Thanks to The Nerdery for underwriting our new series ‘Know this Nerd?’
Minnesota developer Matt Ronge has been programming on Apple since the age of 12. Years later, would go on to become a software engineering intern at the same company he learned from — working on products such as Quicktime and iPhoto.
His knack for coding and and loyalty to Apple has naturally evolved into the iOS mobile application ecosystem.
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When and how did you originally become interested in technology?
I was about eleven when I first got hooked on computers. My first introduction to a computer came when my parents got a Macintosh Performa 600. I had always loved building things as a kid and the computer provided me with a new way to experiment unlike the other more physical projects I had done before. I tinkered with ever more complex software until I eventually decided I wanted to try making my own.
At what age did you write your first computer program? What did it do?
I wrote my first computer program when I was twelve using CodeWarrior Pascal on my family’s Mac. The program printed out all the prime numbers up to 100. I remember being absolutely ecstatic when I finally got it to run.
Which do you prefer in programming, the struggle or the achievement?
I love the struggle of programming. The best kind of challenging programming problems are those that you solve in the shower or while taking a drive.
What people, groups, projects, or resources were most influential in your development as programmer?
I have been really lucky to have great resources and influences throughout my program career. Early on, my uncle, Warner Smidt Jr., helped me immensely as a kid by giving me an old 286 and a copy of Borland Turbo Pascal. He helped me with some of my earliest programs and guided me while learning Pascal. Later in high school, my friend and I would travel to a Mac programming user group called PSIG run by Jonathan “Wolf” Rentzsch. The PSIG group was a fantastic resource with monthly presentations on a spectrum of technologies and programming languages. Finally, during my college years I had two internships at Apple where I learned some of what it takes to ship great products.
What do you do now? What languages are you proficient in?
I currently work as a freelance iPhone and iPad app developer through my company Central Atomics. Since I’ve both worked at Apple and done Mac development for many years, iOS app development was a natural fit for me. I spend most of my days coding in Objective-C, with the occasional sprinkling of C code. On occasion, I also code in Python, Java, Ruby, and I am learning Clojure.
What do you enjoy about it? What do you dislike?
I love the challenges in mobile app development. The hardware is more resource constrained than a traditional PC, so you have to write tighter code. There is also less screen real estate for buttons and widgets, so designing a great UI requires more discipline than traditional software.
I dislike having to jump through Apple’s App Store approval hoops. Some of Apple’s rejections can be pretty frustrating.
If you were to be doing anything else, what would that be?
I would probably be doing some other kind of engineering because I love building things Perhaps I’d be a nuclear engineer, as I’m fascinated by physics and nuclear technology, hence the name of my company.
What does agile software development mean to you?
To me, the most important aspect of agile software development is iterative development. It is essential that you have a feedback loop between the software developers and the end user.
Where do you spend most of your time online?
I spend a lot of time on Twitter where you can find me as @mronge. I like that on Twitter you can follow anyone who posts interesting content whether or not you know them. I also check YCombinator’s Hacker News on a regular basis to keep track of what’s happening in tech.
What concerns you most about where technology is headed?
It is ironic for me to say this as an iOS developer, but closed software platforms concern me. Apple’s App Store is tightly controlled. Amazon locks down their devices, and now Microsoft is heading that direction with Windows RT. In many ways closed ecosystems are better for the consumer, but the inability to tinker and hack with your devices is a problem. After all, hacking my Mac back in the 90’s is how I got started. Not to mention the many creative apps that haven’t been built because they don’t fit neatly into Apple’s definition of what an app should be.
What excites you most about where technology is headed?
The explosion in mobile devices and the constant connectivity they bring is incredibly exciting to me. With the decreasing cost and size of computer hardware, I think we are just getting started with the possibilities in mobile. I believe what occurred with the transition to the internet will occur with mobile as well. Companies that today are focused on traditional PCs are going to have to reinvent themselves around mobile. Much like how the internet made things like catalogs antiquated, mobile devices will do the same, in my opinion, to websites designed for traditional PC’s. We are entering a world where more software needs to be mobile first.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I am very thankful for this opportunity and to everyone in the Twin Cities helping to build our tech community!