Friday, 2 December 2011

Young achiever: 16-year-old develops “Multi Texter” for Android smart phones

Sherjil has also developed other applications, which include an Urdu writing application. PHOTO: ATHAR KHAN/EXPRESS

KARACHI: Dressed in a t-shirt and shorts, without any glasses or a gadget in his hand, Sherjeel Shabih, does not, at all, look like a stereotypical technology geek.  But at only 16 years, he has developed a bulk text messaging application for Android smart phones.
The application, “Multi Texter”, enables sending a bulk of text messages to multiple contacts at once. The user does not have to go back to the inbox and select each message to forward individually. It is available on the Android application market for free.
“I developed the software in only three weeks in July,” beamed Sherjil. “No other application on Android phones provide this option.” He shows off the application on his HTC phone.
According to Sherjil, he and his friends always found forwarding messages individually a big hassle. “But now, we simply select the messages and send it to multiple contacts at the same time.”
The application also has other features. It can be used to search messages by its subject or the sender’s name, just like email. One can also save custom messages, edit and then resend them. The unsent messages can also be viewed. But according to its developer, the application can also be misused to send “SMS bombs”.
Sherjil said that he paid $25 to upload the application. But it is free for the users. So far 2,860 people downloaded Multi Texter, most of them in the US.
“Just as kids love to watch television I love to make programmes,” said the young application developer. “While others might find programming difficult and dull, for me it is a hobby.”
Sherjil was only a year-and-a-half-old when he got his V-tech, a child’s laptop. His love for technology kept growing and he moved on to basic programming on his V-tech when he was only eight. He developed websites and internet application before moving on to Windows programming.  In his short 16 years, Sherjil has also developed other applications, which include an Urdu writing application. During the semi final of Pakistan and India during the last World Cup he developed an application for sending the words “Out, four and sixer” with a single key, he added.
Strangely, the teenager never sought professional help. “Every programming language has resources and code samples which are available on the internet,” he said. “They were my only tutors.”
While Sherjil sends a good amount of time on his laptop and phone, he makes sure his studies are not neglected. He loves to dance hip-hop and play the African drums, something he picked up from his early life in Ivory Coast, where his father was stationed.
His mother said that she was proud of her “genius” child.  “He’s an all-rounder,” she said.  Though I don’t understand much about computers and phones, whatever he does makes me very happy.”
Sherjil is indeed a brilliant programmer but he does not want to pursue it as a career. “I want to do a PhD in nanotechnology.” But for now, he said, he will keep on making applications for the benefit of people.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 2nd, 2011. 

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