Do you remember what you were doing when you were 9 years old? I remember watching cartoons and reading Roald Dahl. But not this 9 year old. Meet Lim Ding Wen, possibly the world’s youngest Apple IIGS programmer.
What begin as an interest has today sparked thousands of downloads. This Lian Hua Primary 4 pupil’s application for the Apple iPhone, Doodle Kids, is free to download and already quite a hit with people of all ages.
So how did it all happen? Does this prodigy’s spark of interest in programming have anything to do with the fact that his father is a programmer? theAsianParent caught up Ding Wen’s father, Mr. Lim Thye Chean to find out more.
Ding Wen begin showing an interest in computers before he was even 2 years old. Being around old computers at home, he knew how to do simple tasks such as inserting a diskette, etc. When he was Primary 1, his interest took a new height when he requested to write a game. Mr. Lim, not quite sure what to make of it, told Ding Han he would teach him if he did really well in school. Ding Wen stuck to his side of the bargain and soon Mr. Lim was teaching his little 7 year old everything he wanted to know.
“I taught him on an old computer, an Apple IIGS. It’s easier to teach programming than today’s Mac or Windows which don’t allow you to really learn about programming. I started with the basics with Ding Wen. After 2 versions of that, he learnt 2 versions of Pascal and soon after, Java script which is part of WEB programming and then action script which is part of Flash programming,” explains Mr. Lim.
That’s right, Ding Wen knows 6 programming languages which he learnt before even hitting Primary 2!
This idea came about when Ding Wen realised it was about time he created something for his two sisters and himself. Designed and written last year by Ding Wen solely, Doodle Kids is a painting programme for children to draw anything they like. Clearing the screen requires only pressing the Delete key and they’ll be able to start on a new drawing. Even though Doodle Kids is becoming quite a hit, that doesn’t mean Ding Wen is making some bread off his programme.
“It’s free to download. We’re not in it for the cash. It’s something he wanted to do and we’re doing it. He’s written a more complex programme now called Invader War but Doodle Kids is still the best out of the two because it is simple and easy to follow,” smiles Mr. Lim.
Do Ding Wen’s sisters (aged 3 and 5) share the same interest in programming as Ding Wen? “Not at all,” chuckles Mr. Lim. If you’re wondering if Ding Wen’s gift is the start of a clear career path, it’s still rather foggy.
“We have not really thought about it, actually. He has shown interest. But then it’s not something that I’m going to insist on. If he wishes to continue, it’s up to him but if he thinks he has enough of it, we’re not going to push it. It’s definitely going to be something he decides,” says a rather practical Mr. Lim.
Mr. Lim’s advice to parents
So what does Mr. Lim advice parents who may have children with talents?
“Every child has his own talent. Do not force your child if they do not like to do something. I only taught Ding Wen because he asked and displayed a huge amount of interest,” advices Mr. Lim.
He also has a few words for those of you who have been inspired to learn something about programming.
“Don’t think of programming as something hard. Write a game or something of your interest and you’ll find how simple it is to understand it”