There’s a lot I could tell about myself, so I’ll try to keep to the point, wait what is the point..? Oh, right, my tech blog! OK, so about that…
Many, many years ago when hotmail was the most popular email service I (Nathan) was coming out of high school and was (and still am actually) a car fanatic. Back in high school I couldn’t afford much, but I had a 92′ LX Hatchback capable of hitting mid to low 14’s in the quarter mile. My friends and I knew how important crisp quick shifts were to dropping times and pushing our cars to their limits. So naturally, when I sought a unique handle for my email address and moreover the Internet as it seems, I came up with quickshiftin. Since then, I’ve used quickshiftin for just about every handle I create on the Web, but very rarely I will find it is taken. Make no mistake though, I am the original quickshiftin on the Internet!
A long time ago in a galaxy far away, I was about 14 years old and had an interest in computers. Like a lot of kids of the times, I was really into video games. Personally I was a SEGA guy back then. At any rate my family had an IBM computer, Pentium (1), something like 150MHz if I remember correctly…
I’m not sure what originally caught my attention, but at some point I bought a book on C++ (C++ for dummies I believe it was) programming which came along with a stripped down version of a Borland compiler. Not the full-blown IDE mind you, just the compiler. I sat and read this book and worked on the compiler, can’t remember the kind of programs I came up with back then, but I think they were pretty heavy with switch statements and I don’t think I ever wrote a class either.
Highshcool & the Texas Instruments calculators
So I messed around with some C++, didn’t really do much with it, but hey I got a start at understanding how to program. Sometime later, maybe sophomore year in high school I bought a TI-86 calculator. To my surprise, the device supported a simple dialect of the BASIC programming language. Later I would find one could write more performant, feature-rich programs by writing Assembly Language, a task I decided was over my head at the time (but did investigate).
So this was my first venture into practical programming. The very first program I wrote was something to help with an algebra 2 math assignment. I coded it up, turned in an assignment and forgot how to do the algorithm myself. A week or two later we had a quiz on the same material. I’ll just fire up my program I thought! Turns out my program only worked for half the cases, and taking it entirely on faith got me a 50% on the quiz! Bummer – but a valuable lesson learned indeed.
I went on to write a series of math helper programs for the TI calculators which I distributed throughout the school to help students shortcut their math assignments. The one feature I remember being really proud of was a Synthetic Division module, that not only provided solutions, but also wrote out all the steps one would have done on paper to arrive at the answer, up to a 7th degree polynomial. What could be better than that!
Considering mechanical engineering, physics, and computer science, I settled on the later. It was the one I’d had some prior experience with, albeit minimal. I chose SIUC because my father and grandmother had gone there and we’d been camping down there a few times growing up at Giant City State Park.
I learned a lot in college. Starting out with C++, and moving on to the then burgeoning Java programming language. We were exposed to a variety of other languages as well. I got a chance to get into Assembly Language after all, for the MIPS architecture and ended up topping the class on the project. Another language I found intriguing was Prolog. Rather than tell the computer how to do something, you define what’s out there and ask it if a particular subset is available, not unlike relational databases and SQL.
SIU didn’t have much of a cutting edge program to offer, it was more like the fundamentals approach to Computer Science. Despite that there were professors there who genuinely cared about the curriculum and I was able to find and surround myself amidst a group of dedicated students. While the Computer Science degree didn’t teach much on Software Engineering as I would painstakingly discover at the onset of my career, it did teach me a lot about how computers work and the basics of programming.
In the beginning I stayed in the Southern Illinois area and began working for next to nothing a local software shops. I eventually found my way to a hybrid teaching / programming gig at Rend Lake College. The early years were tough, granted I didn’t know much, I mean I did, but not much about Software Engineering, and so it took some time to begin learning the practical side of my formal education.
I also got a start as an entrepreneur way back then, doing a consulting gig for a private Catholic school in Southern Illinois and building a couple of e-commerce sites for a client from St. Louis who was in the home aquarium business.
Moving On Up
I found my way to St. Louis and River City Internet, now Clearwire a large PHP / Java software shop, where I spent a year cutting my teeth on the real deal. In my spare time I worked on a proprietary capture portal for a client I met in Southern Illinois before I left. The portal would go on to be the first product of Moxune and a smashing success at the shop.
Getting burnt out on the epic hours in St. Louis I made my way to Louisville, Kentucky to work for Smoothstone IP Coummunications (now West IP Communications). Some of the senior guys at River City had exposed me to Software Engineering for what it really was, and I’d begun to realize the gaps left by my CS degree if I wanted to really get ahead in the programming world. I started reading. I read about things like design patterns, Prototype and the Service Oriented Architecture. I continued working on the capture portal and with new clients in my spare time.
We got to work on some pretty amazing projects at Smoothstone and it was the first place where I was treated with some respect. I’d come a long way. One day I got a call about an opportunity in Denver, Colorado at a company called Photobucket. Saying goodbye to Louisville was kind of hard, really good people out there! Photobucket was a great career move and Denver is just the best, but one day FIM (who’d acquired Photobucket before I was hired) laid off a bunch of employees.
Since then I’ve gone on to focus on consulting and my own tech startup, Moxune. I’m going to put pretty much everything I can think of that’s relevant on this site, so it will be kind of a personal portfolio for my software contributions to the world. Hopefully you find some pieces that help. Enjoy!