Donald Rumsfeld: app developer?

Everybody's favourite US Secretary of Defense has developed a mobile game, with a little help from Winston Churchill.

by Adam Gale
Last Updated: 26 Jan 2016

Starting a new career may seem like a mountain to climb at the best of times, but doubly so when you’re already over the hill. Yet if you need a little encouragement that you’re never too old to try something new, look no further than the 13th and 21st US Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld.

The 83-year old, better known for invading Iraq to destroy weapons of mass destruction that weren’t there, has tried his hand at app development. Churchill’s Solitaire, he explains on his blog (yes, he has a blog), is a fiendishly complicated variant of the card game that was supposedly concocted by none other than Winston Churchill himself.

Apparently Churchill taught the game – which involves ten rows instead of seven and two decks instead of one – to a Belgian diplomat, who later taught Rumsfeld.  Not wanting to let it slide into history’s dustbin, Rumsfeld developed it into a mobile game. Move aside Candy Crush?

Bizarre though this is, it is also rather refreshing proof that age doesn’t have to be a barrier to learning new things. Rumsfeld clearly didn’t do the coding himself, and the idea of making it into an app wasn’t his (‘I can’t say I had much of an idea of what an app even was’), but he threw himself into the role nonetheless.

‘Since we began our partnership, I’ve reviewed wire frames and branding guides. I’ve spent countless hours on beta releases. I’ve signed off on something they call "UX"... [the coders and Rumsfeld] tend to be believers in the simple, Churchillian tagline for the game: #NeverGiveIn.’

Learning the tricks of the app development trade appears to extend beyond the use of the hashtag. While Churchill’s Solitaire is free on the App Store, it comes with a series of in-game purchases, including hints and undos - at $5.99 (£4.21) per 100.

Rumsfeld has said he won’t profit from the enterprise, instead being more concerned with leaving it behind for the world after he dies, as a kind of legacy. Somehow, it’s hard to imagine it making it onto the obituary pages when the time comes, but you never know.


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