Remembering Early Time at HP

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HP Memories




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- Part 1 -

Introduction - The Early Years


PART 1 - Table of Contents:




I started writing some parts of this back in the early 1980's, because I felt that it might be useful for new employees of HP (and later Agilent) to know more about the early culture of "our" company. During my 37 years with HP, I had always felt very privileged to have been offered employment here in 1957. Immodestly, this narrative contains a lot of personal experiences and even some non-HP stories of my life and times, although my Life and Times life narrative is another long document. When you finish reading all of this you may think I should have sub-titled it "Hewlett-Packard and Me."

Leading up to the 1980's, the company had reached some growth years when we hired thousands of new employees each year, with perhaps hundreds of them as engineers and field sales people. As I gave orientation lectures to new employees in our Stanford Park Division, on how our customers used our equipment, or to neophyte field sales engineers from all over the world, I found a tremendous interest in the company's past history. I often led auto trips down to Dave and Bill's first garage on Addison Avenue, in downtown Palo Alto.

By the 1980's, Hewlett-Packard had become a business phenomenon. The company's external success and its internal workings had caught the fancy of the nation's business press, as well as the popular Bay Area press. Management texts and conferences began to contain frequent references to HP's organizational and business strategies and tactics. Tom Peter's 1982 book, "In Search of Excellence," gave high marks to HP for our ability to organize and to innovate, both in products and our work culture.

All of us who worked at HP in those years had become very proud of this recognition. It was a great ego-booster, to belong to a winning team, and HP was a winner, in products and profits and performance.

But, in 1985, HP was a lot more than a successful multi-national corporation, with over 82,000 people, hundreds, perhaps thousands of buildings, and more than 1000 acres of floor space under roof. It was the place where we employees spent about a third of our waking hours. And next to our family and friends, HP was often the most important thing in our lives. For some, it may actually have been THE most important thing.

I recall a late evening in the early 1960's, I was working on some midnight project, in Bldg 5U, and using the copying machine, when I ran into Carl Anderson. At that time, Carl was managing some corporate promotion and catalog functions. "Go home, Carl!" I said, and he answered, "I am home; once in a while, I go to my house." (When I retired in 1995, I remember explaining to my friends that I was feeling pretty-much adrift--not having any hobbies to fall back on--since, in a real sense, "I am what I do.")

That's the whole point to this monograph. The HP Company culture, down at the people level, has been mentioned positively in most of the flattering articles about us. The management philosophy coined by Bill Hewlett or Dave Packard, "The HP Way," has been described and analyzed a lot over the years. Those many industry authors would analyze our processes and organizational details of how we worked with each other in a spirit of openness and cooperation.

My memories are rich and full. I've visited a hundred customer plants in my 37 years with HP, and have probably talked with a thousand customers in their workplaces as well as at trade shows and conferences. In those discussions, a lot comes out about the working cultures in those other companies. What I found was that there are almost no workplaces that matched HP in overall friendliness and spirit and personal relationships. I could walk down to the desk of a lab engineer, and ask for a half hour of microwave tutorial to help solve a customer problem. There would be no hesitation, nor would they worry about someone stealing credit for something they created. There were many companies I visited, where engineers held everything technical very close to their office, since there were so many cases where others would steal their clever ideas as their own.

But, in the 1990's, that very style of openness (and of course, the business acumen) that had created our successes threatened to bury us in a continuing growth that might have overwhelmed the personal "feel" of the company we once were. By the time of the spinoff of the Agilent product line, HP had become a giant, powerful, and imposing corporation.

For the tens of thousands of new employees who have joined HP and Agilent in the recent years, from a worldwide diversity of cultures, I felt that this story about some of the early HP personalities would be interesting, as well as perhaps useful. By meeting some of these engaging personalities, we could see that the present HP/Agilent business culture has its roots in a long line of HP employees.

Like any shared human endeavor, these early characters are diverse and interesting. All the human strengths and weaknesses are there, but there is a good-nature to them. They get along. They work as a team. They have fun working together. There is no caution or distrust in dealing with each other.

With the spinoff of Agilent Technologies, of the Test and Measurement, Health and Chemical sectors in 1999, we hoped that most of the early HP culture would transfer to the new entity. But surely, as the HP Corporation continues to branch further into computer, PC and Internet cultures, some sense of its HP Way roots will remain, just as do some thousands of senior employees who have stayed with the computer part of HP. Even as the Compaq merger consolidation goes forward, the HP Way will metamorphose, to guide the company that Bill and Dave founded. I believe that this is a living culture that must be preserved and nurtured, as HP and Agilent move ahead.

I've lived the HP Way through more than half of HP's history, from my first day on Jan 2, 1958, just after the Russian Sputnik went into orbit. My entry into the company happened mostly by chance, which is the way a lot of things work in life. During my engineering courses at the University of Notre Dame, in 1948-52, I used HP equipment in the various student laboratories. In 1951, at my first engineering summer job at General Electric Company in Syracuse, NY, I used more HP RF/microwave gear in radar system testing as a summer test engineer. Then, in 1952, as a blast line instrumentation engineer at Sandia Corporation, working on full-scale atomic bomb tests, in Nevada and Eniwetok Atoll, almost all our equipment was HP.

So I was well introduced to HP's test equipment quality and performance as I entered Stanford University in 1956, for my MSEE/Admin degree. One of our Stanford class trips during that business course was to HP's headquarters at 395 Page Mill Rd. My lasting impression of that plant visit was the hundreds of HP 608 signal generators, sitting on burn-in racks in the production area. Although I had seen massive television set production at GE, Syracuse, years before, I still pondered over who were all those hundreds of customers who would buy all those rather specialized HP signal generators?

There were just about 1500 employees when I hired on in 1958, and annual revenues were $25 million. After learning that in the year I graduated (1952), HP revenues had been only $10 million, I recall thinking that I had missed my big chance to join a "growth" company, 5 years before, because all the growth in this company has already happened! Let's see, after that, HP grew from $25 million to $70 billion, in those 36 years, which is a factor of 2800. Guess I didn't really miss the growth. I believe it was Barney Oliver, who observed during one lecture that if money was power, he could then treat financial ratios as decibels. So, in this case HP had grown 33.44 dB in my decades with HP.

Yet, I was so happy to be there in 1958. The salary offer of $625 per month plus bonus was respectable, in the business recession of 1957, and my second child was just about to be born. Life was good. By the way, HP's salary bonus system of that day had progressed to the point, where the bi-monthly salary bonus was just at 30%, having been based on some calculations about 10 years before. The percent factor was soon adjusted downward with a one-time increase in the base salary.

Most of this material, I'm writing about, was experienced by me directly, while some is HP lore, handed down from old timers, to us newcomers. The narrative is necessarily focused on the microwave and LED areas of the company, where I spent most of my career. That doesn't mean that the hundreds of other HP people and products and operations were less important, but only that I didn't live through them. I've also related the "inside" stories of many of HP's older and interesting products.

As you will see, although I have titled the narrative as the years from 1939 to 1990, the emphasis is on the earlier parts of the company. I occasionally mention organizational matters and product lines from the 90's and even the 21st century. But I think my expertise and knowledge is better from those earlier periods. When it comes to CEO Fiorina's decisions to acquire Compaq, I will leave that to people better informed and knowledgeable than myself.

I also leave out those parts of this successful corporation from the computer, medical or chemical arenas. These groups had highly innovative products which gave major accomplishments to the world. All the HP strategies in the big system world of servers and PCs and the huge revenues of the printer groups are not in my realm, to even comment. Such product lines were truly big-time, rivaling even the major players like IBM and others who ruled those business sectors in previous decades. Yet HP's products and marketing allowed our favorite corporation to stand in there and compete vigorously. They involved huge global sales deals with many national governments - just like the IBM colossus we always admired. For this old naïve farm boy from Ohio, that is impressive indeed. Even more impressive, HP, with multiple acquisitions like Compaq and EDS, ultimately overtook the IBM Corporation in revenues in the early 21st Century.

The Early Years


Birthplace, Palo Alto


Addison Ave to Polly & Jake's

The really interesting thing about having a corporate history so young, is that most of the buildings and places and many of the people are still right there to see. When you come to Palo Alto, you can easily drive past the "first garage" at 367 Addison Ave. It's still there, and it looks much like the well-published picture every HP person has seen in their orientation slides and history brochures. (I wrote this paragraph in the early 1990s, when the entire city block of early HP buildings at the corner of Page Mill Rd and Park Blvd were still standing. I don't recall if they were still in use when they were razed in early 2000s to erect the new Agilent headquarters building, leaving only the Addison house and garage. The two Polly & Jake buildings at El Camino & Page Mill Rd were demolished in 2010.)

In 1987, the Addison street garage was declared a California Historical Landmark, assuring that it cannot be removed or changed. During HP's 50th year anniversary celebrations, in 1989, a large bronze plaque was installed in front of the lot where the garage stands. Finally, a couple of years ago, when the house came on the real estate market, HP company purchased the home and garage and lot for company preservation. The sales price was staggering, something like $1.7 million, as was most Palo Alto real estate. But it was well worth it, since the "new" HP had assumed some strong promotional positions based on the "The Garage."

Of course, in the last years of the great 1930's depression, that garage housed only a fragile partnership, with an experimental bench and some dreams that there would be some customers out there who would want to buy a few of Bill's novel RC audio oscillators. As it would turn out, there were plenty of people, including the Chief Engineer of Walt Disney Productions, who, in 1939, needed a number of audio oscillators to test the audio performance of the sound systems of the theatres showing their new movie Fantasia , which had many new sound effects.

(L to R) Marc Mislanghe, Glenn Robb and Ken Kuhn, three aficionados of early HP,
on their 2007 visit to the Addison garage
Click photo to read the Milestone
During the seismic upgrade of the house, the garage was also upgraded, with a concrete floor.
Bachelor Bill lived in this Spartan shack in the backyard, while Dave and Lucile lived downstairs
in the rented house. Although this gentleman looks a little like Bill, in his later years,
it is Art Fong on a tour of Addison Ave.

In the late 1990s, I came across an interesting sidelight to Hewlett's thesis oscillator design. It was about HP's main competitor of the time, General Radio Corp, which had been in business for several decades before HP. It was well known that GR offered the "Cadillacs" of the audio oscillators of the time. They were called beat-frequency-oscillators (BFOs), and were considerably more expensive than the HP 200A ($695 vs. $70). In the product section for the HP 200CD, later in this narrative, I have included some verbatim quotes of the failure of GR to capitalize on their RC technology, and the subsequent takeover of the market by HP.

In the 2006 revision, I decided to attach an appendix of a chapter from one of three Oral Histories of Fred Terman, who was Dave and Bill's professor/mentor at Stanford. I stumbled upon it in some research at Stanford's library, and was stunned at just how significant Terman was to Dave and Bill's success, during those just-terrible years of the depression 1930s. Interestingly,Terman also credits the founder of General Radio, Melville Eastham, for early business advice to Dave and Bill.

By 1940, the technology of radio had been booming for some decades, from the 1920's and 1930's. The technology of "electronics" itself was blossoming. In fact, only 10 years before, in 1930, Publisher McGraw-Hill had coined the term "electronics," and created a new magazine with that name. I still have a 35th-year commemorative issue of Electronics, published 1965, which reprinted most of the April, 1930 inaugural issue. The advertiser listing from their 1930 rollout issue was fascinating, all sorts of component manufacturers of vacuum tubes, resistors, "condensers," even "pure nickel" suppliers, which of course was used for fabricating the internals of vacuum tubes. Only two instrument suppliers were shown, General Radio and Weston tube testers.

Hewlett and Packard embarked on their great venture right
as electronics was breaking out from the depression
Click photo for a larger display

Dave and Bill soon moved from Addison to the "Tinkerbell" buildings, located at the corner of El Camino and Page Mill Rd, opposite today's Palo Alto Square. The front building was a repair shop owned by a man named (ready for this?) Bell. In 2006, it was a cellular telephone store, and the HP #2 garage in back (481 Page Mill) was, ironically, first a TV/VCR repair shop and then a GPS products store. This picture, on the left below, shows the rear building as HP, circa 1942.

The original Polly & Jake garage

The Redwood Building at Page Mill and Ash St.

During the early WWII, HP expanded into both buildings. In about 1942, needing more space, they built the Redwood building one block east at 395 Page Mill on the corner of Ash. They continued to use the Tinker Bell buildings for fab operations until after the war. At that point, the Polly & Jake antique shop moved from downtown. One confusing point to all this was that the store front for Polly & Jake had a slogan which stated, "From 1929," leading me to assume that Polly & Jake had been in that building since 1929. Wrong. This new information was supplied by Cort van Rensselaer, who was a part-time technician there while at Stanford, before he joined the US Navy in WWII. Also, I talked with Ray Rooney and Norm Schrock who were both employed there in those years.

In the 1940's, Page Mill was a gravel road leading to a grade crossing at the Southern Pacific Railroad tracks, 2 blocks east, alongside Alma Street. To the westward, Page Mill Rd. snaked across the foothills and the coastal mountain range to the ocean. It had served as a logging road for redwood lumbering, in earlier decades at the turn of the 20th century.

The earliest years of the HP company focused mostly on simple sheet metal fabrication, and assembly with "radio" parts; capacitors, vacuum tubes, resistors, and other mechanical parts. The two most distinguishing trademarks of the first product, the HP 200A Audio Oscillator, were the tunable resistance-capacitance bridge network, and the 7.5-watt candelabra lamp. A ganged, variable-air (radio) capacitor tuned the 180 degree phase-shift bridge, which supplied the oscillator's positive feedback. A positive-coefficient lamp served as the novel negative feedback in the oscillator vacuum tube cathode circuit, to keep the output power stable.

In 2011, every building from the HP of the 1950s is gone, with the exception of the Addison house and garage. When Agilent was spun off in 1999, it took possession of the old corporate complex at Page Mill Rd and Park Street. This consisted of the Quonset and Redwood building, 7A, the two "concrete" buildings, 7B and 7C, the "sawtooth" office building, 8, and the fab/foundry building, 12. That entire city block was razed to build the new Agilent headquarters structure, which was later abandoned in 2005, when it was decided to combine Agilent corporate headquarters with its main operations at the Santa Clara complex.

The entire city block that was HP of the 1950s was
replaced by this new Agilent headquarters in 2002

There is some sweet irony in later events which saw taking over the old Agilent headquarters for its West Coast operations. The local newspaper recently noted that AOL with plenty of spare room in that 3 story building was providing free office space for 38 new Internet startups, many young people from Stanford who were launching their new ideas into cyber space. It all seems to come full circle, although surely more grand than a broken down garage in downtown Palo Alto in 1939.

In 2009, both of those early P&J buildings found the same fate as the entire block of HP Buildings. The big demolition JAWS came to that corner, and demolished both P&J buildings, so that they could be replaced with a 3-story office building, now housing the sales office for ATT Mobile.

Bye, Bye, Polly & Jake
Today Polly & Jake' s store and garage is a brand new ATT mobile store.

A Minck digression

In my relatively long life, I have observed that there are a certain number of unexplained coincidences in most person's lives. During the 1956-57 time of my MSEE/Adm degree work at Stanford University, I was spending a quiet afternoon, studying in a small conference room in the Electrical Engineering building (which, by the way, had been donated early on by Dave and Bill). It happened to have a large shelved cabinet, which held some hundreds of graduate theses. In browsing among them, I picked up a very thin one, maybe 20 pages, which turned out to be the Bill Hewlett thesis on the HP 200A.

As mentioned above, I had worked with a lot of HP equipment before my term at Stanford. In that conference room, I had no intent to ever go to work at HP. But I do remember being struck with the simple observation that one could seemingly get by with a pretty simple idea for meeting the Engineer Degree thesis requirement at Stanford. At Stanford, the Engineer Degree was a rank between their MS and PhD, and was Bill Hewlett's graduate program.

One reason I had chosen Stanford's combined MS engineering and business school curriculum (MSEE/ADM) instead of pure engineering, was that I didn't like the idea of working long and hard on an engineering thesis. But I wanted some technical instead of pure Graduate School of Business, since as I graduated from Notre Dame (ND) in 1952, we barely had any coursework on semiconductors, the transistor having just been invented in 1948. I felt that more recent semiconductor coursework would be valuable to my resume, although I have admitted on many occasions, that I hardly ever did any honest engineering work in my entire life.

The 35 hours in the GSB were invaluable; business law, economics, accounting, etc. Looking back, I think I made the right decision in getting the combination. I always loved the technical but found the business knowledge to be important. Plus the two Business Law courses by the legendary Harry Rathbun were perhaps my best courses of all time. And then there was the bombastic Economics Professor, Theodore Kreps, who was a member of Roosevelt's Washington brain trust during the big depression, who would rail at us "you Republican sons of big businessmen."

The second great coincidence of my life had nothing to do with HP, but I'll bore you with it anyway. It did influence my coming West from my home in Ohio, and my university years at Notre Dame, Indiana. In 1952, as we were ready to graduate, the Korean War was in full swing, so EE graduates were in great demand. I think I interviewed and had 20 job offers.

More Information

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I turned down a job offer to edit
the well-respected
GR Experimenter

Actually I was leaning toward a job with General Radio Company in Cambridge, Massachusetts (the same competitor mentioned above). The reason was that during my Junior and Senior year at ND, I was editor of the student engineering publication, the Notre Dame Technical Review, and found that I enjoyed technical writing and editing. This was true even though I had been abruptly thrown into the job as a Junior, a month after I joined the magazine, and just after I had submitted an article for publication. The editor had left school for family reasons, and the Dean called me in and appointed me.

General Radio offered me a job as an editor for the GR Experimenter, their industry publication, (their version of the HP Journal ). The work sounded pretty interesting, and I would get paid for writing. In my later life, I am surprised that I would have even considered Boston, because, in my HP travels, I came to dislike that provincial city a lot. It was those freeways that ended abruptly on city streets and its unfriendly "rotary" traffic circles, that purported to move traffic expeditiously in their busy urban streets, without using stoplights. They were much like the "roundabouts" in the UK.

I had also interviewed the Sandia Corporation on the campus, and was expecting a trip offer to Albuquerque, but none came. A classmate soon told me that he was taking his interview trip there, so I asked him to try to find out what happened to my resume and the trip offer I expected. On the day of his visit, Sandia's recruiting manager called me and said that they had misplaced my resume, but they had found it and were sending me an airline ticket immediately, and to please visit ASAP.

About a week later, on a typical Midwest February day, I was flying out of Midway Airport in Chicago, with a temperature of -10 degrees, and blowing snow flurries. We flew that old TWA Constellation into Albuquerque, and I stepped off the stairway into a sunny temperature of 90 degrees. I said to myself, "If they make me an offer, they've got me." They did, and I did and that decision took this naïve Ohio farm boy part way West.

Another turning point

In 1956, as I was leaving my USAF duty in Texas, I was trying to choose between acceptances from MIT, Stanford, Berkeley, and Cal Tech for graduate school. Again, inexplicably, I was strongly considering MIT and Boston. My next-door neighbor, an air force flight surgeon from San Pedro, CA, simply told me that if I went anywhere but Stanford, I would never forgive myself. And that advice is what brought Jane and me the rest of the way, to the Far West, and to the city where we would spend the rest of our lives. Life sometimes seems to hinge on such events, which seem trivial at the time, but end up influencing one's whole life. I have never regretted either decision, and further, I feel so privileged to have lived here in the Bay Area of California.

HP's WWII days

In l943, Bill Hewlett went into the Army Signal Corps for service at the Pentagon, on military countermeasures projects. Dave remained at Palo Alto, running the fledgling company and producing considerable quantities of war goods. In the process, they earned 2 U.S. War Production Office "Excellence" awards for efficiency in the industrial war effort. Of course, the HP 200A Oscillators, being inexpensive and highly reliable, served a critical war need, in applications ranging from tone generation for Morse-code training to signal testing applications in electronic design labs coast to coast.

A 1984 book, "The History of US Electronic Warfare in WWII," shows an early HP 200A oscillator mounted on an operator shelf in an airborne application. The program required the plane to fly over enemy territory and analyze the parameters of the threat radar signals. That airborne "countermeasures" equipment came from the legendary Radio Research Lab at Harvard, managed by the equally famous Dr. Frederick Terman. Terman is also credited with creating the concept of the modern (Stanford) industrial park, and in turn "Silicon Valley."

Some people might remember that the Radiation Laboratory at MIT was responsible for radar design and production during WWII. In recruiting for engineering talent, the "Rad Lab" tended to find East Coast personnel, whom they knew from personal contacts. When Roosevelt's Science Advisor, Dr. Vannevar Bush, was ready to set up a complementary lab for Electronic Countermeasures, he established it at Harvard University. He named it the Radio Research Laboratory, and chose Dr. Fred Terman, of Stanford University to head it up. Part of his reasoning was that Terman would have access to a whole different engineering talent pool from West Coast universities and industry. Bush had gotten to know Terman well when Fred was elected to the presidency of the IEEE in the late 1930's. (See the Terman Appendix at the end.)

One must remember that engineering talent for the war effort was concurrently being depleted by massive recruiting for the Manhattan Project. This program drew large groups of scientists for the atom bomb work at Los Alamos, NM, Oak Ridge, TN, and other sites around the country.

When Terman returned to Stanford after the close of WWII hostilities, it was his idea that great advantages would flow from a close technical relationship between Stanford's academic pursuits and the practical experience of modern industrial practices. It was Terman who conceived the idea of convincing Stanford University to lease some of its rural land, which became the world-famous Stanford Industrial Park. Terman also served for many years on the HP Board of Directors.

Varian, Lockheed and Kodak were early tenants of the Park, and HP moved up to the "hill" complex at 1501 Page Mill Rd., in about 1957. I remember that, because when I showed up on Jan 2, 1958, for my first day on the job at Bldg. 9, the office building at Page Mill and Birch, I was told that they had used the new empty buildings 1 & 2 on the hill for their Christmas party, a week before.

Dick Rucker observed: "I think I was there! As I recall it, the lab area had no furniture in it yet and the floor was still bare concrete. For the party, there were folding tables and chairs set up, lots of bubbly and cake, and music for dancing in that large unobstructed room. A long table or two for serving the champagne and such were set up on the east end of the room. It was from there that Dave handed out the year-end bonus checks. I remember being pleasantly surprised at receiving such a generous bonus since I had only been there just a few months."

At that time, Page Mill Rd was a grade crossing over the Southern Pacific railroad tracks that ran along Alma Street. The convenient Page Mill/Oregon Street underpass came many years later.

Another personal coincidence was the row of apartments running along Alma. When Jane and I came to Palo Alto for Stanford in 1956, we left an inexpensive military housing situation in Texas. We had not the slightest concept of the dire housing availability here in the Palo Alto area. Day after day, we waited for the Palo Alto Times to publish, looking up apartment rental ads, and rushing out to those places, but it wasn't working. Jane was 7 months pregnant, and it was seemingly hopeless. Then, Jane insisted that we just drive to the Alma Street apartment district and hit the bricks, walking from apartment to apartment, asking for an opening. Sure enough, in less than an hour, we learned that a neighbor was leaving, and we were able to commit to a place to live. Another life lesson there, listen to your wife.

Our apartment was there on Alma Street, right at the Page Mill intersection. I remember it well, because there was also a concrete-mixing plant at the intersection. At midnight, the Southern Pacific railroad would deliver rail cars full of sand and gravel and cement to the plant. As the switch engine shuttled the cars around, the Page Mill street crossing gates would come down for about 30 minutes, with the crossing bells loudly sounding. With a brand new baby, that didn't help her sleep, or ours.

So that first Palo Alto apartment was one block from the company where I would spend a lot of my life, but I didn't know it yet. I used to joke that the switch engine had one square wheel, since it seemed like there was a lot of track and wheel noise, in addition to the clanging warning gate. For the following academic half-year, we were able to rent a really cheap ($55 per month) apartment at Stanford Village. It was a married student housing arrangement using converted barracks from the old WWII Dibble Army Hospital in Menlo Park. Jane used to tell me that when she would go over to the adjacent laundry room, she could call out to our neighbor through the "cardboard" walls that she would be back in 5 minutes.

HP, Circa 1940

HP historical archive photos show a fabrication floor at the Tinkerbell building, at Page Mill Rd. and El Camino, consisting of Sears-Roebuck drill presses and standard hand-operated hole punchers and metal "brakes" for bending the sheet metal chassis. Cabinets for the HP 200A were purchased ready-made from the Bud Company, which was well-known as a radio-experimenter parts supply company. Many of these early company details are described in Dave Packard's book, "The HP Way, How Bill Hewlett and I Built our Company."

The front panels of the oscillators, of course, had to be custom fabricated, since the oscillator knobs of frequency range and power needed special custom calibrations and engraving. Early front panels were painted with black "wrinkle" type paint, common to the period, but the paint required a baking cycle. And that is where Lucile Packard's kitchen oven came in, to serve as the paint-baking oven. Dave reminisced during the 50th-year interviews, that the first batch of food coming out of the oven after a run of baking paint had a distinctive taste of paint to it.

In addition to the renowned HP 200A oscillator, HP expanded its product line in the 1940's to include the HP 400A AC voltmeter, designed by Dave Packard, himself. Most people don't attribute product design to Dave, but since he was running the fledgling company during the war, he did contribute to new products. The HP 300A audio wave analyzer, described later in the product section, was launched in 1941. There was also a beginning of HP dominance in the quartz-crystal-stabilized frequency standards, with the HP 100A of 1942. In those days, an unknown signal to be measured, was compared against the standard frequency, using an oscilloscope and a "Lissajous" pattern.

HP & Microwave

HP's first entry into the RF measurement sector was introduced in 1943. The Model A signal generator had a 500 to 1350 Mcps range. The parameter "cycles per second" (cps) was used before the Hertz designation, which came years later, at the instigation of the National Bureau of Standards and the IEEE. The Model A was a U.S. Navy model, designed elsewhere, using lighthouse vacuum tubes, which HP put into signal generator production. HP's fabrication skills were used early, to improve on the Navy design, with such techniques as machine lapping and honing surfaces mechanically. These careful mechanical processes improved electrical noise performance, and carried over to later years, when those HP product qualities were praised and desired. A commercial version of that wartime product, the HP 610A UHF signal generator, was introduced in 1948.

In the late 1940's, Varian Associates had been founded in the industrial park, by Stanford graduates, Russell and Sigurd Varian, who had invented the WWII klystron tube. They offered HP a small line of waveguide test equipment, and HP purchased it to provide a quick expansion to their microwave line. Varian reasoned that they didn't wish to detract from their mainline klysron power tube business, which was booming with military and aerospace business from the Korean War. The product line consisted of some waveguide slotted lines and other components such as directional couplers, and the like.

During the same period, the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory began to contract with HP to design more advanced klystron signal generators. Out of that research, came the HP 616A Signal Generator (1.8 -- 4.2 GHz), circa 1947, followed by many other generators covering frequencies up to 21 GHz. No doubt another reason for HP's development work in the signal generator sector was Hewlett's hiring of Bruce Wholey and Art Fong from those WWII labs in Boston. Both had specific technical experience in those microwave instrumentation technologies.

The company grew and prospered and needed to build more and more production space. Most of that era is well documented, although it should be noted, that Dave and Bill always showed prudence and caution before investing big capital on buildings. They had concern that the post-WWII era might bring recession, as had happened after many previous wars. When the Page Mill buildings known as 7B and 7C were designed, Dave insisted that they feature large free-space bays, with few support posts in the interior, since he reasoned that they could always be leased for a supermarket, if HP's business revenue crashed.

The Sales Representatives

In a real sense, HP could never have been successful without the early association of a world-wide group of independent sales organizations known as Sales Representatives or "Reps." These sales professionals were highly specialized in the electronics technology, and were most useful to young and growing manufacturers, who needed sales outlets in the US and around the globe. They were established and going concerns, with close relations to the precise customers that HP needed to reach.

What the reps offered, was knowledge of the local markets and a fully-operating organization with offices, sales people, service facilities, and full support of accounting, etc. Their repair and calibration centers were also highly valued. They did this for a sales commission of 15%, less in certain areas where the higher concentration of customers made operating costs lower, going down to 12%.

These independent businessmen represented many different manufacturers or "principals." They took special care that their various product lines didn't compete with each other. In fact, they were mostly complementary, supplying compatible extensions of test and measurement product lines. For example in the early days, Neely Enterprises, who did business in the Pacific Coast states, handled both HP instruments and Tektronix scopes, with no conflict, since HP's scope line didn't emerge until about 1960. Neely also handled BLH (Baldwin-Lima-Hamilton) strain gages, Sanborn strip-chart recorders, Boonton Radio VHF test instruments, Varian Klystron tubes and instruments, and others. HP later bought out several of those complementary companies and their product lines.

The story goes that from a tiny 1939 ad in the IRE Proceedings magazine, H and P got the first mail inquiry from the chief engineer of Walt Disney Enterprises. Dave Packard boxed up an HP 200A and took a train to LA. He found out that Norm Neely of Neely Enterprises had been handling a line of radio tubes and components for some years. He walked into the Neely office in West LA, with the HP 200A box under his arm, and wondered if anyone there knew how to sell instruments? Needless to say, no salesperson could turn down that challenge, so someone took him out to Disney, and the rest is history.

In the 1950's, the Northeastern U.S. was represented by a single organization called Burlingame Associates, managed by Col. Burlingame. When the old Colonel died, there was some legacy difficulties with the Burlingame family estate, and his business staff regarding their management succession and ownership. HP chose not to wait for it to settle out. It set up new business relationships with many of the previous city managers from the old Burlingame organization. Thus, Tiny Yewell set up Yewell Associates for Boston and Northward. Robert Asen, Milt Lichtenstein, and Charlie Sargent got together around New York City, and formed RMC Associates. Ivan Robinson and Company covered the area around Philadelphia. Fred Horman took the Washington area, and Rube Ryerson covered upper-New York state.

Meantime, John Bivens and Dave Caldwell, headquartered in High Point, NC, covered the Southeast, except for Art Lynch, who represented Florida. Earl Lipscomb, a feisty little Texan, ran his Texas company with spirited enthusiasm, while Sy Sterling catered to the highly industrial-type market in the Detroit area. Sy featured special instrumentation system engineering, well before it became stylish to provide complete measurement solutions.

Al Crossley covered the greater Chicago region, while Harris-Hanson had their headquarters in St. Louis. As mentioned before, Norm Neely Enterprises covered a vast territory for that time, all the way from New Mexico to Northern California. Denver had Pete Lahana, while the greater Northwest U.S. territories had a rep called Arva Company, owned by Ron Merritt.

International trade was handled in those early stages by foreign trade brokers who managed the much more complex business of international shipments. This involved financial letters of credit, government customs documentation, and much more. There was little attention to selling, just order taking through the mail and telegrams. Gradually, in the foreign countries that had large sales potential, international sales representatives were brought on board. Many of these companies were similar in organization to the U.S. sales rep companies, except for the more tenuous communications processes.

Unique individuals and companies

Each of the Independent Rep companies had their unique personalities. The Neely organization was highly organized, almost like a military operation. His field engineers all seemed to be stamped out from the same mold; crew cuts, clean cut, aggressive, etc. Their central organization, headquartered in North Hollywood, was located on land that was one of the original Spanish land grants, and the site of the peace treaty of the Mexican-American War, Campo de Cahuenga.

Neely built most of his district offices, around California, Arizona and New Mexico, in the Spanish mission style, with tile roofs, graceful outdoor corridors, etc. And almost all of them had a stylish bar room, usually called the Cahuenga Room, which might open for special occasions during the day, but would be opened at the end of every work day. Visitors were always pleased to take a period of relaxation in the bar. Neely's North Hollywood headquarters was just down Lankershim Blvd. from Universal Movie Studios, and we always accused Neely's personnel manager of recruiting all the reject starlets from the movie casting room at Universal. Neely's personnel were very photogenic and usually single. Such hiring policies could never be tolerated today's corporate environment.

The Bivins and Caldwell Southern region, on the other hand, was all Southern charm, but financially, it was run on the cheap. Visitors were treated graciously, yet the business mode was relaxed. When I was Microwave Division Marketing Manager, I recall losing a rather large big-deal contract with one of B&C's customers, and I felt that it was due to the relaxed way the FE pursued the customer. When I called John Bivins to complain, he merely said, "Don't worry, John, we'll get the next one," a typical laid-back attitude, I thought.

The hundreds of field engineers, across the country, were a diversity of personalities, from non-stop selling machines to good-old-boys. The style of their selling process was distinctly personal. For example, during one of the busiest aerospace periods, the AC Spark Plug Division of GM in Milwaukee landed a very large radar contract. Our Crossley field engineer, Fred Nearing, was so busy with all of his customer's specifying and purchasing activity, that he simply couldn't make appointments fast enough.

On one of my customer trips with him, we walked into the reception room, and he picked up the plant telephone, and had himself paged. That was the signal to customers all over the plant, that he was in the lobby, and available for consultation. It seemed insensitive to me, but customers that day told me how valuable Fred had been to their project, so obviously his sales method for that ultra-busy time period, was working just fine.

On a sales call to downtown Manhattan, in the early 1960's, Stu Yellen and I called on Western Union, which was housed in a skyscraper on a narrow street, just a few blocks from the New York Stock Exchange. We drove up, and Stu triple-parked, while we went inside and up to the 24th floor. I was flabbergasted, since we stayed for almost two hours, selling, and although I worried, and kept asking about a parking ticket, he never mentioned the car. We had no ticket when we got to the street. You've just got to know the territory.

On another sales call with Stu, he needed to drop by the Consumers Union Test Lab (publisher of the popular Consumer Reports ) north of New York City, to pick up a loaner oscilloscope. Stu had offered the loaner to a test engineer, to try to convince him that HP's scope had better features, although Tektronix dominated the scope market across the board. Sure enough, the first thing the engineer told Stu, was that he had decided to buy Tek. I'll never forget Stu's answer, "But, if you buy the Tek scope, I won't get any commission." And, with that, the customer changed his mind. It was that personal service that Stu had given that customer over a long period of time, which sold the product. It was another lesson for me, a fledgling, factory marketing neophyte on the road, that I never forgot. It was that personal touch and the service, that our sales representatives brought to the customer.

A lot of those personal relationships that our Field Sales Engineers developed with their customers were never revealed. Yet we knew that they worked hard on them, and occasionally the more-interesting stories would come out during some of our customer visits to the field.

When I was Microwave Marketing Manager, I accompanied our local Rep, Earl Davis, for a visit at the U.S. Air Force Procurement Center, Kelly AFB, San Antonio, Texas. These huge military commodity centers were responsible for central procurement management for the hundreds of thousands of commodities items. The military services used the central management process to take advantage of quantity discounts, and to manage procurement of military-specification equipment. Our customer that day was a so-called Item Manager, who in this case was responsible for annual procurements of test equipment and certain nuclear weapons components. Although I was responsible only for microwave instrumentation at HP, Earl was checking up on a particularly-large contract for oscilloscopes.

Frank, the item manager, told Earl that it looked like the responsible procurement engineers were not going to award the scope contract to HP. Earl, who had been working closely with the USAF Test Engineers, noted that they had told him HP had been on the inside track, technically, and met all the performance requirements. But, Frank said it was going to go to a Tektronix competitor, not Tek, but a low-priced supplier, well known to all of us as a truly inferior contractor.

It was interesting to watch Earl, who I could tell, was not pleased, but protested hardly at all. But I stepped in, and was a bit incensed, showing my reaction as a good U.S. citizen, who didn't understand why they weren't buying the better HP product. Frank reached over and pulled out the top writing surface of his desk, which had a spread-sheet taped to the surface. He pointed out to me that of the $65 million of test equipment that he bought every year, that during the past year, he had purchased over 70% of his budget from HP. He felt that he had surely done his part in buying as much high-performance equipment as he could justify, and a lot more. I had to agree.

When we left and were driving back to the office, Earl told me he was pleased that I didn't carry the argument any further, as an HP employee. We obviously were already getting far more than our share, and if we had made any complaint on the scope deal, it might have upset the relationship for all his other deals. For most of the high precision test & measurement equipment the USAF bought, they did follow a legal (and very tedious) specification generation procedure, which outlined the precision requirements they had in their test departments and in the field maintenance shops.

I gained an entirely new respect for Earl and many of the other front line sales people, having seen in so many cases, how they worked with their customers to help achieve a win-win for both of us, customer/user and HP. And, I gained a similar respect for the military civilians who were tasked with the responsibility of procuring massive amounts of equipment, buying the best they could. Yet they were bound to use formal and tedious bidding processes, intended to yield the lowest price for the taxpayers. In spite of that, they still usually ended up with a predominance of excellent and high performance gear for our forces.

The Annual IRE (later IEEE) Show in New York City

In this picture of the 1965 annual IEEE show in New York City, the convention took over the entire NY Colesium,
with 60,000 visitors and 900 exhibitors. Photo from MEASURE Magazine April 1965,
Courtesy of the Hewlett Packard Company

In the l950's, electronic products had not yet proliferated into so many different market and technology specialties. There were two main trade shows for the industry, the IRE (Institute for Radio Engineers) show, held every spring in New York City, and the WESCON show held in the fall, on the West Coast, alternating between Los Angeles and San Francisco. For some period, the IRE show was held in the Grand Central Pavilion, which was next to the fabled Grand Central Station, over on Park Avenue. Exhibits were quite informal, often consisting of draped tables and simple backdrop signs to merchandise the products.

In 1962, the IRE combined itself with the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (IEE) to become the IEEE, the Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers. Their annual convention moved to the newly-constructed New York Coliseum, a very large convention center at the corner of Broadway and Central Park South at the southwest corner of Central Park. This annual gathering of the electronic clan brought out everyone who was anyone in electronics. It was a week full of technical papers and a huge trade show.

The IEEE Show used up 4 floors of the convention center, necessary to fit in all the exhibit booths, and multiple lanes of technical sessions. As the visitor came through the front doors of the Coliseum, and registered, there were 4 high-speed escalators that moved the crowd to the third floor. There, right at the top of the escalators, because of the size of the booth, and our years-long priority positioning, was the HP booth, 100 feet long, with exhibits on each side of the aisle. HP was the first company to request that the floor carpet be run across the aisle, which thereby created a single "booth." It was always a totally impressive and awesome display.

Show setup processes were well established over years of operation. The HP show managers, Don Teer and Frank Court, planned for a year in advance. They worked with all divisions and got the displays designed, with the appropriate signage, electric power, and all the equipment. They contracted with the moving van company to use a padded moving van for the move across country. By driving continuously, driver Tiny and his helper could make the trip in less than 4 days, stopping for more equipment pickup at HP, Loveland, Colorado. But, naturally, with the Spring weather in the Rockies and Midwest, it could occasionally cause some nasty surprises on the travel conditions, and some years, there were some real cliff hangers in getting everything to NYC.

At the Coliseum, trucks would be lined up around the block, all jockeying to be unloaded. By previous negotiation with the dockmaster, Tiny would drive his truck cab by itself onto an enormous elevator and take it to the third floor. Then using another cab, they would back his long moving van trailer, by itself, unto the elevator, and take it to the third floor. There, Tiny would hook up and drive the HP equipment over the third floor to our booth location. Afterwards, they would reverse the process and bring the empty truck back downstairs. None of us ever had the guts to ask Tiny how creative it was to negotiate that preference with the dockmaster (or how large the bribe was).

The Bombay Bicycle Club

Dozens of HP people and Reps were flying in from all over the country to attend the show. Our headquarters hotel was the Essex House (now a Marriott), an older hotel on the very southwest corner of Central Park overlooking the Park. The higher-level management people, and almost all the Reps personnel, stayed at the Essex House, while the plebian engineers, like ourselves, were assigned to the Barbizon Plaza Hotel, just down the block.

As people began arriving, all during Saturday, as the flights came in, most people would check in and begin to congregate in the Bombay Bicycle Club, a bar at the front of the Essex House, overlooking Central Park. Senior HP people would begin running an HP tab at the bar. Two and three tables would fill up with old friends, from various divisions and field offices.

People would come and go as the bar tab was rising ominously. By the time many people had met friends and gone out to dinner, and came back and re-met other friends, the bill could be hundreds, maybe a thousand+, dollars. Of course, this was merely the signal for the senior HP sales people to arrange to all leave at the same time, usually leaving one or two junior travelers to pick up that enormous check. It took a year or two to learn.

Sunday was set-up day. Don Teer or Frank Court would have worked half the night getting the booth itself set up with the lighting and rugs and signs and power. Then division personnel came in, to set up the equipment and cable it together, and to find out for the first time in NYC, whether the demos were going to turn on properly. To those of you young engineers who have never known anything but semi-conductors, let me assure you that those days of vacuum tubes could be very trying times.

It was a standing practice to have the service and repair personnel available, over at the RMC Associates office on East 72nd Street, for special trouble-shooting duty during the duration of the show. Engineers with service problems would hail a cab to do some troubleshooting. Since most of the troubled instruments were brand new, most had no manual written yet, and so the best effort often involved long phone calls to the factory, or to some project engineer's home in California on Sunday. But, surprisingly, most of the displays were purring away merrily, on the big opening event, on Monday morning.

The Annual Sales Kickoff Event

The IEEE Show became our big annual new product faire. We used that time in the Spring to focus the factory's year-long R&D efforts, to be finished in time for that event. Therefore, since HP domestic sales were handled with 13 private Sales Representative companies, it was logical to make the IEEE event into the big annual sales meeting. HP would retain the giant Essex House Grand Ballroom and all the Reps brought along as many of their sales people as they could afford.

Probably the largest sales meeting was about 1966, when almost 400 HP divisions and field sales office people gathered for the meeting. Dave Packard would keynote the dinner with motivational speeches by Sales V.P. Noel Eldred and HP Labs V.P. Barney Oliver, and many others. After that year's huge expenditure, Packard observed that there probably were more cost-effective ways to get the word out, rather than doing it with a whole HP army, spending like sailors in always-expensive New York City.

It may have been that meeting, about 1965, when the Microwave Division wanted to recognize Lyle Jevons, for his peripatetic field travel, introducing the HP 8551A spectrum analyzer (see the Product Section). Its huge sales success was due in a large part to Lyle's ability to find new applications, and tens of millions of revenue resulted. John Young and I approached Dave Packard, who agreed to make the presentation, but come the end of dinner, Jevons was nowhere in the audience. I found that Lyle was in his room asleep, wanting no part of such notoriety, so I prevailed on John Young to get upstairs to rouse Lyle, get him dressed and to have Packard pay him his due.

Dave Packard had a real common touch, which recognized the plague of bureaucracy. During one of the factory campaigns to cut operating costs, one of the finance managers in headquarters (Frank Cavier) set up a new policy of cutting back cash advances made for travel. Sales and marketing people protested for months, in that, especially for big cities, where expenses were truly high, that there should be some flexibility to the policy. The word got back to Packard.

In conjunction with one IEEE trade show, and after HP corporation stock went public in 1957, HP would often set up a meeting with New York's Investment Analysts. Finance V.P. Frank Cavier would typically accompany Packard and others to New York to assist in the financial presentations. One night, Packard hosted a medium-sized dinner meeting with the Rep managers, and invited Frank along. When the bill, for several thousands of dollars, was presented, Packard made sure that Frank got to pay it. As usual, Frank hadn't brought nearly enough money to cover such an expense, and we never found out how he paid the tab. But soon after his return, our marketing travel advances were much more flexible.

Being independent companies, the 13 U.S. Sales Representatives were as different as any group of hard-driving individuals. Their personalities were wonderfully inventive and personable. And, their personal relationships with Packard and Hewlett and Eldred went back to the earliest years of the company. We understood that most of their business contracts were done with a handshake.

Tiny Yewell was one of the most boisterous of the Rep. owners. He had an initiation rite for his new field sales engineers, that they would spring on those new people every year, at the IEEE show. All his managers and senior personnel would gather in Tiny's hotel suite on an upper floor of the Essex House. Previous to the trip, the fledgling engineer would have been told that he would get a call at a particular time, to come up to Tiny's suite, for a drink and informal talk.

One could only imagine the worry that a new engineer might have, with such a call. With the whole senior field group sitting around the room, and the new man knocking at the door, Tiny would tell him to come in, the door was unlocked. Imagine his surprise, and the delight of the audience, when he opened the door to find a naked woman greeting him, face on. Once HP bought out the Rep Organizations such antics were quickly eliminated, since they had no place in a professional company, maybe not even in those independent organizations.

The Sales Representatives' Road Shows

Various reps outfitted large buses with exhibit benchs and portable power for demonstrations on site at customer companies.
Photo from MEASURE Magazine September 1963,
Courtesy of the Hewlett Packard Company

Understanding the personal relationships that developed between field sales engineers, working for the independent representatives and customers, will help position the social aspects of the field road show. I first came into knowledge of the Rep's road shows, way back in 1952, as a student senior at Notre Dame, about 90 miles east of Chicago. The Crossley organization, out of Chicago, would load a roomful of equipment demonstrations into a caravan of station wagons, and drive all over their Midwest territory, making one-day stands in hotels and school conference facilities.

The strategy was to produce a presentation of new products and applications, for a once-a-year swing through the Rep's territory. This, in turn, would bring together all the Rep's field engineers and a generous visitation of factory marketing engineers, plus some appropriate R&D engineers, who were made available to promote their proud new product offerings.

The caravan event itself, was often quite a long week or two, with considerable drinking and card playing at night. Daytime decorum was absolute, and business practices were followed religiously. There were strict regulations, enforced usually by the second in command, from the Rep office. If you wished to carouse the night after a show, and get to bed drunk at 3 am, you needed to be sure you were up and ready for travel by about 8 am. Whether or not you had breakfast was not important, you just needed to be sure you met the departure time of the caravan.

I inferred that many of such people either skipped or drank their breakfasts (you don't think I would admit being in such company?), and didn't see any hard food until later in the morning. Remember that these operations happened during the independent Rep days, where a large corporation like HP was not responsible for personal activities. It could never happen, once all the Rep organizations had been acquired by HP, because of the obvious deep pocket responsibilities and social concerns of a major corporation.

This circa 1952 scene looks like a circus moving. It was a Neely roadshow, with Bob Brunner (mentioned below) at the bottom
of the large transit case. Even management persons, Bob Boniface, a Neely VP stands on the tailgate, and assists the move.
Photo from MEASURE Magazine September 1968,
Courtesy of the Hewlett Packard Company

Bob Brunner demos

Bob Brunner started as a lab engineer in HP, and was responsible for the design of the highly-innovative HP 202A ultra-low frequency function generator. It cleverly depended on generating a square wave that was as low as 0.08 Hz. He then integrated the square wave, to form a triangular wave, and then diode-shaped that into a sine wave, all waveforms of which, were individually-selectable for output. Bob then moved into Neely's sales organization, where he started as a junior engineer. These were the years before Neely was bought out by HP.

One of the jobs assigned to Neely's junior engineers was to organize their annual Road Show. In the early years, this amounted to maybe 10 or 20 station wagons laden with instruments and sales people, making their way across the desert. In later years, it was a large cargo van, accompanied by the cars full of people. Neely Road Shows were legendary events, and while I won't say there was much after-hours drinking, I can remember that there were reports that many participants drank their breakfasts of silver fizzes and Bloody Mary's. Not me. You can believe that or not.

The "breathing zero" demo

Bob was probably the most creative designer of the Roadshow, ever. His specialty was in finding particularly interesting demonstrations of our equipment. For the engineers reading this, you will appreciate several examples. The first was the so-called 100 breathing "O's." In the late 1950's, HP electronic counters had just been designed to be able to print out their numeric display count. In today's age of a multitude of data buses, it sounds crazy, but the first electronic counters could not communicate their number displays with the outside world.

That newest counter technology arranged for each digit, represented by a "decade" counter module, to create a staircase waveform, stepping up one 10-volt step, 0 to 100v, with each increase in its number count. So, when the numbers were continually increasing, the output was a staircase voltage, which told the printer which number to print.

Bob arranged one decade staircase voltage to drive the horizontal input of an oscilloscope, and the adjacent decade, which was going 10 times slower, to drive the vertical input. These two staircases thus created a 10 x 10 matrix of 100 dots on the scope. Bob then added in a small Lissajous circle at each dot intersection, and used an audio oscillator to slowly open and close the circle. This made a display of 100 "breathing" zeros, in and out. Such a dynamic display, of course, caught the eye, from all the way across the room. Which then allowed us to talk to customers about HP's magnificent "printing counter."

In the interest of full disclosure, Bob's demo was not really called the 100 breathing O's, even though that is what it looked like. The O's term that was really used, was one that describes a human body part, which I will not write down, but it starts with an A and has 7 letters.

The anvil demo

During those years, in addition to representing HP, Neely also represented Varian Associates. One of Varian's high-tech products was a tiny Klystron tube, which was used as a local oscillator tube in ground-to-air missiles. As such, it had to perform with great frequency stability, even in the severe mechanical environments of shock and vibration, especially at launch time. Bob's display consisted of a regular shop anvil, arranged with the Varian Klystron on the end of a flexible rubber waveguide, which could be smacked against the anvil. So, in the large display hall, every so often, one would hear CLANG, CLANG, CLANG. It absolutely would rivet your attention when the CLANG started.

The genius of Bob's demo was that HP had a new frequency stability measurement instrument, called a transfer oscillator. He arranged the demo to monitor and display the frequency stability of the Klystron (its most important parameter), through the flexible waveguide, during the time it was clanging against the anvil. This showed the Varian Klystron's remarkable mechanical performance, and in turn, sold the technology of our new HP frequency-measuring instrument.

RF/Microwave Symposium

This complimentary lunch at the London Symposium
helped keep engineer customers most of the day.

A later version of the earlier Rep Road Shows was a specialized customer event, conceived by Santa Rosa's, Dean Abramson, and others, in the late 1970's. It was called the RF and Microwave Symposium, and ran in the period from 1978 to 1990. It was so successful in its results, that it became a very long-running event for that normally-mundane product sector. Dean's concept was to take a medium-sized conference roomful of equipment demos and a day-full of technical papers to each major U.S. city once every two years. Typically, the papers would be presented by lab engineers with new products or new technical applications. Since up to 6 different product divisions were involved, there were typically 15 to 20 measurement demo tables in the exhibit room.

It was a wonderful opportunity for our normally-sequestered R&D lab people to meet actual customers, and to interact with our field engineers (FEs). It permitted management to reward those engineers for their project work, with some travel and some earned prestige in the eyes of their customer's engineers. It elevated the technical knowledge of the FEs, and raised their standing in the eyes of their customers, because they could personally escort their key customers around the room to see 15 or more tables full of the newest applications and products.

Organizing these gatherings of hundreds of customers and dozens of field and factory engineers was anything but trivial. But, once we got through most of the regions involved, the follow-on events usually went smoothly, but not guaranteed. Electric power was often critical. While we would ask the field manager, who was responsible, to assure that we had an honest 120 amp of power, it was never certain. For example, at one stop, a local electrician was brought in by the hotel to modify their power circuits. Unfortunately, his solution was to bring the entire 120 amps through a single power cable from the basement, for a total run of maybe 200 feet. Needless to say, by the time all the tables were hooked up, the resulting voltage on the floor was less than 100 volts, which caused many instruments to randomly fail to run properly. We could see the problem happen in front of our eyes, as more and more tables were turned on, and more power drawn.

Another incident I recall, was the Molly Pitcher Inn, in Redbank, NJ, adjacent to Bell Telephone, Holmdel, and the U.S. Army's Fort Monmouth. This old, colonial hotel was about 150 years old, with Revolutionary War connotations. I think the legend was that Molly Pitcher took up arms when her husband was killed by the British. We again had asked for 120 amp supplies, and were setting up late on a Sunday night. The problem was that their electrician probably had a second job as a blacksmith, because the circuit breakers began to pop as we turned on table after table.

The hotel manager at midnight was of no help, and the show was scheduled for 8:00 am. So, several of us found the main power circuit boxes in the basement, and began to rewire, using lighting circuits and other services like the laundry room, etc. We got the power we needed, but I am sure that we illegally violated at least several municipal electricity codes in the process. Next day, when the management found out, there was much unhappiness, until they got a real electrician to bless what we had done. But the show always went on.

There seemed to be a lot of problems with the heat and cold. Our equipment pushed out so much heat, air conditioning was always a matter of concern. And we didn't want to chase these good customers out because of the heat in the rooms. In the Midwest, many hotels' conference facilities were inexplicably constructed with EITHER heating or air conditioning, but not both. So if the weather was just turning in the springtime, you had a good chance of only having the heat mode going, when you needed quite a lot of air conditioning. One day I even ended up frantically calling the hotel's corporate headquarters of ITT, which owned the hotel, just to try to get the attention of the hotel manager, who didn't seem to care much about the stifling heat, since he said that give it a week, and he would need the heat again, when the weather changed back cold. Now there was real customer insensitivity.

We tried to keep the symposia technically meaningful, but informal. At one leadoff technical session, I decided to tell a technical joke to the audience, before I introduced the first speaker. It seems there was a Polish airliner, coming in to land at Warsaw, Poland. As they approached the city, the pilot came on the speaker, and noted that downtown Warsaw was visible on the right side of the cabin. So people got up to move over and look at the view, whereupon the airliner began to oscillate back and forth, turned over, and crashed.

The Polish version of our U.S. Civil Aeronautics Board, went out to investigate the crash, and after some months of study and diagnosis, determined that the cause of the crash was due to ". . . instability, caused by too many Poles in the right half of the plane." For the benefit of the non-technical reader, all engineers learn, in their theory of feedback loops, to construct a graphical plot of the mathematical stability data for the electronic amplifier. The plot contains what are called "poles" and "zeros." If there are more POLES than zeros (in the right half of the graph paper), the control loop is unstable. In this case, most of the audience groaned, and didn't clap, but as I introduced the speaker and walked to the rear, a Slavic-accent gentleman spoke to me as I went by, "That joke was in very poor taste, and Mr. Hewlett is going to hear about it."

Well, luckily, my boss, Division Manager Rod Carlson, happened to be in the audience that morning. I later mentioned the complaint to him, and we agreed that since the joke was quite a subtle technical thing, that it was likely that the man didn't have any feedback theory in his background. We assumed that he just mistook it as another dumb Polish culture joke. And as it turned out, Hewlett never did hear about it, apparently, or at least he never mentioned it to me.

Creative thinking on field demo transports

The HP International Sales people conceived of a flying demo lab which circumvented a LOT of customs paperwork
on entering a country. Photo from MEASURE Magazine February 1969,
Courtesy of the Hewlett Packard Company

Road shows in the U.S. or Canada and other large countries were pretty common. Station wagons or trucks could be used for transport. But what to do about small countries? My memory fades a little on this, but someone in the International Sales Division, under Bill Doolittle, came up with the idea of a flying demo airplane. HP purchased or leased a DC-6 freighter, and outfitted it with demo tables, rugged hold-down fixtures for demo instruments, auxiliary power & distribution and arrangements to accept a continuing stream of customers.

The demo airplane flew into South America and other regions of the world of small nations, to bring our HP technology to places that would never have seen such a wide ranging display of different products. By keeping the demo equipment aboard the plane, the usual customs problems were avoided at each location. It was a considerable success, and I recall that it ran for one or two years, after which HP turned back the airplane.

Another interesting demo vehicle was to set up some staterooms on a tramp steamer vessel. It seems that there are routine shipping routes that ply up and down the two coasts of South America, picking up and delivering freight. HP arranged to lease several staterooms for instrument demos, and bring on board local field engineers and customers when the ship was in port. Someone had observed that a high percentage of our HP technical customers in South America were in the larger cities which were mostly along the coasts. If the ship was in port for a day or two, that was all that was needed. I seem to recall that that method lasted for only one tour. Perhaps a second year.

The Annual Management Meeting at the Mark Thomas Inn, Monterey, CA

As the Corporation entered the 1960's, it moved from a small group of managers, to 4 full-fledged divisions, plus a number of newly-acquired companies like Sanborn, Moseley, Harrison Labs, Boonton Radio, and a growing group of corporate staffs. To coordinate this diverse group of people, an annual management review was held at the Mark Thomas Inn in Monterey, California. Previously, smaller groups had met in Sonoma, CA, or other out-of-the-way places, to retreat a bit from the busy office clatter.

Format for the Monterey meeting was to drive down late on a Wednesday afternoon, and meet on the patio for an informal reception, to get to know some of the new people who had joined the assembly, since the previous year. Field Sales Managers from the sales representative companies were invited, and they brought a boisterous flavor to the gathering. Dinner was followed by a viewing of a gallery of candid photographs, blown up to poster size, featuring disrespectful and sometimes politically-incorrect captions, that were hung on the walls all around the dining room.

The photographs and captions were the work of several individuals. Public Relations Manager, Dave Kirby, had a large archive of candid photos of managers. He would pick photos with interesting expressions, and solicit captions from Corporate Patent Attorney, John Chognard, Al Bagley, Carl Cottrell, Bob Grimm and others who were privy to know the foibles and fallacies of most of the upper-management photo subjects.

The photos were blown up to 2 x 3 foot size, and had large cartoon-like captions attached, putting statements in the star's mouth. A typical photograph might show R&D V.P. Barney Oliver, sitting in a product review meeting, but caught by the photographer's flash with his eyes half-closed. Then the caption might show him thinking, "A breakthrough worthy of Einstein," or some other irreverent words. Or, it might show Noel Porter, V.P. of Manufacturing, in a similar group review setting saying, "When does the bar open?"

There were typically about 40 of these photos posted around the room where the first night talks were given, and as we came in from the well-lubricated dinner, it took some time to get around the room, as there was wild laughter as the group looked over that year's creations.

The HP Archive actually has most of those ancient posters on file, and I examined them back in the 90's before the present corporate management took over. For this work, I requested permission to reproduce 2 or 3 of the funniest (but those fit for a family publication), but the request was denied apparently due to a management decision.

In 2011, I got an unexpected email from Nancy Grove, the daughter of Bob Brunner, who had Googled her Dad's name and discovered this HP Narrative. She related to me that she had gained a lot of HP culture from her Dad, and in particular mentioned the Monterey Management Conference. Surprisingly, she told me that in her Dad's papers she had found a booklet of poster reproductions from the 1964 meeting. FINALLY, I had found a source for a few of the example posters I can reproduce below. (About the same time I found that Al Bagley also had a different booklet for another year, and I thank him for loaning his treasure for these scans.)

Sample banquet posters

The sample posters shown here are typical of the subject content over the years, although there were certainly some with more controversial content. They show HP managers in various situations, with captions that find humor and enable everyone to laugh at ourselves. Click on the pictures below for a larger display, and to read the humorous captions.

poster1 poster2 poster3 poster4 poster5

In conference, we always heard from Dave or Bill to set the theme for that year's conference, whether it was to be product-strategy-focused or a look at production efficiency, or international sales. That could also be the time for Barney Oliver to dazzle us with a broad-based overview of what new technology was happening in HP Labs. Even at that time, the forward technology coming out of the labs represented the direction that HP would be taking for some time. And Barney had a way of bringing the business impact to a level we could appreciate.

Typically the organizers would also set up a skit, consisting of top managers, assigned to read a prepared script. One example I recall was to have Dave and Bill set up in side-by-side chairs, to resemble the seats in an airline. This was at a time when both men were traveling so much, that there were internal complaints that they were almost never at HP.

Dave and Bill read humorous pre-written scripts
Courtesy of the Hewlett Packard Company

In the forced script, the two men introduced themselves, as if they didn't know each other. Dave said that he was finally returning home to Palo Alto, after a month on the road, in the states & overseas, and that he was looking forward to returning to his small electronics company. Bill said that he too, was exhausted from a long tedious business excursion, and that he too owned a partnership with another young Stanford graduate. The script was much better written, but you get the idea.

Al Bagley recalls that Packard was one of the entertainment chairmen of the annual encampment of hundreds of industry and government leaders at the Bohemian Grove north of San Francisco. We speculate that some of that group's style of entertainment might have migrated to the HP conferences. The Bohemian group is not at all connected with HP but it is said that the Santa Rosa airport is clogged with dozens of private corporate jet airplanes during their event.

Which brings up a funny riddle of the time. What's the difference between God and Dave Packard? Answer: God is everywhere, and Packard is everywhere except at HP.

The next day would be a complete agenda of a variety of issues. We would always get a financial report from Finance V.P., Frank Cavier, in the earlier days, and later, from Ed Van Bronkhorst. These could get a bit dull, but were important since HP took such pride in growing only as fast as the internally-generated profit could be put into use. With a variety of financial cycles going on in the external world, the reports from the finance department were quite useful.

Vice-President Noel Eldred made the report for Marketing, and the outlook for the year and beyond. Noel was a marketing professional's professional. He often took the occasion to do a little preaching to the assembly. In those l960's, HP marketing was just beginning to get its sophistication going. Noel was a self-made, marketing professional, and just had an intuitive sense about serving customers' needs. He preached that HP needed to serve needs, and not just part customers from their money.

We could always expect a report from the International Operations V.P., Bill Doolittle. Most of us looked forward to this report, because each year Bill seemed to outdo himself, with how much information he could crowd onto each single overhead slide. (Austin Marx, the Corporate economist would provide the slide numbers.) International operations were growing unbelievably fast. From a sales value of about 5 million dollars out of 105 million (5%) in 1960, the international sales exploded to almost 20% of world revenues in 1970. These were enormously busy years for Doolittle and his staff, because sales responsibility of so many of the countries were being turned over to new HP-owned companies in those countries.

We always heard a comprehensive economic report from Austin Marx who was responsible for our corporate economic forecasting. It was Austin's job to pull together comprehensive data on economic forecasts, and sources of technology funding, as they applied to HP, aerospace, government R&D budgets, etc. He also was famous, perhaps notorious, for shoehorning a vast amount of data on each slide, using little marks and annotations appended to the normal bar charts, footnotes, side-notes, etc.

Hewlett-Packard and Me

In September 1956, after my Sandia atom bomb test work, and the USAF tour, Jane and I headed for Stanford and Palo Alto, where we would spend the rest of our lives.

The HP job interview

We had always intended to return to Albuquerque, NM, after graduation from Stanford. I am sure my previous job at Sandia would have been open. But I decided to visit HP in October, 1957, to see what might be available for engineering work for me. Since HP had no personnel department in those years, and I had not made an appointment, Anne Laudel, the front office receptionist, went back to see if someone in engineering had time to talk with me. Imagine my surprise, when she ushered me into Barney Oliver's office. I would have been far more intimidated, if I had known at that time, that Barney was a 180 IQ genius, and was well known for demolishing most of his technical interviewees of the time.

Actually, things went very well to start. The Russian Sputnik had just flown, much to the consternation of the U.S. Defense Dept. As luck would have it, HP had participated in a crucial measurement of the basketball-sized satellite. Dr. Alan Petersen of Stanford Research Institute, up on the hill behind Stanford, had used an HP frequency counter and a Collins Radio HF receiver to determine the slant range (altitude) up to the satellite, as it made multiple passes overhead.

By analyzing the frequency Doppler effect of the signal as Sputnik came towards and then receded from the Collins receiver, they could calculate the altitude. And, in some way, this allowed them to determine the thrust of the rocket technology that the Russians must have had available to put it in that orbit. As the cold war was raging, and the U.S. was way behind Russia in rocketry, needless to say, the U.S. Defense Dept was urgently trying to find out any information that SRI, and in turn HP, was able to measure.

Some of my previous telemetry instrumentation work at Sandia came in handy for me right then. We had to deal with the same Doppler effect on telemetry signals of air frame tests for atomic bomb models. These were dropped from airplanes, to test their free fall parameters. That experience allowed me to keep up with Barney, in his discussions of the Doppler frequency effect of the satellite. But only for a short time. Then he started his technical questioning, and very soon, he said, "I think it might be good for you to talk with our marketing people." So, he took me out and introduced me to Cort Van Rensselaer, the sales manager. We made an appointment for a later interview, and my subsequent hiring by HP.

I have been very happy, working almost my entire career in marketing at HP. I found it fascinating and interesting and challenging, although, in later years, Barney and I would laugh about my introduction to HP and to him. At the time of the HP interview, I had also intellectually made the decision to move out of weapons work. I finally had faced the fact that I didn't want to spend a career helping to make more and better atomic bombs. In my 2.5 years with Sandia, I guess I witnessed probably 15-18 hydrogen and fission bomb blasts, and they make one awestruck each time. It is like the sun rising on command.

Although the atomic work was exciting and dramatic, I have never once regretted that decision to leave it. In the decades since, I know I made the right decision. Why would any nation need 60,000 atomic bombs? That quantity is what our country's leaders built, through both Democrat and Republican administrations. It was the military-industrial complex, that Dwight Eisenhower warned about. And it was the Cold War, which gave such organizational madness some political cover. And, as it turned out, every single one of the 14 national nuclear materials or bomb-making lab locations, from Oak Ridge to Hanford to Mound, OH, is highly contaminated. It is going to cost our nation a trillion dollars to clean them up, over the next 30 years.

At HP, as I worked my way up the marketing ladder, I found tremendous challenge and excitement in understanding and solving customer needs. HP was at the forefront of all the technologies in instrumentation, and those innovative products were needed by customers who were all over the business landscape of science and engineering. Satellites, integrated circuits, communications, medical advances, industrial processes of all types, automation, computer assisted measurements, and finally breakthroughs like the HP 35 engineering hand calculator in 1972.

In 1958, my first position was sales engineering to support field operations on the East Coast. John Young and I were responsible for the two independent Sales Representatives in New York and Eastern Pennsylvania. RMC Associates covered New York City and New Jersey, while Ivan Robinson was responsible for Philadelphia and to the middle of the state. John and I would spend alternately 2 weeks on the road every two months. The first week, we would visit customers in the Philadelphia area, and the next week take the train to NYC to work with those field engineers.

The customers ranged from the telephone communication geniuses at Bell Labs, in Murray Hill, Holmdel and Whippany, NJ, to testing the F-14 Navy fighter at Grumman on Long Island. We worked with aerospace folks and the Navy's Aviation Supply Office commodity purchasing center just north of Philadelphia.

Later, when the Sales Reps were all purchased, and the Microwave Division (MWD) was formed, I was promoted to Sales Manager under John Young, and a year later, when he moved up to take over the division, I got the Marketing Manager job. I think we had about 15 people in marketing. I still remember the year, 1962. There was a recession on. I think the MWD revenues were $20.5 million dollars. We stayed about constant in sales for three years, held up with the serious economic downturn.

Minck's self-promotion

To show how simple the organization was, when I took over from John Young, as sales manager of the Microwave Division in 1964, I felt I was truly lacking in professional marketing knowledge. So I signed myself up for a 3-week marketing course, offered by the American Management Association, in New York City, I think. It was an eye-opener.

The most important thing I learned was that the job description of what HP called a division sales manager, was actually called a Marketing Manager by the industry. So, when I returned home, one of the first things I did, was to have my business card reprinted, with the title, Microwave Marketing Manager. It took the other 3 divisional "Sales Managers" about a month to change their titles. There was, essentially, only the beginnings of a Personnel Department at that time, but, interestingly, no management approval was needed for such an action. It was just that informal. I don't even remember if I told John Young what I had done. I think he would have agreed anyway, since his mastery of marketing theory and practice was outstanding.

Paying off my bet on beating quota

At the Christmas party in 1964, I made a bet with Nick Kuhn, who was Section Manager of one of the R&D groups. I said that if we beat our 1965 quota of $25 million next year, I would jump in that unheated pool. I obviously thought that even $25 million was aggressive. At the time we were sitting in the bar of the Los Altos Country Club, looking out over a very cold pool.

Sure enough, with the new HP 8551 Spectrum Analyzer, our sales boomed, and we came in for FY'65 at $27.5 million. I went to a costume shop and rented a 1920's type men's swimming suit, with horizontal stripes, and donned a pair of gloves. With the whole division at the Christmas party, I dove in and swam one length, with Division Manager John Young at the other end, handing me a hot toddy drink.

Our MWD tripled its business in just 5 years, up to $72 million, and my group expanded to almost 80 people. Management was getting to be a drag for me. I used to explain that it was not like 5 years of experience, but instead, 1 year of experience 5 times over. In 1969, I was ready for a change. I asked John if he would keep his eyes open for some kind of technical job I could take for a few years. In just two days, he called me in and told me he wanted me to move to a tiny department at HP Associates, one of our HP affiliates which was starting to build light emitting diodes. It sounded exciting to me, so I stepped off the marketing treadmill and into what turned out to be jumping from the frying pan and into the fire.

I spent 2.5 years building the LED group and product line, and I was very proud of our results. The whole story is in the product chapter below. I then found that having built that group from 6 people to about 105, I was still on a mid-management treadmill, so I moved to a marketing job on a new product line of computer-operated systems. I worked there for 2 years, and in 1974, moved back to the Stanford Park Division to work in marketing communications, and out of big-time management.

Uses of the RF/Microwave Spectrum.

As a socially-naive son of a retired farmer, I was always fascinated by production lines in middle America. I visited the automobile lines of Ford in Dearborn, MI, Studebaker in South Bend, IN and the TV lines of Motorola in Chicago during my college days. For me, that vast production was obvious for consumers.

But it came as quite a shock for me to see some remarkably high production for high tech instruments once at HP. While at Stanford, on a business school field trip to HP, we saw racks upon racks of HP 608s burning in. After being hired, I was astounded by the hundreds and hundreds of signal generators, power meters and spectrum analyzers shipping out every month. Truckloads of equipment headed out all over the world. I used to think that every design or production bench in the world must be full.

As I learned about customer applications around the world, I began to realize just how wide spread the applications were. In those days the American universities were graduating about 15,000 new engineers every year. And it was the golden years of technology, so applications were spreading in every direction. Further, most of those new engineers were coming to work for customer facilities and each one going into R&D needed a bench-full of test equipment.

It was around 1977 that Editor Joanne Engelhardt of our division's Park Press newsletter urged me to write some application articles for our SPD employees. She wanted to describe the interesting and important uses that our products found in the technology world. She wished to not just raise some pride in our work but also to inform employees of the critical importance that so many of our products have in citizen safety and in producing consumer and technology products across the world.

Training for Field Engineers and new SPD employees
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The result was a 12-part series with these titles:

How our SPD Products are Used

  1. The Customer Viewpoint
  2. The Avionics Business
  3. More Avionics and Navigation
  4. Radars for Air Traffic Control
  5. Microwave Communications
  6. Mobile Communications
  7. Military Communications
  8. Military Radar
  9. Electronic Warfare
  10. Other Government and Military Systems
  11. Commercial and Industrial Uses
  12. Regulatory, Metrology & Miscellaneous








I also wrote a more technical and comprehensive look at all our RF/microwave applications in a lecture intended for neophyte field engineers. As mentioned earlier, all global new hires came to the HP Training Dept over at Page Mill and Foothill, for an extensive measurements school. I assembled about 50 color slides of all our interesting applications.

It was always an interesting exercise to find pictures for the lecture slide-set. Every picture of the HP product was pretty dull; keyboard, display, knobs and meters. But the equipment that our products actually tested was also very dull, for example, a ground-based radar receiver, might just be a rack full of blank panels, and a few pilot lights. So I usually fell back on finding a picture of the dramatic outside antennas of radars or those large communication satellites ground antennas.

I used a less technical version of the "Uses" lecture for the new employee orientation sessions at the division, so they would understand what sort of technological contributions our company was making.

Everything you wanted to know. . .

In 1972, Dr. Rueben captured the attention of America with his popular book, "Everything you always wanted to know about sex * * but were afraid to ask." Soon the publishing landscape was awash with similar titles about "everything you wanted to know." Engineering manager Paul Ely published an informative, "Everything you wanted to know about Management by Objective."

20+ pages covering common questions about RF and microwave products
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How could I be far behind? Over the years our factory application engineers who supported the HP field engineers were regularly asked many questions that weren't covered by the product data sheets or a library full of application notes. Those notes generally covered specific measurement procedures. It seemed that with every newly-hired FE, and that would be hundreds, we got the same question as they learned the sort of black magic world of radio and microwave frequencies.

So I published my generic view of little known facts about the subject, "Everything You Wanted to Know about Microwave Things, but not so Much that You'd have to get too Familiar with James Clerk Maxwell." Maxwell, of course, discovered the basic equations that governed the propagation of electromagnetic waves.

It was a basic tutorial about power, attenuation and voltage ratings of microwave products, which were characteristics not generally covered on product data sheets. I included information on how our products would perform just outside the normal specified frequency or power limits, since it seemed that some customer was always asking what would happen if he exceeded the limits a bit. I also gave a large bibliography of industry books that dealt with many esoteric technologies such as encrypted communications, electronic warfare and counter-countermeasures, and the industrial societies that were organized for those engineers that engaged in those classified occupations.

Technical writing was a joy to me. From my beginning at HP, I found plenty of opportunities to write articles for trade magazines, application notes for customers and field engineers, and later in my Advertising and PR (Marcom) role a perfect place to gain media attention and space in current magazines. I still recall my very first magazine article, in Electronic Design in 1960. I still have the magazine on the top shelf looking at it right now. Surely the Hewlett-Packard name gave us tremendous entre to the editors of all of those books. In the first place, there were a LOT of technical trade publications, so realizing that each of those editors needed to fill his editorial space each month, in order to balance out the many pages of advertising. (A magazine editor didn't like to appear to have TOO MUCH advertising, left and right pages.) So, given HP's reputation and given a "reasonably" non-sales story, it was usually simply a matter of time before one editor or another would have an opening to fill. Over the course of my 37 years, I wrote over 150 trade magazine articles application notes and training materials, including numerous conference papers. See the Appendix for details. HP always encouraged such publishing.

As a brand new MW application engineer, this was my first article for HP
Click photo for a larger display


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