He's probably New Zealand's best-known FOSS figure today but modestly attributes his achievements to seizing opportunities that came his way and, occasionally, creating one or two of his own.
Next month, Torkington will be one of the four keynote speakers at the Australian national Linux conference in Wellington, the local element in a line-up that otherwise draws on the US of A in toto. Born in Auckland, he spent some of his early years, from two to four, in outback Australia, so there's a bit of the Aussie in him somewhere too.
The idea of teaching children programming arose out of a desire to impart knowledge to his own brood. "I wanted my kids' school to teach programming. I figure it's now a basic skill for 'knowledge workers', like changing a tyre is for commuters," he told iTWire in an interview.
"At some point you're going to have to take a spreadsheet of data and munge it. The sucker does it by hand instead of coding, and I didn't want my kids to be suckers."
His solution was to run a computer club during clubs month (3 classes, each 90 minutes long). "I took eight kids aged 8-10 through programming in Scratch, with sidetracks into Lego Mindstorms and Logo. It was a blast, and I've run it for three years now."
Torkington's most recent camp for children was at at the Software Freedom Day celebrations in Wellington this year. "(I) took about 20 kids from zero to writing games (well, some of them) in an hour. Scratch makes it really easy - if you have kids and haven't checked out Scratch, you should do so," he advises.
He leant towards the computer industry pretty early himself. Family influences were, in part, responsible for the path he has followed. "I grew up pretty poor but when I was eight, my parents saved up and bought me a Commodore 64," he says. "I was away, playing games until the wee hours and then learning to program when I'd played all the games.
"I can't remember back that far very well, but I remember the programming being more addictive than the games: the share the 'just one more bug/level and then surely I'll have it working/won' nature."