I have been so busy lately with iMalt and the iTasteNote Cloud Service that I completely forgot to celebrate the second birthday of iMalt. Yes, iMalt is now 2 years (and a couple of weeks) old. Two years may not sound as much, but I can assure you that a lot has happened with the app since the first version was released on June 18, 2009. I therefore thought it would be fun to write a few articles about the history of iMalt. I hope you will enjoy it!
Why Another Whisky App?
I have always enjoyed software development even though it is not my main occupation. The best way to learn a new programming language is of course by using it. For me it is not by reading a book and follow its examples but by writing a real program that I would use myself. This way I can stay motivated when things are getting complex.
Some years ago I started to enjoy single malt whisky and I began to carry Michael Jackson’s book, Malt Whisky Companion, with me every time there would be an opportunity to shop for whiskies. Even though the book is small, it is not that handy to bring with you everywhere.
In 2004 I bought my first Pocket PC, an HP iPac H4150. At the same time I was becoming tired of carrying the book around and I thought it would be the coolest thing to have the tasting notes on the Pocket PC instead. I searched the Internet for Whisky application and found none but it didn’t matter. I wanted to learn C# (C Sharp, a programming language) and here was the perfect opportunity. And I had the perfect name for the application – Pocket Malts! After a few months I had something usefull up and running and since the application was only intended for my own personal use, I started to fill in some of MJ’s tasting notes and ratings. However, it soon became quite boring to type these notes in and I lost interest for the application some months later.
I have not seen Pocket Malts in five years or so, so it was quite fun to fire it up again on my old Pocket PC. Pocket Malts is actually closer to a final version 1.0 than I remembered.
In December 2007, my wife brought home an iPhone from London and it was the most awesome mobile phone I had ever seen. When Steve Jobs announced the App Store and the upcoming release of the iPhone SDK (Software Development Kit) at the WWDC in June 2008, I was thrilled. I knew I had to learn how to develop iPhone apps. In November 2008 I began to play around with Objective-C (the iOS and Mac OS programming language) and short thereafter I started the development of iMalts (now iMalt) for the iPhone.
Developing the First Version of iMalt
Back then I used my wife’s old 13″ MacBook for development. I had some ideas from Pocket Malts that I could reuse but since the iPhone user interface is so different, it was more or less back to square one.
My idea was to make a single malt whisky app where it should be possible to maintain lists of single malt whiskies and distilleries. Furthermore I wanted a tasting note framework, that could be used, without typing a single word. One obvious reason for that was that typing is much harder on a phone than using sliders and pickers. The other reason was, that by having every tasting note metric as a number, it would be a lot easier to collect the values of those metrics and calculate an average of the them. So as you can see, the iTasteNote Cloud Service was in scope from the beginning.
To create the tasting note framework I read a lot of tasting notes to find the best the structure. Furthermore I began to look at every tasting/nosing wheel I could find. The structure you see today has not changed since then. However, at first, there was only one field for written notes.
I also wanted to include some good quality photos of whiskies. I contacted a few online whisky merchants, but the only one who responded with a positive response was The Whisky Exchange. Luckily for me, they have the most complete collection of whisky photos I have seen. The distillery photos are all under some form of open source license.
One very important thing for me is to do this the right way in regard to copyrights. I would not add any information to the app without the right permission. Therefore I cannot just add Micheal Jackson’s and Jim Murray’s scores in the app even though I would have loved to.
In late May 2009 I submitted the first version of iMalt to Apple. Read how that went in the next part of the iMalt history.