Jeff Hawkins (born June 1, 1957 in Huntington, New York) is the founder of Palm Computing (where he invented the Palm Pilot) and Handspring (where he invented the Treo). He has since turned to work on neuroscience full-time, founded the Redwood Center for Theoretical Neuroscience (formerly the Redwood Neuroscience Institute) in 2002, and published On Intelligence describing his memory-prediction framework theory of the brain. In 2003 he was elected as a member of the National Academy of Engineering "for the creation of the hand-held computing paradigm and the creation of the first commercially successful example of a hand-held computing device."
Hawkins desired to move on with the development of a smaller, hand-held device, but executives at GRiD were reluctant to take the risk. Tandy Corporation had acquired GRiD in 1988, and they were willing to support Hawkins in a new venture company. Palm Computing was founded in January, 1992. Their first product was the Zoomer, a collaboration with Palm applications, GeoWorks OS, Casio hardware, and Tandy marketing. The Apple Newton came out about the same time, late 1993, but both products failed, partly due to poor character recognition software. Hawkins responded with Graffiti, a simpler and more effective recognition product that ran on both the Zoomer and the Newton. They also developed HotSync synchronization software for Hewlett Packard devices.
Hawkins searched for partners to build a simple new handheld, but was stymied until modem manufacturer U.S. Robotics stepped in with the financial backing and manufacturing expertise to bring the Palm Pilot to market in early 1996. By the fall of 1998, US Robotics' new owner 3Com was hindering his plans, and Hawkins left the company along with Palm co-founders Donna Dubinsky and Ed Colligan to start Handspring, which debuted the Handspring Visor in September 1999. 3Com ended up spinning off Palm in March, 2000, which then merged with Handspring in August, 2003.
In 2002, after two decades of finding little interest from neuroscience institutions, Hawkins founded the Redwood Neuroscience Institute in Menlo Park, California. As a result of the formation of Hawkins' new company, Numenta, the Institute was moved to the University of California, Berkeley on 1 July 2005, renamed the Redwood Center for Theoretical Neuroscience, and is now administered through the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute.
In 2004, Hawkins published On Intelligence (with New York Times science writer Sandra Blakeslee), laying out his "memory-prediction framework" of how the brain works. His unified theory of the brain argues that the key to the brain and intelligence is the ability to make predictions about the world by seeing patterns. (cf. Franz Brentano's theory of intentionality, put forth over 100 years ago) He argues that attempts to create an artificial intelligence by simply programming a computer to do what a brain does are flawed and that to actually make an intelligent computer, we simply need to teach it to find and use patterns, not to attempt any specific tasks. Through this method, he thinks we can build intelligent machines, helping us do all sorts of useful tasks that current computers can't achieve. He further argues that this memory-prediction system as implemented by the brain's cortex is the basis of human intelligence.