As Make Music Day (Fête de la Musique) draws near, one local technologically adept music lover came up with the idea to promote a “cell phone music jam session”. Chris Terpin has been creating free autoharp apps, color zithers, and other music related apps, so that people can play mainly free music on their phones. MookieBearApps is Terpin’s passion play – he designs the apps for a lot of reasons, but mostly, “because they are really something I wanted for myself and I didn’t find an equivalent anywhere else that was ad free or as useful.”
I was motivated to make apps as a mode of expressing creativity.
Now Terpin feels that his apps will come handy when Make Music Day (Buffalo) rolls around on Friday, June 21.
I asked Terpin how he came around to creating the apps over the past five years, and he told me that it all started because both he and his wife have medical conditions that classify them as disabled.
Five years ago, your life went into a bit of a tailspin with family medical problems? You began to create the apps then?
To maintain my composure during this time I was browsing through Google’s Play store and discovered something really cool: an app called RFO-BASIC which allowed me to make my own custom apps for my new inexpensive LG phone. I had given up coding years ago because I was often too sick myself to concentrate but with this terrible stress the intense logical thinking of programming was enough to keep me calm and ride out the situation.
How did you become so adept at creating these types of apps?
I graduated from UB in 1992 with bachelor’s degrees in Physics and Computer Science. I coded all the apps myself – most were pretty simple to implement in RFO-BASIC once I built up a library of my own functions that I could reuse. My wife and I published over 40 Android apps and we will probably eventually release more. Apps range from a voice calorie counter to a gratitude list.
And it took off from there?
In five years time, we have had over worldwide 40,000 downloads of our apps. Our most popular app, Whatever To Do List, has over 2,000 active users. In terms of sheer number of apps, we are in the top 1% of all Android developers. Our Autoharp apps recently ranked in the top 20 of paid Family Friendly Music Apps on the Play store, but most of the MookieBearApps are free (see below). We do not use in-app purchasing of any kind – parents should never worry about their kids running up a tab in any of our apps.
What drives you to create these apps?
We at MookieBearApps have embraced the following principles:
- Everyone deserves tools to create and express themselves in new and fun ways
- Those with disabilities can participate at every stage in both creating and using new technologies
- People don’t need annoying advertising and spamming
- People with low incomes are the most in need of cost effective or even free simple tools to budget, plan and manage their health.
- People need privacy and should only have to disclose what they are comfortable with
- Everyone needs to have more fun!
Is this a solo project, or do you have helpers?
My apps are not just my solo creation. My good friend Doug Schmidt contributed tons of help with writing the website, app descriptions, and even we tried creating a Kickstarter together. My friend Kirsten Andersen and my brother-in-law beta tested a lot of my early apps and were unmerciful as far as finding new and significant bugs. My friend John Neumann provided a lot of the music I used in my apps and the concept of creating Festivus carols. My wife Kathleen designed many of my icons and other art, plus I even got to use some of my dad’s abstract art and illustrations. Kathleen was also extremely important in helping decide marketing and features. My brother Mark tested my apps too and came up with the idea of the zither. I also bounced ideas off my brother Mike for PR ideas. I annoyed the heck out my cousin David and some others because I was so impressed that they too published apps. Of course I owe a huge debt to all the programmers who work on the RFO-BASIC project that spend a huge amount of very tedious brain-twisting time solving problems with the system and keeping up with Google’s new changes. And I give my best friend Jay, and everyone else I know, due credit for listening to me incessantly rant about my projects.
What is RFO-BASIC and how is it used?
Because of my brain injuries I have great difficulty in learning modern object oriented languages like C#, Java, and Python. Some famous computer professor said that BASIC programming will damage your brain but my opinion is that if you already have some brain problems then BASIC is a great tool to make some pretty cool things.
RFO-BASIC is the brainchild of computer pioneer Paul Laughton who invented one of the early Apple disk operating systems, Atari BASIC cartridge and many other projects.
The syntax for programming my apps is pretty simple and is sort of like old Dartmouth BASIC but on steroids. It has a lot of advanced features like functions, graphics operations and a very rich command set. It has some limitations in terms of speed and isn’t good for making really graphic intensive games (people use game engines for that stuff) but it allows you to make relatively simple apps very quickly. Some apps only took me a couple hours to make and others are still a work in progress as I add features or fix bugs.
Are the apps available for iPhones as well as Android?
Sorry they are only available for Android and a few on Kindle right now.
Of course you play music on your own apps, right?
Here is probably one of the better covers I did on my autoharp apps:
Can you provide us with some of your free apps?
Totally Free Android Apps by MookieBearApps:
No ads, family friendly, no in app purchases – really really free!
Color Autoharp Basic for Android
Color Autoharp for the Blind (basic)
Now it’s your turn Buffalo – be sure to participate in Make Music Day in some fashion, whether it’s attending a free event, or making music yourself on that day. That’s what it’s all about – a day where people play music in countries all over the world.
Completely different from a typical music festival, Make Music Day is open to anyone who wants to perform, host, learn, or teach music.
Performers and venues looking to be added to the Make Music Day roster, just email email@example.com and get signed up. The only caveat is that it has to be free – that’s the underlying premise behind the festival – it’s a day of learning and sharing music, in hopes of bringing the world one step closer.