The first iPhone application for Bowdoin students is scheduled for release in just two short weeks, thanks to the efforts of computer science major Ben Johnson '11.

Johnson was the recipient of a grant to create a new iPhone application for Bowdoin students over the summer.

While many are acclimated with the Bowdoin dining menu widget for Mac computers, there has never been a comparable application for mobile devices.

"There have never been any mobile programs for Bowdoin. IT has wanted to get into the mobile device world, and I was asked to do it," said Johnson.

Funded by alumnus John Gibbons '64, Johnson was able to spend this past summer on campus creating the new application.

"It was a lot of reading," said Johnson. "I am a computer science major, so I had a basis in programming. The iPhone is a different language. I had to learn 'Objective C', which is a completely new language, and I had to familiarize myself with the Apple encoding environment."

After much trial and error, Johnson was able to construct the new application.

"I went from the simplest program and the simplest application to making this app[lication]," said Johnson. "It was a fun process; I learned a ton."

The current widget offered to students provides a view of the daily dining hall menus. The new iPhone and iTouch application will expand upon that information, additionally offering menus for the following day.

Johnson describes his new application as "a dining-centric app." The information is pulled from the dining halls' menu server daily.

The application will also provide hours of operation for Thorne and Moulton dining halls, Jack Magee's Grill, and the Smith Union Café. There will also be up-to-the-minute notifications for when a meal is about to end in each dining hall.

"Another pretty key thing about the app is it knows what meal to display based on the current time of day. Even if you are opening it in the evening after dinner has closed, it will display tomorrow's meals," said Johnson. "The hour information screen is also updated based on what time of day it is. And, the menus are stored so that you can check them even if you don't have an internet connection: they will re-download once a day to stay current."

In addition, the application also offers the Grill's menu, and students can call in an order directly from an iPhone.

The new application is due for release in about two weeks, after it undergoes the Apple application process.

"A lot of people call the app submission process a black hole," said Johnson. "Nobody knows what will happen to the app."

In the meantime, Johnson said he has sent his application for "beta testing." Beta testing is when other students test the application to determine whether it works and what problems they encounter.

"I had 15 people testing it around campus," said Johnson. "They found a lot of bugs and I implemented new features. I'm doing the second round while the application is still going through the application store."

Johnson said he foresees making more mobile applications for the school.

"I would love to keep doing this here at Bowdoin," Johnson said. "I've gotten better at it and it's easier now. I was thinking of making an athletic application that tells you about all of the sports scores, but I'm always willing to hear about what [other students] think would be useful."

The new application will be available in the iPhone application store in about two weeks free of charge for both iPhones and iTouches. Any ideas for new applications that would be useful to Bowdoin students can be directed to