William Redington Hewlett

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Bill Hewlett Leaves us Ten Years Ago




Bill Hewlett
(1913 – 2001)

by John Minck


On this tenth anniversary of the passing of Bill Hewlett, we remember his remarkable influence on the lives of millions of people. Customers of his company, Hewlett-Packard, have benefited from superior technology in measurements and computation during the Golden Years of Technology in the last half of the 20th century. His HP employees enjoyed a company work culture that was second to none, respecting the dignity of every worker, exploiting the creativity of people with a “management by objective” which took hands off previous top-down styles which stifled personal initiative.

For long term employees, we might have accepted the common notion that it was Dave Packard who with his 6-foot-4 imposing presence, dominated the management of HP, and its outside image. But that was absolutely not true, the management duo of Dave and Bill was truly a collegial one, which leveraged their individual strengths and the respect they had for each other. They themselves noted that they almost knew what each other was thinking. Bill tended to be the technical resource, with special attention to new product strategies and future initiatives, with a special professional relationship to Research VP, Barney Oliver.

And yet, in the 1968-1971 period when Packard accepted DOD duty as Deputy Secretary of Defense, Bill took over during a serious recession and grew the company at just about the same 15% per year that was common over past decades. No small amount of that growth came from his innovative bombshell product, and personal triumph, the HP-35 hand calculator.

In that same period, Bill innovated when revenues dropped significantly, to impose his well-known 9-day fortnight, putting every employee from janitor to vice president on furlough every other Friday. It reduced production output just the right amount without jeopardizing skilled workers by layoffs when the business rose up out of the doldrums. Imagine the new-found company loyalty that such worker consideration enlightened.

Looking back from our year of 2010, it's tempting to think a bit about how Hewlett might have led his company through the massive technology shifts we now experience in the 21st Century. From the over-riding influence of the Internet on global connections, to the inroads of communications technology with smart phones and video transmitted everywhere, from social media to cloud computing strategies, Bill would surely have led his company in a way that was different than our succeeding management took HP.

Bill died in January, 2001, but had not been active in company management since relinquishing his CEO job in 1978, his Executive Committee Chairmanship in 1983, finally becoming Director Emeritus in 1987. He probably would have approved of most of the remaining management period of John Young up to Young's handoff to Lew Platt in 1992. And he most likely would have supported Lew Platt's leadership up to 1999, when Platt retired. HP had become a large, diverse, globally-powerful organization with massive technologies in computers and printers and a variety of electrical and chemical and biological instrumentation.

In many ways, Platt was able to maintain a modestly good semblance of Hewlett's HP work culture, although as it moved into the global economy, much more production of the rapidly-growing consumer product line was transferred out of the US. This meant that the later reductions in workforce and layoffs were probably pre-ordained as growth continued. It goes without saying that under Hewlett's control, Agilent Technologies would NEVER have been spun off in 2000.

It is also highly UNLIKELY that any of the acquisitions from 2000 onward, (Carly), Compaq, EDS, et al, would have taken place. Both Dave and Bill preferred to grow from within, and clearly established that principle in spite of many small buyouts throughout their management period in the Golden Age of Technology. It is also interesting to speculate whether the final HP would have been substantially different if a Mark Hurd style technical personality would have come on board to follow Platt in 1999?

Yet in these last 10 years, Bill's inquisitive personality would have been irresistively fascinated with the development opportunities opened up by the Internet, the massive computational power spread around the globe, and the proven ability of HP to capitalize on technology innovations that help people and industry to live better lives. Imagine, nano-technology, insight into the human genome, handheld computation power a thousand times more powerful than his delightful HP-35 calculator, of which he was so rightly proud. I can just see him and Barney discussing how to exploit that special HP creative advantage which his advanced labs could always be counted on to develop.

So, in remembering Bill, we retired HP employees are eternally thankful that we worked for his company and experienced his regard for every worker. We remember his contributions to a dozen companies and organizations that recruited him for their Boards of Directors. We know that millions of his customers thank HP for products that are proud to sport the HP logo. We still see the Bill and Flora Hewlett Foundation name appear almost nightly on the Public Broadcasting System during the sponsor roll on the Lehrer Nightly News. And just today I saw the acknowledgment page listing in the SF Chronicle of the Hewlett Foundation as an annual contributor to the San Francisco Season of Sharing Fund. So his influence is still felt, far beyond the memories of his workers, his friends and his customers.


John Minck, HP Class of 1958




Memories of Bill Hewlett
by Zvonko Fazarinc


After completing my Ph.D at Stanford I was hired by Barney Oliver into HPLabs in January 1965. There I had the privilege of seeing Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard almost every morning as they made their tour of the premises. Their MBWA (Management by Walking Around) included chats with engineers and technicians most of whom they knew by first name. Besides talking technical business with us, Bill in particular paid attention to personal issues and it was not uncommon for him to inquire about the health status of someone’s grandmother.

In the evening, those of us who stayed late saw Bill again coming to the lab where he was searching for a hot soldering iron. When he found one he sat down, pulled a few electronic components from his pocket and started soldering them together. He would then use an oscilloscope or some other instrument to test his creation. This routine was soon replaced by Bill coming to the lab as usually after the front office closure but now sitting down at the prototype of our first desktop calculator. This consisted of a whole bench length of large printed circuit boards. He was an avid programmer and as the lab prototype shrank down to a more reasonable looking desktop size, he was a constant guest until he acquired his own HP 9100.

During one of Bill’s evening session in the lab I have asked him why HP would not demand from engineers, who were taking Stanford courses at company’s expense, to sign a commitment to stay with the company for a specified amount of time. This was a routine practiced in Europe, particularly targeted to valuable professionals, who were likely to be recruited by other companies. Bill’s response was that even if they go somewhere else their education would produce better results for the US. When I inquired about the possibility of an HP educated engineer going to another country, he said that ”we are giving so much foreign aid anyway that this would be just a drop in the bucket”.

Bill had a well developed feel for natural sciences. I was once asked by Barney Oliver to do a mathematical analysis of an idea that came from Bill Hewlett. After carefully working out a fairly complex set of formulas and entering the parameters specified by Bill I came out with a numbers that Bill wanted. There were no trigonometric function calculators available at that time and I had to use tables to plow through them. In the process I must have missed a couple of decimal points somewhere and when I presented the results to Bill Hewlett, he said without hesitation that I was off at least two decimal places. He sent me back to the drawing board and he was absolutely right. Barney Oliver warned me at that time not to underestimate the engineer in Bill Hewlett.

As manager Bill did not accept any compromises. After I have presented the prototype of our proposed “Smart Scope” to the Colorado Springs Division and Bill saw their enthusiasm he told me to make sure that we complete a production prototype within a year. I objected strongly because the product called for 14 custom integrated circuits containing combinations of analog and digital structures. I pleaded that this was not as simple as a calculator, which took a year to complete but Bill stood up and said in a very polite voice “Zvonko, if you have something better to work on, just let me know” and walked away.


Zvonko Fazarinc




by France Rode


While working at the Hewlett-Packard Company in the late 1970s, I proposed an idea for an electronic lock. The company was not interested in that type of product but allowed me to obtain a patent of my own. When I later considered leaving my job at HP to start a business of my own to develop the lock, I went to Mr. Hewlett for his advice.

I started with the question of how the company would look at people who left HP and would later like to return. His answer was encouraging. “If they exploit our secrets and steal employees from us, they are not welcomed back. Otherwise they are welcome, being more experienced, having new knowledge and are open-minded to better ways of doing business. HP likes the entrepreneurial spirit.”

Then I told him the reason for my seeking his counsel. “As a development engineer at HP,” he continued saying,” you will be given opportunities for technical achievement and comfortable life, but will not get wealthy. To have a chance of becoming financially independent one has to risk venturing out on his own.”

He expressed a genuine interest in my patent and began exploring ways to exploit it. He further advised me to see Dr. Barney Oliver at HP who could get me in touch with the President of Schlage Lock Company that might be interested in my invention.

As it turned out, my business venture was not a financial success, but I never regretted to have given it a try.


France Rode




As author of this website, and an HP employee in France, I didn't have the chance to work closely with the founders and pioneers of HP during my HP career years. Without living at Palo Alto, during the times of Bill and Dave's management, it is impossible for me to express in English the magnitude of the influence that a man like Bill Hewlett has had on our civilization.

But even with so many limitations, the influence of the HP Way on my own career, and life, was such that it resulted in my pride in creating this HP Memory Project, and equipment collection, which has occupied my life during the past 15 years. I expect it will continue to do so up to my last remaining energies.

My modest contribution for this particular anniversary date will be to display some never-before-published photos of the last visit made by Bill Hewlett to the HP France Headquarters in 1998. These photos reflect the wonderment of the old man at the peak of the success of his life. The document doesn't need any further comment because anyone can read on every face in the audience, the obvious pleasure that his mere presence inspired.
At that time, in France, and probably everywhere, Bill Hewlett was already a legend.


Marc Mislanghe.


Special thanks to Marlène Chamorot for her contribution with the following photos. These photos were taken during the last visit made by Bill Hewlett at HP France in 1998. Marlène was HP France Work Place Services Manager from 1982 to 2002, and by the way, in charge of Bill's visit organization in 1998.


HP France Employees Welcoming Bill Hewlett at HP France Headquarter in 1998


HP France Welcome Speech by Kléber Beauvillain ( HP France President from 1964 to 2000 )


Lunch at the HP Evry Cafeteria


Looking at "Photo Souvenir" with Marlène Chamorot ( Work Place Services Manager from 1982 to 2002 )


Signing a Photo of the Original Addison Avenue HP Garage for Kléber Beauvillain


Playing HP Computer with Kléber Beauvillain and Bruno Marie-Rose
( Bruno Marie-Rose, standing, was World Champion of the Men's 4x100 meters Relay in 1992,
and Internet Program Manager at HP, from 1996 to 1999 )


Bill Shacking Hands with everyone in the Audience



Below are three links to Biographies of Bill Hewlett,
among the many available on the web:

- HP Web Site

- Agilent Technologies Web Site

- The Hewlett Foundation Web Site


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