disorienting, just as learning any new language can be, he enjoyed it so much so that today that he spends all of his time on apps and games that provide full screen experiences.

Although he will take commissions, Fieldman prefers to work on his own to develop apps like the prototype he showed the class.
He designed puzzle app on a hexagonal grid that he said required a lot of trigonometry. Fieldman developed an algorithm to make each level get harder and plans on making the first 100 levels free and  charging to unlock level packages.

“I’m cynical about doing other people’s things,” Fieldman said. “At this point I don’t like working for other people. When it’s your own thing you feel much more passionate about it.”
Fieldman said he worked 12 hours a day of his own accord on his puzzle game.

“It’s fun that people can see the product of my labor in the app market,” Fieldman said.

From submission to market in the App Store, one has to wait just a week and Fieldman said he finds the 70 percent commission perfectly reasonable as without the app store he would receive no profit.

“I don’t want to sound like too much of a fan boy, which I totally am,” Fieldman said.

Fieldman also discussed how to figure out if a company is going nowhere and the importance of recognizing one’s skills.

“I’m a great implementer,” Fieldman said. “I’m not a user experience person. I’m not an artist. I can’t make something look beautiful in Photoshop.”

At the end of the session, students told Fieldman about the apps they have been working. Fieldman said he could never imagine himself in another career.

“Sometimes you just know what you are meant to do,” Fieldman said.