HP Inc.: 11 Things You Didn’t Know

Steve Jobs wasn’t born until 1955. The term Silicon Valley wasn’t thrown around until 1971. But long before that, Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard were dreaming up Northern California’s original garage startup. Brand Innovators is in Palo Alto this week for a marketing summit at HP Inc.’s headquarters. (They’ve outgrown the garage by now.) In honor of the occasion, we did some digging to unearth 11 fun and, in some cases, obscure facts about the Silicon Valley OGs.

Steve Jobs wasn’t born until 1955. The term Silicon Valley wasn’t thrown around until 1971. But long before that, Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard were dreaming up Northern California’s original garage startup.

Brand Innovators is in Palo Alto this week for a marketing summit at HP Inc.’s headquarters. (They’ve outgrown the garage by now.) In honor of the occasion, we did some digging to unearth 11 fun and, in some cases, obscure facts about the Silicon Valley OGs.

Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard

1: The Camping Trip

In 1934, shortly after getting their electrical engineering degrees from Stanford University, Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard went on a two-week camping trip together. A friendship deepened and a famous working relationship took root.

2: The Garage

With a whopping $538 in working capital (cash plus a used drill press), Bill and Dave rented a Palo Alto garage and got to work. The garage would go down in history as the birthplace of HP. The house, shed and garage were later restored, dedicated as a California Historical Landmark and listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Now historic: 367 Addison Avenue in Palo Alto

3: The Coin Toss

Hewlett-Packard or Packard-Hewlett? When it came time (on January 1, 1939) to formalize the partnership and incorporate, Bill and Dave did what any of us would have done: they flipped a coin.

4: The Audio Oscillator

The first product Bill and Dave built together that brought customers to their door: Disney ordered eight units of the HP Model 200B resistance-capacitance audio oscillators used to test sound equipment.

Their very first product

5: The Firsts

The company produced its first computer of any kind (HP 2116A) in 1966. It introduced its first “personal computer” (really a programmable scientific desktop calculator) in 1968 and its first proper PC (HP-85) in 1980. 1984 saw two big debuts–HP’s first laptop (HP-110) and its first printer, the HP LaserJet, which would quickly become the world’s most popular personal desktop laser printer.


The company’s original computer–the HP 2116A–from 1966

6: Dave’s 11 Simple Rules

Engineers aren’t always known for being chin-scratching philosophers but how cool is it that Dave Packard wrote and shared his “11 Simple Rules”–a sort of philosophy of work and life–for an HP management conference in 1958. You can find a version of his manifesto of kindness and collaboration here.

7: Millennials in the 1940s?

The company has a history of being ahead of its time in terms of work environment. For example, the first HP-owned building constructed in 1942 had an open floor plan! Possibly by accident, it had the effect of sparking creativity among employees. In 1973, HP became the first company in the US to institute flextime. And around that same time, Bill and Dave started a new program called “Management By Walking Around,” routinely dropping by employee workspaces to get a deeper sense of what was happening in the trenches.

“Management by walking around”

8: Martians

In 2004, NASA used an HP Labs image-compression algorithm to bring high-resolution images of Mars transmitted by its Spirit Rover spacecraft back to Earth. The images helped scientists on Earth closely study the surface of Mars from a mere 106 million miles away.

9: Two Companies Actually

In 2014, Hewlett-Packard Company announced plans to separate into two new publicly traded companies. Hewlett Packard Enterprise became HP’s enterprise technology infrastructure, software and services businesses, while HP Inc. contained HP’s personal systems and printing businesses.

10: Diversity in a Not-Very-Diverse Industry

HP’s board of directors is comprised of 42% women and 58% minorities, making it the most diverse board of any major technology company.

HP Employees at a Pride Event in 2018

11: Longevity in a Not-Very-Longevity-Friendly Industry

If you ever want to benchmark the longevity of HP’s success, consider the fact that the company first entered the Fortune 500 in 1962. Then consider what it’s taken for the brand to remain thriving and surviving for the next 58 years.

Back in 1934, Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard could hardly have imagined the impact they would ultimately have on business, technology and their beloved Northern California. Both men are gone now but their legacy looms large.

To see a timeline of HP’s history, go here.

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