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The MacTech Spotlight: Keith Alperin, Helium Foot Software

Volume Number: 27
Issue Number: 02
Column Tag: MacTech Spotlight

The MacTech Spotlight: Keith Alperin, Helium Foot Software

What do you do?

I'm the founder, CTO, CMO, COO, CEO and CJO (Chief Janitorial Officer) of Helium Foot Software, which I started in 2007.

As my title(s) imply, I do just about everything! I hire contractors (designers, copy writers, etc.) as needed, but for the most part, it's a one man shop. Like a lot of indies, Helium Foot has two practices: product development and consulting.

While I've always fancied myself as a product auteur (or at least an impresario) the truth is that consulting is really what keeps the lights on. At SecondConference this past fall, there was a lot of discussion about what it means to be an "indie". Since then, I've been a lot more zen about my current place in the mac-o-verse and I'm focusing a lot more on my consulting practice this year.

How long have you been doing what you do?

I grew up in a house with computers. My dad use to bring home dumb terminals back in the 70s (complete with telex "displays" and acoustic coupler modems.) I wrote my first game with my best friend in 1984. We were 9 and 10. We wrote it in mbasic5 on a cp/m based Vector Graphic 4. It was called "Haunted Mansion" and before you label us prodigies, you should know that the entire game was implemented as giant tree of conditionals.

Fast-forward to 1996 and I had just graduated from college with a degree in molecular biology. Since my biology experiments always failed, I needed to find another line of work. The Internet was starting to explode so I took my degree in biology, my (very heavy) HTML reference book and my 60-watt smile into a job interview and emerged with a gig as a webmaster. I really came up through the web ranks and started to make the jump to the Mac in the year or so before I started the company.

What was your first computer?

Our first real computer was a Vector Graphic 4 ( which my dad brought home in 1982. He was a software engineer (he even studied computers at MIT before they had a computer science major) so we were definitely ahead of the home computer curve. We of course played games on it. We used its word processor (MemoWrite, a program so obscure that google seems to have never heard of it.) Most importantly, though, i started programming on it. My dad bought a book on BASIC that he read with us and we did the examples together. I was a little to young to really get the concept of variables and subroutines; but I could make it print a lot of lines of "KEITH IS AWESOME."

What is the advice you'd give to someone trying to get into this line of work today?

Just start! I spent a long time as a sort of cocoa dabbler who thought a lot about writing an app and starting a business. I read this quote from Daniel Jalkut of MarsEdit fame and it really inspired me (hat tip to Gus Mueller for posting it on his blog:

Therefore my advice and personal strategy is:

1. Just start. If you're dreaming of an app, stop dreaming, pick your self up from wherever you are right now and sit down in front of your Mac. With the advent of the App Stores, it's never been easier start up your own software outfit and focus entirely on your product (rather than worrying about web stores and serial numbers.) Find the time and start making something.

Where can we see a sample of your work?

My Mac products can be downloaded from my site at and GroceryList for iPhone is available at

I also released some of the GroceryList source code at

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