Electronic Design

William R. Hewlett David Packard

Hewlett and Packard (2002)

In 1938, five years removed from their undergraduate days, Hewlett and Packard were reunited at Stanford University. Hewlett, having earned an MSEE from MIT, had returned to Palo Alto to attain the title of engineer. Packard had left the General Electric Co. in Schenectady, N.Y., to undertake a fellowship arranged by Frederick Terman, dean of Stanford’s School of Engineering. Envisioning a new technical community in the Palo Alto area, Terman encouraged the pair to found this community. In 1939, the young engineers started their own enterprise in the garage of Packard’s Palo Alto home, with an initial investment of $538. Their first product, a resistance-capacitance audio oscillator based on Hewlett’s graduate work, was purchased by Walt Disney Studios for use in the production of the now-classic movie Fantasia. From its modest beginnings, the partnership of Hewlett and Packard grew to become one of the primary forces behind the growth of the technical community known today as Silicon Valley. Under their leadership, Hewlett-Packard became renowned for its technological innovation and its corporate philosophy, which valued creativity and invention over bureaucracy. Among HP’s many firsts were the desktop scientific calculator, the handheld scientific calculator, and the desktop mainframe computer. In 1984, HP pioneered ink-jet printing technology, followed by laser-jet printing technology. Both founders remained actively involved in the management of their company for several decades—Hewlett until 1987, Packard until 1993. The single-car garage that spawned a multibillion-dollar company has been named a California state historical landmark and hailed as the birthplace of Silicon Valley.

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