‘National Techies Day’ Q & A with Gaz Rowntree

Q. What made you pursue a career in technology?

A. My Grandad and Dad were utter geeks. Grandad Rowntree would make kite aerials and radio transmitters that would break records for being able to chat to people by bouncing signals off the moon.

My Dad was busy making huge guitar amps and one of the first groups of commercial programmers in the country. We had a house full of gadgets and dinner conversation across three generations that would sound like utter drivel to my Mother. (My Mum can actually fake a technical conversation that could convince you she understands).

Q. What advice would you give to somebody looking to start a career in the tech industry?

A. Do your passion and do it to death! I used to focus so intently on programming when I was 11 that I would dream it. My mum took me to the doctors she was so worried about my obsession.

Q. What type of innovations are you currently working on at SignStix?

A. We love to combine electronics, software and graphics. The two biggies for us right now are using a retail store’s CCTV camera network to feed through Artifical Intelligence computers that fit in the palm of your hand. These let us work out what people are doing in store and how to serve them better.

It also lets us tease visitors to our office with how old the system thinks they are through the facial recognition technology.

The other is adding touch responsiveness to real world items. Today we have a T-shirt on a mannequin that you can explore with your hands and a digital signage panel shows you a video corresponding to the area you are touching.

Q. Where do you see the future of the tech industry going?

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A. Oh, it keeps on changing. Nothing ever stays the same. I have been coding for about 39 years now. It is almost more interesting to observe what stays the same!

It still makes no difference how good my handwriting is, there are still keyboards! My goodness have we not progressed to a neural input yet!

Q. What technology can you not live without?

A. I have tried to live without any of it. A year and a half living off grid and I kept being drawn back to the beautiful creativity of putting things together and making something new. There is art in technology.

But you can have my phone! I’m blooming sick of smartphones!