On the Menu: Ben Johnson '11 Cooks up Bowdoin Dining iPhone App

Story posted October 04, 2010

Applications, or "apps," for Apple's iPhone offer convenient shortcuts to information. Apps can count calories, find sales and now, tell you what's for dinner. Emily Neilson '11 introduces us to Ben Johnson '11, the man behind the Bowdoin Dining iPhone app.

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Ben Johnson ’11

Hungry? Forget if it's chicken tortellini soup night at Moulton? Are your fingers crossed for Honolulu tofu, but you don't have your computer to access the Dining menus? If you have an iPhone, Ben Johnson '11 may have saved the day. Johnson is the designer behind the Bowdoin Dining app available for iPhones.

An iPhone owner himself, Johnson grew tired of constantly having to access the College website to learn what was for dinner. So, with a research fellowship and an idea, he set out to design an iPhone app.

"I had to teach myself a whole new language, Objective-C, and I had to learn how the iPhone programming environment worked," says Johnson. "From start to finish, the application took about four months to develop, but much of that was learning how to program for the platform."

Though it's difficult to say how many people use the Dining app, Johnson says more than 600 people have downloaded it to their iPhones.

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Johnson has started his own mobile application development company, EBJApps, and is at work on a redesign. He says Bowdoin Dining 2.0 will indicate if there are waiting lines at the dining halls, enable users to check meal balances and Polar Point levels, and display the specials at Jack Magee's Grill and the Café.

Johnson is also working on a Bowdoin Daily Sun app, and in a partnership with his first- year roommate, Nathan Merritt '11, is developing a Google Android application.

"Soon we'll be able to offer iPhone and Android applications to local businesses in Maine or elsewhere," says Johnson.

Johnson has other Bowdoin-related ideas — an app for the directory and an interactive campus map — but for now is savoring what the Dining app has served up.

"It's funny to be known as the iPhone guy on campus, but on the flip side, I love watching people I don't know use the Bowdoin Dining app with no idea I made it."

The Bowdoin Dining iPhone app is available as a free download in the Apple iTunes App Store.

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