Hewlett-Packard 1939 - 2009

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2009, Seventieth Anniversary of the Founding of the Company




Introduction by John Minck


It is not clear whether the HP Company is planning any official recognition of their 70th business anniversary during 2009. In a way, that is unfortunate, because the period from 1999 to 2009 was by far the most tumultuous and trying of any other 10-year period in its history. It would be useful for all of those who venerate the vision of the founders, Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard, to see a realistic and straightforward assessment of the period

In 1999, HP decided to spin off Agilent Technologies, the test and measurement heart of the founder company. Carly Fiorina, the new CEO took over in 2000, and soon led the efforts to acquire Compaq Computers, resulting in a nasty shareholder vote battle on the Board decision. Other acquisitions followed, with another major acquisition of the EDS Company of Plano, TX, in 2008.

Both HP and Agilent were seriously impacted by the “” bust of 2000. Agilent especially had left the separation event with a large number of employees, and immediately began to work on its serious backlog from the booming test businesses in wireless and fiber optic test sectors. Only to be slammed with the retrenchment which caused big layoffs and “right-sizing.” Unheard of during the earlier years of Dave and Bill. This was about the time of the Compaq battle within the HP community.

Then came Sept. 11, 2001, which drastically affected all U.S. businesses, and surely both HP and Agilent. As businesses came back and prospered, they both enjoyed dramatic new product introductions and business success. HP came up even to IBM and passed it in hardware sales. Agilent sold off its medical and certain test and measurement sectors. And, now, as we enter the year 2009, the entire global business sector is in dire straits. Business and technical spending is vastly reduced. Global governments are struggling to revive a devastated financial mess. HP and Agilent leaders are stressed to find the right level of research and business operations to be optimum for new product development and technological progress in the face of declining revenues.

In a real sense, there IS LITTLE to celebrate in its 70th year. It is a grim time. Except to observe that we have been through such downturns before, the late 1950s, early 1970s, the early 1980s, and others. They recur. So there is little question that both companies will see a return to greatness and success in their unique company and people cultures that we all have admired for 70 years.


John Minck




The official starting date of the Hewlett-Packard Company, according to its co-founders,
Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard, was January 1, 1939.

As in any close-knit family, celebrating anniversaries was a respected tradition at HP. Even more than in a family, there were many reasons to celebrate events within such a thriving company. The decennial event celebrations were especially valuable for looking back at the continuing success and growth of the company during that elapsed 10-year period.

This web history memory section shows some selected published stories of the recognition of the founders and employees that they were making history with their remarkable company, starting with the 30th year anniversary. The business press and industrial community had long recognized the uniqueness of HP's company culture which produced innovative products at the very cutting edge of technology, in both test and measurement and then dramatic breakthroughs in computer and printing sectors.

This section has no objective, other than to reference some of the most well-known of these articles. This list is by no means exhaustive, but just a guideline to encourage further research.




Dave Packard speaking "From the Chairman's Desk" - MEASURE Magazine January 1969
Courtesy of the Hewlett Packard Company


The conclusion of the speech made by Dave Packard on Tuesday, December 31, 1968, published in the January 1969 issue of the MEASURE Magazine:

"Our experience here over the past 30 years in working together to build the Hewlett-Packard Company is a living and proud example of the fact that the American society, the democratic concept of government, and the free enterprise of an economy provide the best system this troubled world has been able to devise. It may not be perfect, but it is the best that has yet been demonstrated. It is the responsibility of all of us to keep it that way.
Hewlett-Packard will record many achievements in the years ahead. As it has always been in the past, these will come about because of the enthusiasm and dedication of HP men and women everywhere. As you move into what I know is going to be one of the most exciting periods in the history of the company, I wish you well."




Cover of MEASURE Magazine January 1979
Courtesy of the Hewlett Packard Company


Dave Packard and Bill Hewlett mark 40 years of
Hewlett-Packard service with a handshake
Photo from Measure Magazine, January 1979
Courtesy of Hewlett-Packard Company

A Good Forty Years . . .

An article from the January 1979 issue of MEASURE Magazine:

"No trumpets blew when Dave Packard and Bill Hewlett walked up to receive their 40th year service awards from John Young on December 18. A few reminiscences and they turned to the business at hand: passing out 25-, 30- and 35-year awards to other HP veterans gathered for the annual Bay Area awards luncheon.

Of course, technically speaking, these weren't even the first 40-year awards handed out at Hewlett-Packard that honor had already gone to a handful of Waltham Division employees who were credited with years spent working for a venerable acquisition, the Sanborn Company.
And yet, those 40-year awards to Dave and Bill last month were clearly something quite special in the history of the company they founded four decades ago.

For a few minutes the co-founders thought back to those early days in Palo Alto when they were beginning to build devices in a garage workshop during spare hours sandwiched between graduate study and work at Stanford University.
The idea of having their own company had occurred to the young men five years earlier when they were engineering undergraduates together at Stanford. By the end of 1938 they were halfway to that goal-Dave Packard and his wife Lucile living in an apartment in downtown Palo Alto, Bill Hewlett batching in a cottage behind their house, and the garage on the property serving as a simple workshop. Already they had sold a few special instrument orders and now Bill had developed a resistance-tuned oscillator for his thesis project that appeared to have commercial possibilities.

As he stepped up to the podium for his 40-year service award, Dave Packard recalled that Christmas in 1938. "We had a picture of our first oscillator on the fireplace mantle," he smiled. It was early data sheets with those photos that attracted the attention of Walt Disney Productions, leading to a breathtaking order for eight oscillators to use in the stereophonic sound track of "Fantasia". That landmark order encouraged Bill and Dave to formalize their partnership on January 1, 1939, tossing a coin to see which name would come first.
For his part, Bill Hewlett thought back to those first days working alone together on projects. Tall Dave Packard presented a training problem, Bill teased. "Dave kept hanging everything where I couldn't reach it, and I threatened to have a trench dug in the garage floor for him to work in."

The friendly partnership endured. It has been a good forty years, Dave and Bill agreed, made possible by the high standard for quality and substance that HP employees have maintained in developing the company's products.

"The standard question we're asked these days is, 'Did you plan to have your company grow this big?'" said Bill. "The answer, really, is that growth was never an objective in itself: All we wanted was to do a good job." "





Jack Brigham, John Young and Brian Flonory
holst the 50th anniversary flag at Corporate offices.
Photo from Measure Magazine, March-April 1989
Courtesy of Hewlett-Packard Company

Run this up the flag pole


An article from MEASURE Magazine - March-April 1989.


"The winds blew, a light rain fell and a hearty band of umbrella-covered employees gathered around the flag pole outside Corporate headquarters in Palo Alto in January as Hewlett-Packard officially launched its yearlong 50th anniversary celebration.

San Francisco Bay Area newspaper photographers and HP-TV documented the historic event as President and CEO John Young and Jack Brigham, vice president of Administration, helped raise a flag bearing HP's 50th anniversary symbol.
Most HP sites around the world have held similar flagraisings to signal the start of HP's next half-century.

Entities are encouraged to design their own creative ways to celebrate the anniversary. In addition to picnics, open houses and customer-recognition events, many sites are capitalizing on the special year to hold equally special observances:

* Employees at HP Taiwan kicked off the year with a January flag-raising, extended coffee break and traditionallion's dance as the first of several events. * Beginning in April. HP stock will be listed and traded on four European stock exchanges London, Paris, Zurich and Frankfurt. * In June, more than 15.000 HP employees and their families from Northern and Southern Colorado are anticipated for a statewide anniversary celebration at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. * And in May, more than 150 employees, including a representative from each site. will gather in Palo Alto for the dedication of "the garage" - the place where Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard started HP - as a California state historical landmark.
It's guaranteed to be a memorable year as Hewlett Packard celebrates "Fifty Years of Looking to the Future." "


The Garage, Birthplace of the "Silicon Valley"


The year was full of celebrations as Hewlett-Packard turned 50. One of the most important was the dedication of "The Garage" as a California historic landmark.


From MEASURE Magazine "Wrapping it Up" issue
Courtesy of the Hewlett Packard Company





Another view of Bill & Dave, in front of an original HP 200A, during the 1989 celebration. Photo-dump from "The Origins" Video
Courtesy of the Hewlett Packard Company


Cover of the October 1989 Hewlett Packard Journal
Courtesy of Hewlett-Packard Company

1949 - 1989,
Forty Years of the Hewlett Packard Journal


The first issue of the HP Journal was published in September 1949, so the October 1989 was the first of the HP Journal's forty-first year of publication. A special commemorative article was assembled by Associate Editor Chuck Leath to celebrate this double milestone: 50 years of HP and 40 years of the HP Journal.

The link below gives access to the 8 pages of this article:

40 Years of Chronicling Technical Achievements.

"Over the last 40 years the HP Journal has created a record of HP's technical achievements by communicating technical information to professional people in all fields served by HP. With Hewlett-Packard celebrating is 50th anniversary it seems appropriate to take a look at the HP Journal, past and present, and some of the technological history of Hewlett-Packard it has chronicled."




Et la France, dans tout ça ?


Cover of the March-April 1989 MEASURE Magazine
French edition
Courtesy of Hewlett-Packard Company

Hazard du calendrier, l'année 1989 marquait en même temps le 25 éme anniversaire de la création de l'entité HP France. De nombreux articles furent publiés à l'échelon national pour célébrer cet anniversaire. Une édition spéciale de la revue MEASURE de mars-avril 1989 fut traduite en Français. Dédiée à l'histoire Hewlett Packard, elle nous permet de proposer pour la première fois, EN FRANCAIS sur ce site, une courte rétrospective de l'évolution d'HP de 1939 à 1989.

Le lien ci-dessous donne accès aux 14 pages de cet article:

A l'épreuve du temps... 50 ans de révolution technologique

What's France Doing in All That ?

Completely by chance, 1989 was also the date of the 25th anniversary of the creation of HP France. Several articles were published at a national level to celebrate this anniversary. A special edition of MEASURE Magazine March-April 1989 was translated into French. Dedicated to the HP story, it allows us to offer for the first time, IN FRENCH on this site, a short retrospective of the evolution of HP from 1939 to 1989.

The link above gives access to the 14 pages of this article.

And here is the link to the original English version from MEASURE Magazine, March-April 1989






Not an Anniversary . . .
. . . More of a Breaking Up


The cover of the May-June 1999 Measure Magazine shown below was commented by the following text:

"For 60 years, "the garage" has symbolized Hewlett-Packard and the creative spirit for which the company became known. The garage was HP's first "facility" and in 1989 was named a California historical landmark as the birthplace of Silicon Valley. So, when HP announced in March that it's splitting into two companies, Scott Willis, San Jose Mercury News editorial cartoonist, chose that modest image to symbolize the breakup".

For this Measure edition, most of the articles were dedicated to the analysis of the forecoming company split.


Cover of MEASURE Magazine, May-June 1999
Courtesy of the Hewlett Packard Company



MEASURE Magazine, May-June 1999 page 14
Courtesy of the Hewlett Packard Company


Drawings by Christian Buis


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