Now the Palo Alto resident spends many nights bathed in the blue light of her computer screen creating her first iPhone application, a travel organizer program.
"I was seduced by my own idea and the iPhone platform, which made it less of an unattainable thing," Bernsen said.
The popular iPhone has inspired a wave of creativity among software developers, many of whom have aspirations of making a quick buck from the popular iPhone, 17 million units of which have been sold. But the device is also luring non-programmers, people like Bernsen who had never considered software development until now.
Some are learning Cocoa, Xcode and Objective-C, the tools and languages necessary for iPhone development, while others are looking for contract designers to get their apps made. The iPhone, perhaps more than any other device, has sparked the imagination of non-developers, who see in it an idea waiting to take shape.
"I have never seen a device take off like this that's found a community of developers and has caught people's imagination this way," said Erica Sadun, author of "The iPhone Developer's Cookbook."
Much of the interest has come from the success of Apple's App Store, an online marketplace for mobile applications that opened in July. It already boasts more than 30,000 apps that range from video games and e-books to productivity programs and silly gags. They are mostly available for free or a few dollars.
So far, nearly 1 billion apps have been downloaded. Some software developers have earned hundreds of thousands of dollars off of one application. The iPhone software development kit - which provides tools and resources for creating apps - has been downloaded 800,000 times.
To be sure, coding newcomers are a minority and face a steep challenge in the iPhone's crowded marketplace. But Sadun said she continues to see a number of novices joining various developer forums.
"The iPhone is the 'it' device, and I think people are excited about it," she said. "It's a flexible and powerful device that invites ideas and development for it."
During a ski trip last month, Bernsen came up with an idea to create an app for groups traveling together. The Silicon Valley resident had a number of developer friends who promised to help her. But when it came time to start coding, they flaked on her.
"I thought, 'I don't need anyone's help, I can do this on my own,' " she said.
Chris Borrello, a network administrator in West Palm Beach, Fla., had always been intimidated by programming, despite his technical position. But the simplicity of the iPhone led him to jump into developing in October.
"The iPhone seemed like an opportunity for people like myself who had no idea about it," he said. "You could tell the apps were not all produced by experienced professional developers and surprisingly, a lot of (the apps) were catching on. I thought it would be ridiculous not to try it out."
He bought a number of books and started learning the basics of iPhone development. When he got laid off in December and couldn't find another job, Borrello made his new hobby a career. He said he's replaced his former salary with his iPhone income.
Troy Brant, a Stanford graduate student in computer science who helps teach an iPhone development course, said the iPhone has that attraction. He said he's had to turn away prospective students because they had no programming background. But tens of thousands of people have downloaded the class for free through Apple's iTunes U, a collection of college lectures online.
"When people see a desktop application, it makes them cringe rather than make them want to get involved somehow," Brant said. "The iPhone interface is in general very pleasing. ... It's a gateway where people feel open about programming for the platform."
Not everyone is bothering to learn programming. There's a growing contingent of "idea" people who are trying to get their iPhone concepts made. Freelance sites like Elance are stocked with job offers by entrepreneurs and dreamers hoping to put an app together.
Tim Robertson, publisher of MyMac.com, an online magazine for Mac enthusiasts, started with a simple idea: He wanted to be able to write large messages on his iPhone that people across a room could see. But without any programming skills, he went looking for a partner at the Macworld Expo in January.
Robertson connected with Dom Sagolla, a co-founder of the iPhoneDevCamp. Sagolla's company DollarApp built Big Words, which paid for itself several times over.
"The fact that I came up with an idea and now it's an actual product - it's amazing," Robertson said.
With so many developers converging on the iPhone opportunity, the prospects for most developers of making good money are dimming, especially for the inexperienced. Learning to code successfully is not an easy task.
But for many, it's not simply about making a buck. It's about getting an app on the hottest device around.
"I don't have aspirations of making a ton of money," Bernsen said. "I don't have to be dedicated to this 9-5. But it's a fun deviation from my normal job and a fun challenge."