His uncle, a hardware hacker and computer programmer, steered him in the right direction.
"When we got our first PC in the mid '80s, he gave me a C compiler and a photocopy of the Kernighan and Ritchie white book. He was definitely an influence."
Torkington admits to being a smart kid. "I'd been clever in high school, but my work ethic largely deserted me when I got to university," he says. "Organisation was never my strong point, so my marks were roughly in a monotonic decline as the years went on. I graduated acceptably, but not distinguished enough to consider honours."
At university, his interest in technology was given a big boost. "While I was a student at the university, I got involved in FTP archives and local mirrors. I played with gopher and was one of the first to tinker with the world-wide web back in the days when we were figuring it all out with Marc Andreessen, Tim Berners-Lee, and Dave Raggett on the mailing lists," he says.
"I talked the university into using the web for their 'Campus Wide Information System' and they hired me out of university to build it. That turned into selling and building websites when the university spun out its ISP business."
If he didn't know that computing was going to be his profession until that point, he got a much clearer indication at this stage. But to his parents it was apparent in 1981 itself, when he was given that Commodore 64, that their little Nathan was going to be a geek.
Torkington prefers to consider it an accident. "I've never been particularly deliberate in choosing which fork in the road of life to take, so I just fell into the computer career because it was there," is how he puts it.
Seven years later, he moved to the US at the age of 22 and got involved in writing a best-seller. "I was lucky enough to move to the US in 1995, and found myself an hour away from a Perl god, Tom Christiansen. We collaborated on the Perl FAQ, then he said, 'I have a book contract and really need a co-author - want to help?'" Torkington explains.
"That turned into the Perl Cookbook, which turned into a professional training gig, which turned into the Perl Conference, which turned into OSCON, while the training turned into editing books for O'Reilly, which turned into starting up lots of conferences, which turned into trendspotting, which turned into government hacking, which is where I'm up to today."
"As I said, this wasn't deliberate! I just seized (and, sometimes, made) opportunities as they came up."
One short paragraph is all it takes for him to describe what he's achieved but that's a lot for a man who's just 36 to list on his CV.