I can’t exactly remember when I first encountered Nathan Tech, but I know it was a while ago; long before this site, and the Fireseed Network in general, was a thing. I found out about a MUD (Multi-User Dungeon) called Cosmic Rage. I was actively searching for MUDs to get into at the time, so I thought I’d try it out. Unfortunately, it turned out that me and MUDs don’t exactly mix. However, when I landed on the website where the MUD was, I did some deep diving and found that there was a whole lot more to this content generating entity than just Cosmic Rage. An RSS feed reader? A media player? A website builder? What the hell was going on here?
I eventually found out that the creator of these projects was a blind UK-based software developer by the handle of Nathan Tech. Having tried some of his products over the years, and having had the honour of actually meeting the man himself at the beginning of this year, I thought to myself: why not write a review about this guy? However, this thought would soon recede into the back of my mind and fade to dust. The event that really inspired me to write this article was a March Pat Price Tek Talk podcast in which Nathan discusses the history of Nathan Tech and the software and other projects he’s developed over the years.
Who, or what, is Nathan Tech?
First, let me start by saying that Nathan Tech is not this guy’s real name. It is simply the handle that all his projects fall under. His real name is actually Nathan Smith, which he shares publically.
As I mentioned above, Nathan Tech is a blind software developer from the United Kingdom. I say software developer, but he’s done a lot more than just develop software since he started in early 2013. Some of his most notable works include audio tutorials covering writing websites in HTML5, programming in Python and using Apple’s VoiceOver screen reader on iOS. He has also made some audio games over the years. The following is a list of some of his software projects.
- Calliope, a powerful media player that has support for many different file types. It’ll basically play any audio or video file you throw at it.
- Luna RSS, a fully featured RSS feed reader, podcatcher and feed builder
- Sunrise Waterfall, a feature-packed utility that allows you to make awesome websites and documentation files without any coding skills whatsoever
All Nathan Tech’s software is 100% accessible to the blind/visually impaired. It is also written for Windows, which kind of makes sense when you think about it. Nathan Tech, NT, Windows NT!
How this review works
This review is divided into 3 sections: upsides, downsides, and over all rating out of 10. The magnitude of the upsides and downsides will decide the over all rating, so future review subjects… beware! Each upside and downside will be titled with a level 3 heading, then a brief explanation will follow. Don’t fly in expecting a perfect 10, however, as there’s a downside to all things in this world, and not everyone is perfect.
1. Nathan Tech gives all and expects nothing back
Every single project of Nathan Tech’s is usable by everyone free of charge, and nothing is expected of anyone in return. Basically, Nathan’s view on donations is that if you’re going to ask for donations, you might as well charge. While I kind of agree with him, I have to ask: is he sort of saying that projects like NVDA should be paid? Never the less, this is definitely worth a million altruism points.
2. No annoying nags
Before I continue with the video, let me remind you to please subscribe to my channel and purchase my merch.
Today’s Top Deal! (insert product here) is now 75% off for one week only!
We’ve all been there before. Don’t you just find yourself pressing the skip button? I do. However, Nathan Tech doesn’t do any of that stuff. What you get with Nathan Tech is free of charge and free of hassle! Like a radio station that lets you enjoy your favourite music hits constantly without cutting to a 10+ minute ad break every 5 god damn minutes, or ending a song after the first verse so the DJ can chat a load of useless hot garbage about “the latest trend that’s sweeping the internet!”.
3. Always willing to improve
No project is free of errors, and Nathan Tech’s projects are no exception. However, he’s always reaching out to people for ways he can make his work better for everyone, be it fixing software bugs, correcting errors in a tutorial or improving the accessibility and user experience of his products. Most companies will just give you a canned reply, telling you that they value your feedback and they’ll pass it on to their teams so they can look into it. The next thing you know, it’s 5 months later and the company hasn’t done a god damn thing to resolve the issue you reported. Either that, or they started working on your issue 3 months prior, but have been too busy sitting on their backsides all day drinking tea to finish the job. Give Nathan a problem to solve, and it’ll most likely be solved in a matter of days or weeks!
4. He knows how to deal with tech illiterates
If there’s one thing Nathan is a lot better at than me, it’s dumbing stuff down so that the computer illiterate crowd can understand the points he’s putting across. Not only that, but he breaks things down into little pieces, assisting those who struggle to process very large amounts of information so they can take each bit of information in and process it in their own time. This is especially good for people like me who have a hell of a hard time dealing with huge user manuals with thousands of pages and subpages that are divided into a hundred different sections and subsections.
5. Accessible to all
I mentioned at the start of this article that Nathan Tech’s products are 100% accessible to the blind/visually impaired. However, they are really built with everyone in mind, no matter what kind of disability you have, or if you’re not disabled at all. Nathan’s tag line is
It’s not disability, it’s ability
. I don’t agree with this all the way from a realistic, scientific prospective, but the work he produces for the community at large really lives up to it.
Honestly, the upsides mostly outweigh the downsides. However, as I stated at the start of this article, everything in this world has a downside.
1. OS Limiting
OK, I’ll be reasonable with this one, as not everyone has the same mind set as me. If you know me well, you’ll know that I absolutely hate OS limiting software. That is, software that has very strict operating system requirements, such as only running on 64-bit versions of an operating system or requiring the latest and greatest operating system in order to run; I’m looking right at you, AltStore! Being a part of the vintage/retro tech community, I believe software developers should strive to make their software available on as wide a range of operating systems as possible, both new and old. Why can’t we have more RetroArch’s in this world?
A large amount of Nathan Tech’s software, including Calliope and Sunrise, suffers from OS limiting, requiring at least Windows 7 with a bunch of updates in order to run. However, they do support Windows 7, and they do run under 32-bit versions of Windows. Also, Luna RSS has Windows XP support. Hell, I even managed to get the thing to run under Windows 2000!
2. He was here, now he’s not
Again, I won’t be too harsh with this one, as I believe Nathan is doing a university degree at time of writing. I know how stressful education can be, I’ve been there many a time. However, it can be quite frustrating at times. Nathan can be very active online, chatting, developing, releasing… and then he’ll just fly off the face of the earth, taking days or even weeks to return.
Over all rating
Over all, Nathan Tech gets an excellent 8.75 out of 10. His altruistic nature, fiery passion for his work and willingness to help and support others no matter what earns him my highest honour. Let’s all take our hats off to this guy and what he brings to our world! Keep up the awesome work!
If you’d like to experience Nathan Tech’s work and show him some love yourself, you can check out his website and follow him on Twitter. The more people who know about this guy, the better. So go on, spread the awesomeness!