Hewlett Packard: From Backyard Shed to Silicone Valley

August 18, 2011 | posted in: Tech Chronicles | by

Technology that Shapes Our Lives

August 18, 1947

David Packard, left, and William Hewlett 'Founded' Silicone Valley. Photo courtesy of sfgate.com.

Hewlett-Packard incorporates; 8 years after its founding.

Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard met as engineering students at Stanford in the early ’30s and cemented their lifelong friendship during a post-graduation camping trip. Packard went off to take a job with General Electric, while Hewlett went on to postgraduate studies. They were reunited by Stanford profesor, Fred Terman, who encouraged the two to “make a run for it.”

With $500 in cash [about $8,000 in today’s money] borrowed from Terman, plus a used Sears, Roebuck drill press, Hewlett-Packard swung into action in the small shed behind Packard’s modest house Palo Alto, California. The company’s first product, released in 1938, was an audio oscillator used for testing sound equipment. When the Walt Disney Co. bought eight of them to develop the technically advanced movie Fantasia, HP was off and running.

Hewlett-Packard’s rise as a tech powerhouse is a story that’s been told again and again. The electronics products were first-rate and eagerly embraced. Want became need with the coming of World War II, and HP quickly grew, moving out of Packard’s garage in 1940.

But the company was innovative in another, perhaps less-known way.  HP demonstrated a new type of management technique, one that placed a premium on the workers and their happiness. This open-management style was the prototype for how many technology companies, particularly in Silicon Valley, would operate decades later.

The tiny garage in Palo Alto, California, where the company originated, is now regarded as the birthplace of Silicon Valley.

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