Hamilton LaboratoriesAbout us

Nicole Hamilton

Oregon Coast

Short biography of Nicole Hamilton

Nicole Ashley Hamilton

Nicole Hamilton, August, 2012.

I’m the Hamilton in Hamilton Laboratories and the author of Hamilton C shell, a complete recreation of the UNIX C shell and utilities for Windows.

I hold a BS and MS, electrical engineering, from Stanford University and an MBA valedictorian from Boston University.  I’m named as an inventor on 7 issued US patents.  My professional interests are in systems architecture and language processors.  I love algorithms.

Hamilton C shell began life in September, 1987 when I quit my job and set up shop in my living room near Boston, soon after the birth of my first child.  Fifteen months and 35,000 lines of code later, it became the first multi-threaded application to ship on a PC.  Today, it’s somewhere around 250,000 lines.

Before becoming an entrepreneur, I was the workstation software development manager at Prime Computer. And before that, I was at IBM in Austin, Texas, where I worked on a number of hardware and software design projects related to their early microprocessor-based word processing machines.

In 2002, the recession forced me to take a “real job” and for the next three years I worked (slaved) at Microsoft. In July 2003, I joined MSN Search as the 9th “dev” (Microspeak for developer) on the team building their new algorithmic search engine, now called Bing, and wrote the query language (parser and compiler) and the dynamic ranker.  My code defined how the users’ queries were interpreted (how we decided what they were searching for) and the order of results they got back.  Overall, I wrote about 10% of the code in the January, 2005 first release. It was the hardest job of my life!

I goofed off for about a year before going to a little startup developing anti-money laundering systems for third world banks that promptly went out of business.  Then Phil Barrett at RealNetworks hired me to PM his RealDVD project, a home DVD player that could store the movies on an internal disk.  Cool product, just not possible under DCMA.

I’ve been back to working full-time on my C shell business since 2009.  I still enjoy working on the code and it’s been satisfying updating it for Windows 7, writing an su that actually works, adding support for long Unicode filenames and so on.

The most fun part has been relaunching the product and redoing the website.  Getting the layout, the breadcrumb trail at the top of the page, the menus to the left, and all the images, link, fonts and colors right is surprisingly more work than you might guess.  The entire site, including the stylesheets and the photos and other images, is my own work and I’ve enjoyed the creative part of making it pretty and easy to use.

I also wanted to fix the price.  I’d been charging $350 since 1988.  That was way too expensive, especially considering the competition is free and especially for individuals who likely have machines all over the house.  They can’t possibly be expected to buy licenses for every one of them.  At $89 to cover all one’s personal machines, I’m hoping price should no longer be a reason for screwing around with the free stuff, even if you do get the source and can fix your own bugs.  Life is short, my stuff works.  I hope you agree.


I've been here in Redmond, Washington for about 10 years. That was after 21 years in Boston – 20 more than it should take any sane person to get up and leave there.  I see mountains from my living room.  Overhead, there’s a huge blue sky.  I can get through an entire winter with just a sweater.  My car doesn’t dissolve.  When I come in, I don’t have a bucket of gravel stuck to each shoe.  I’m a West Coast girl.

My kids

My kids, when they were young.  I remember my own mother once telling me, “You used to be such a good child.”

I have two sons that are now grown and a cat that still lives with me.  And okay, I’m kind of tomboyish.  I have a motorcycle, I’ve crossed the Alps in a 540, had it up over 150 mph on the Autobahn and I’ve been to Talkeetna, Alaska.  I’m also a firearms instructor and competitive shooter in everything from airpistols to high power rifle.  My license plate says RKBA.

I'm also a tree-hugging liberal who voted for Obama. I love bicycling and hiking and being outdoors.  A lot of my fashion needs seem to come from REI or the gift shop at a national park.  I can cook pretty much anything and pretty much anything I cook can actually be eaten.  I took flying lessons for a while but gave up just about the time I’d have solo’ed.  I claimed it was just too expensive a hobby.  It is, but that’s not why I quit.

I painted it but that doesn’t mean I know what it is.

I swear, I really used a brush to do this.  It wasn’t just fingers. Don’t ask, I have no idea what it is.

I once took a class to learn to paint with acrylics and created exactly one picture.  You be the judge, but I think there’s some talent there.  I hold an Amateur Extra license KD1UJ.  Someday I'll be back on the air but with a full gallon.  I love novels, I’ll listen to anything by Mozart, Chopin, Haydn or the Be Good Tanyas and I’ll watch anything with Jodie Foster, Brad Pitt, Ed Norton or a Terminator.

I don’t care what anybody says, I still think Fight Club and Kissing Jessica Stein are really funny movies.

I used to claim that my one pet peeve was whatever hot new idea was currently promising to render the complex understandable to those who are just not very complex themselves.  There was a time when I thought that was quite a hot new idea.

I also used to vow that should Hamilton Laboratories ever grow large enough to actually have a staff, its management will still never, ever ask anyone to write a weekly status report.  Aw, come on.  I’m lucky I’m not writing any just this moment.

See also

My C.V.
My personal website