I learned BASIC on the TRS-80. It took me about a week to go through the manual and start programming (mainly because I was just starting learning English). However, it didn't take me long to figure out that performance was terrible and that if I wanted to write a great game I would have to switch to assembly language. So I did, and I never looked back. That said, I kept reading magazines and couldn't avoid watching all the issues Applesoft BASIC programmers were facing on the Apple II.
The fact is that by the mid eighties most other personal computers had much better tools to help developers write their programs. For example, the Commodore Plus/4 had the AUTO command and Sinclair computers had shortcuts on their keyboards to help programmers type faster. The Apple II had none of those goodies. As an Apple II fan boy I couldn't let that pass, I had to do something to improve the BASIC development experience on my computer of choice. That is basically why I started working on G.A.P.E. but also because at the time I was looking for a new project after losing the code to my unfinished Space Invaders game to a faulty cassette tape.
My primary goal was to be able to implement on the Apple II the core functionality of the ED editor which I had learned to love on the PR1ME computer I used at my Geneva high-school. On top of that I added some of the functions that I knew BASIC programmers would enjoy like the AUTO command.
I started working on G.A.P.E. in 1984, a couple of months before I was asked to develop a courseware solution for a publishing company in Spain called Edelvives. As a result, I only worked part-time on this project and progress was relatively slow. However, in early 1985 I learned that Philips was organizing the 17th edition of its annual Holland Prize, a contest for young scientists under 21 around Europe.with attractive cash prizes. I sped up the development of G.A.P.E. and completed the application in time to enter the contest. Long story short, I didn't win but they sent me a "Now, that is what I call music" record, edit by Polydor, a Philips subsidiary.. I was disappointed, it was a terrible record 😀
G.A.P.E. was a great learning experience because it forced me to dive deep into the Apple II ROM and understand how Applesoft worked. The manual I wrote was also my first experience at technical writing. Looking back, it was clear that younge me still had much to learn.