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My HP Remembrances -- for HP Years: 1979-2000
by Roy Verley


Mr. Corporate Communications and Philanthropy -- Roy Verley

All of our collection of HP memoirs are wonderful remembrances of our cherished work culture at the Hewlett-Packard of the 20th Century. One of my favorites is that of Dave Kirby, who came to HP from Kaiser Industries, and just previous to that from WWII and the Battle of the Bulge. The main reason Dave's story was so meaningful to me was that he sat at the center of HP management, just outside the offices of Dave and Bill, with his mechanical typewriter at the ready. It was his job to chronicle the corporate doings and the personal stories of HP's burgeoning growth in revenues and work culture and as many interactions of strategic importance that he could dig up.

So I was delighted to hear from Roy, to offer his very similar remembrances of that same corporate viewpoint. But in his case, it took place during a far different technology era. Roy was in his PR and communications prime at the time that John Young was taking the company into completely different business sectors than the founding instrumentation products. Computer strategies alone were confounding decisions, with massive price tags. Young and Joel Birnbaum had bet the company on RISC operating systems, at a time when computer giants were roaming the globe.

I remember VP John Doyle telling a story in a management meeting once, about going up against IBM. John characterized small IBM competitors as small animals, and IBM as the ruling elephant. He dryly noted that IBM could change direction as an elephant turns, and step on a competitor, killing it without ever intending to. That was the technology playing field that Verley was dealing with. In the 1960s all those seven competitors were referred to as the Seven Dwarfs - described in a fascinating 1996 IEEE book by Oldfield, "King of the Seven Dwarfs."

In that same decade, the HP-35 hand calculator of 1972 had progressed into a huge desktop technical workstation market and then the personal computer business, with startup companies like Apple and Compaq and other consumer type competitors. When some young upstarts within IBM got permission to start a "skunkworks" in Florida to configure and push into the personal computer sector, they captured immediate dominance. What was HP to do? We possessed profound technological power, we could build virtually anything. Except for the complex questions which continued to face the Young management teams of WHAT technical horse do we put our costly bets down on?

Communicators like Roy were there to observe all the results of such strategic dustups and personality conflicts. Some teams win, others lose, as HP performed with exceptional results. For John Young's CEO years from 1978 to 1992, he took the company revenues from about $1.5 billion to $16 billion, in the face of some of the toughest technology and business strategy dilemmas one could imagine. In this memoir, Roy takes us through some of the overview of those challenging matters that Top Management gets paid to figure out.

As we old-timers have watched the industrial journey of this Legendary Company through its golden years in the high-tech decades of the second half of the 20th Century, we find very interesting personal insights to some of the leading personalities that made crucial decisions. Approaching the millennium, what led to the spinoff of the founding instrumentation product line into Agilent in 1999? How did the critical handoff of leadership of John Young in 1992 and later to the selection of Carly Fiorina in 1999 change the company trajectory? This is a fun read. And moreover, it is an easy, conversational read, just like sitting for a coffee with Roy. What else would we expect from one of HP's most accomplished wordsmiths?

John Minck

My HP Remembrances -- for HP Years: 1979-2000
by Roy Verley

Table of Contents:

  • Introduction
  • My place at HP
  • Boyhood
  • A passion for sports leads to a writing interest
  • Planning a career
  • Making the move to HP
  • Learning to manage, HP-style
  • A big step up
  • HP's metamorphosis tests the company during the tumultuous '80s
  • The "Spectrum" project
  • The HP 150 touchscreen PC
  • The HP ThinkJet: HP redefines printing, and printing redefines HP
  • Workstations, the UNIX wars and OSF
  • Dave Kirby passes the baton to me
  • Rapid growth fuels change
  • Dave Packard gets re-involved
  • Lew takes over: "I didn't know you're a smoker!"
  • Change accelerates, the Internet proves disruptive, and HP struggles to adapt
  • The HP/Agilent split
  • Lew steps down; Carly Fiorina takes the helm
  • Time to go
  • Life after HP
  • Communication rules to live by
  • A final reflection: What happened to the HP of legend?

acro_offClick here to download Roy's memories in PDF format - The 26 page document is a 0.625 Mb PDF file.

HP Memories

This memory of Roy Verley's career at hp results from the work of the website of Marc Mislanghe, who with John Minck edited and published the original archive Memoirs. After Marc's untimely death in 2014, Ken Kuhn has now assumed the custodianship with John, and together they will continue to expand the Memoirs section.

One of the main objectives in starting this website in 2011 was (and still is today) to get in touch with people who have worked at hp from the birth of the company up to today. We are interested in hearing your memories no matter what division or country you worked in, or whether you were in engineering, marketing, finance, administration, or worked in a factory. This is because all of you have contributed to the story of this unique and successful enterprise.

Your memories are treasure for this website. While product and technology are our main concern, other writings related to the company life are highly welcome, as far as they stay inside the hp Way guidelines.

Anybody Else? Please get in touch by emailing the webmaster on the Contact US link at

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