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“It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn't feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.” – Neil Armstrong (1930-2012)

Fresh Reads from the Science 'o sphere!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

The World In His Palm.

One more addition to the list of successful grad school dropouts - Jeff Hawkins, the inventor of the Palm Pilot.

Trained in Cornell as an electronic engineer, he joined Intel for a few years and found the environment there stifling. He then moved on to GRiD systems where he did important work on mobile computing technology.

While at GRiD he became deeply interested in the human brain, and so he put his career on hold and enrolled as a PhD student at the Department of Biophysics in UC Berkeley. Though he came up with an original thesis proposal, it was rejected because no professor in the department was doing research in that area.

Dejected, Hawkins asked himself:

"What am I going to do with all this knowledge? Here I am a young guy, I decided I wasn't going to pursue an academic career, it was just impossible. It was like, painful: going and being a graduate student after having a real career."

He decided to return to GRiD and work on computers:

"To become famous enough and wealthy enough to really promote and sponsor significant research in neurobiology and theoretical neurobiology."

Sounds like someone I know.

Anyway he then focused his energy on developing a handheld computer, inventing the proof-of-principle GRiDPAD, and the unpopular Zoomer, before hitting paydirt with the phenomenal Palm Pilot.

So what did he do with his immense riches? Buy a tropical island and sip Pina Coladas on the beach forever?


He founded the Redwood Centre for Theoretical Neuroscience, so that others can continue to work towards his dream of understanding the brain from an information theory point of view.

Ah well, once a geek...

You can hear more about his life from the man himself.

STVP Educators Corner - Jeff Hawkins.

Cool dude.