April 14, 2011

We’ve been able to slow down and breathe just a little over the past few days since we sent the app to the App Store for approval. We’ve still got some work to do to prepare for the actual launch, but in the meanwhile, we wanted to break from our regularly scheduled program and give you a little peek into the behind-the-scenes. Well, at least a background of the two guys who wrote Photosmith. I got elected to go first… :)

I usually prefer to be on the side of the camera without the lens, so there’s not a lot of pictures out there of me. And although I’ve known Chris Morse for over 10 years, there’s probably only one photo in the world with both of us in it. This one was taken at a recent airshow by his 4 yr old daughter (!). I’m on the left:

I’m a software developer by trade. I work for a large medical imaging company, responsible for writing custom code that manages their medical images. I typically don’t enjoy UI programming, but rather like working on problems that really get into the nitty-gritty details. In my day job, I deal with hundreds of terabytes of data, so squeezing every bit of performance out of a server is paramount. And rewarding- it’s great to work on very abstract concepts (that in turn become algorithms) and then watch your code crunch through data twice as fast as anyone said it could be done. And this is probably why I got stuck with both the Lightroom sync and the zooming code in Photosmith… :)

There’s no point in putting my resume here to bore anyone, so I’ll hit the high points: I moved to Atlanta to go to Georgia Tech in 1994, and graduated with a Computer Science degree (and have actually used it!), and later got my MBA. For the past 20 years (yes, I was a geek in high school, before it was cool to be a geek…), I’ve worked under contract for a number of companies, both small shops and some of the largest companies in the world, and somewhere in there, I worked in England for three years. It’s rare that I’m only working on one job / project at a time; I just like being busy.

Most of my contracts have used the technology-de-jour – Java, C#, php, perl, etc, in whatever form; that’s what pays the bills. But my education included microcontroller programming (PIC, mostly), and I’ve dabbled in various microcontrollers over the years- sometimes in projects with Morse.  He usually wrote in C, and I wrote in assembly… of course, he was about 10x faster, but “finishing” was never a high priority in most of our projects.

And I think it’s that background in microcontrollers that helped out tremendously with Photosmith. Many articles we read talk about how “limited” the iPad is. We had worked with 8 bit and 16 bit microcontrollers for years, squeezing out every last drop of performance and memory space. It wasn’t until a week or two before release 1.0 that I realized that I was still in that mindset – that resources are extremely precious. Yet, on the iPad, they’re really not (relatively speaking). This means that we’re limited to I/O speeds more than anything. To this day, every time I write a compound if/then statement, I write the most common case first. Any time I write a loop, I look for the most efficient path possible; it’s simply been beaten into me over the years. And I believe that’s one reason that we could pull off Photosmith.

For years, I’ve been looking for a side project that would be a reasonable contribution to the world. I’ll admit that the entrepreneur in me wanted to be successful with it, but I still wanted to produce something worthwhile; I’m proud of my work, and I don’t want to release just anything to make a quick buck.  Morse, who had already written and released National Debt and Bailout to learn the iOS framework, kept asking me if I had any ideas for an iPhone app. On a trip to Belize (the same trip where I took the underwater photos you see featured), I realized that I really wished I didn’t need to take my notebook to go through my pics while away. Turns out that thousands of other people feel the same way. So… I called up Morse with the idea, and a couple days later, the project officially began. Little did I know what that little idea would turn into…!

I do sometimes explore “the outside room” – I’m an avid snow skier, love camping / hiking, scuba dive several times /yr, and generally like traveling to new places.  One of these days, I’ll actually leave my home office and go enjoy some of that again…

Lastly, I wanted to take a moment to throw a big “thanks” out to my wife and daughter for their support over the life of this project. While we still have a lot planned for Photosmith, my wife would like to have me back for a while, and I’d also like to spend some time with my now 16 month old daughter. It’s hard to believe that, since this project started, she has started talking, walking, and, well, becoming a little girl.

(And what kind of dad would I be if I didn’t post a couple pics of her!)

Posted in: Musings | 2 Comments

2 Responses to “Meet Chris Horne”

  1. Andy says:

    This is normally the type of article I skip over at sites I read or with things I follow, but I’m glad I read this one! Thanks for posting!

  2. Robbie says:

    Have to agree with Andy! Was a great read, and good to know the app has been developed by such talented individuals – looking forward to trying it out :)