Hewlett, William Redington ("Bill")
HEWLETT, William Redington ("Bill")
(b. 20 May 1913 in Ann Arbor, Michigan; d. 12 January 2001 in Palo Alto, California), and David PACKARD (b. 7 September 1912 in Pueblo, Colorado; d. 26 March 1996 in Stanford, California), electronics engineers, inventors, and businessmen who helped build Hewlett-Packard into one of the world's largest electronics manufacturing companies.
Hewlett was one of two children of Albion Walter Hewlett, a university medical professor, and Louise (Redington) Hewlett, a homemaker. Hewlett was thought to be a poor student, but he had undiagnosed dyslexia and had such difficulty taking notes that he learned to listen intently instead and memorize what he heard. At the age of twelve Hewlett lost his father to a brain tumor. He then traveled in Europe with his mother and grandmother, who tutored him while his sister attended a school in Paris. When the family returned to California, they settled in San Francisco, and Hewlett attended Lowell High School, the city's outstanding college preparatory school. Although Hewlett initially wanted to become a physician like his father, he was mostly interested in mathematics and chemistry as well as in building electrical devices. It was at Stanford University that he met Packard.
Packard was one of two children of Sperry Sidney Packard, a lawyer, and Ella Lorna (Grabor) Packard, a high school teacher. Packard grew up with a love of the outdoors. In 1930 he graduated from Centennial High School in Pueblo and entered Stanford University. As a freshman, the six-foot, five-inch Packard became a star in track and field. He also lettered in basketball and football. Packard and Hewlett became fast friends and shared many wilderness adventures together; they would later incorporate hunting and fishing into activities their employees could share.
By 1933 Packard and Hewlett had agreed to start a company after they graduated, but it was the middle of the Great Depression, and jobs were scarce. In 1934 Packard received a job offer from General Electric (GE) in Schenectady, New York, and Hewlett urged him to take it, thus delaying their plans. The job did not start until 1935, so between graduating from Stanford with a bachelor of arts degree in 1934 and moving to New York, Packard took graduate courses at the University of Colorado in Boulder. Meanwhile, Hewlett began developing an audio oscillator as a school project.
At General Electric, newly hired engineers were expected to perform the most repetitive chores. In Packard's case, he worked on vacuum tubes, using a process involving mercury and liquid air to create vacuums. Whenever there was an accident, the engineer had to evacuate the area until the mercury vapor dissipated; when Packard took on the job, his predecessor had just had twenty such accidents in a row. Packard improved the success rate considerably and then was allowed to move on to other projects. His experiences at GE showed him not only the importance of the process itself to manufacturing but also the importance of communication. Packard helped improve products by taking the time to work with the laborers to show them, rather than just tell them, what they needed to do.
After graduating with a B.A. in engineering from Stanford, Hewlett attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where in 1936 he earned a master's degree in electrical engineering. In 1938 Packard left GE to return to Stanford for further study in electronics, receiving the bachelor of science degree in 1939. By then he and Hewlett were working in his garage, making devices for medical and other scientific fields. Their first important success was a resistance-stabilized audio oscillator, based on Hewlett's research at Stanford. An audio oscillator improves sound quality and is used in musical recordings and sonar. The only audio oscillator available before 1939 was produced by General Radio, for $400 apiece; the Hewlett-Packard audio oscillator was more efficient and sold for only $71.50. Their first of many sales was seven audio oscillators to Disney's chief sound engineer, Bud Hawkins, for use in the recording of the movie Fantasia (1940). By the end of 1939 they had made profits of $1,500.
In 1938 Packard married Lucile Laura Salter; they had four children. On 10 August 1939 Hewlett married Flora Lamsen; they had five children. Lamsen died in 1977, and Hewlett married Rosemary Bradford on 24 May 1978. Also in 1939 they named their new company, consisting of a garage and some machine tools, the Hewlett-Packard Company.
Hewlett served a stint in the U.S. Army reserves and had just finished his service when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. He was called up for the remainder of World War II, serving first on the staff of the army chief signal officer and then as the head of the electronics department of the New Development Division of the War Department. In the meantime, Packard applied what he had learned about production processes at GE to his growing company. He tried to diversify his company's products, finding the War Department to be a big customer of his special vacuum technology that used fine oil instead of mercury to create devices for radar and other electronic equipment. When Hewlett returned in 1946, he and Packard decided to focus the company on manufacturing measuring devices, and in 1947 they incorporated Hewlett-Packard as a $1 million enterprise with 111 employees. In the 1950s their radiation measuring devices were so accurate that they sold very well, despite being prone to damage, and Hewlett-Packard began its tradition of quick, close technical support of its products by having people ready to fix broken radiometers.
Also during the 1950s Packard and Hewlett developed the "HP Way." Their business expanded into warehouses and machine shops, and in 1957 they moved into the Stanford Industrial Park. They would walk the shop floors inspecting the work and showing employees how the work should be done; this was referred to as "management by walking around." Even as their business expanded into locations in other states and overseas, Hewlett occasionally would appear and walk the floors; this led to a company-wide network of employees reporting to each other on the whereabouts of Hewlett. Even so, Hewlett's emphasis was on the invention aspect of the company's business, while Packard emphasized the implementation of the business. Key to Hewlett's vision of the company and of the HP Way was his emphasis on personnel—he wanted the best people doing their best work, which to him meant not only training them but also giving them independence. Therefore, employees were free to develop their individual work habits to best improve the manufacturing process.
In 1967 Packard introduced flexible hours. Employees were allowed to show up for work as late as 9:00 a.m. and still work a full eight-hour day. During an economic downturn, when he was faced with laying off 10 percent of his workforce in order to stay profitable, Packard initiated a five-day work week followed by a four-day work week. This spread the hardship among all of his employees and enabled Packard to retain all of his well-trained workers. By the mid-1990s Packard estimated that Hewlett-Packard spent $200 million a year on employee training.
In 1960 Hewlett-Packard began using computers to enhance the precision of their oscilloscopes. At the time, Packard was certain that computers were not a significant part of Hewlett-Packard's future, because International Business Machines (IBM) provided the business model for computer manufacturers. Also, IBM used a vertical top-down command structure, whereas Hewlett-Packard spread out responsibilities for making manufacturing decisions horizontally among the employees of each of the corporation's "groups." In 1963 Packard and Hewlett established a circuit board manufacturing plant in Japan, Yokogawa-Hewlett-Packard, with an American manager. When a Japanese employee, Kenzo Sasaoka, asked that the plant be run by the Japanese, Packard put him in charge; not only did productivity go up, but failure rates on the circuit boards also dropped to a sensational ten per million.
In 1966 Hewlett-Packard manufactured a computer the HP Way for helping to control the company's programmable measuring devices, laying the foundation for Hewlett-Packard's future leadership in calculating devices. From 1964 to 1967 Hewlett-Packard developed portable atomic clocks using cesium; they became standard timing devices throughout the world and were used to synchronize international times. They also were used on the Apollo space missions. In 1966 Hewlett and Packard created the HP Laboratories for research into innovative technologies.
In December 1968 Packard was asked to become the U.S. deputy secretary of defense, under Melvin Laird. He accepted the job but had to divest himself of his holdings in Hewlett-Packard to avoid conflicts of interest, because the corporation did business with the federal government. He placed his holdings in a trust that gave all of his Hewlett-Packard earnings to charity. He surrendered more than $20 million in salary while working his $30,000 job in Washington, D.C. Packard worked to remake the military chain of command so that the armed services were clearly under civilian control, with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff having the principal responsibility of reporting to the president. He championed the development of the F-16 and F-18 fighter aircraft, worked on the anti-ballistic missile program, and tried to streamline the Pentagon bureaucracy.
In 1971 Packard left his government post, although he remained in government service into the 1980s by serving on oversight commissions for federal economic and military programs. In 1972 he returned to Hewlett-Packard and became the chairman of the board. In the early 1970s Hewlett challenged his engineers to produce a portable calculator, and in 1972 the first pocket calculator, the HP-35, was developed. Hewlett served as the president and chief executive officer (CEO) for the corporation until he retired as the president in 1977 and as the CEO in 1978. Hewlett continued as a management adviser until 1987. Packard helped oversee Hewlett-Packard's development as a major computer manufacturer during the 1980s.
Both men were philanthropists who gave away tens of millions of dollars to charities. Packard, who was active in the California Nature Conservancy, contributed $55 million for the establishment of the Monterey Bay Aquarium project. Packard and his wife began the David and Lucile Packard Foundation in 1964 and the Packard Center for the Future of Children. Packard received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1988. Hewlett and his wife began the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and Hewlett established the Public Policy Institute of California with a $70 million endowment. Hewlett received the National Medal of Science in 1985.
Packard died of complications from pneumonia at Stanford University Hospital, and Hewlett died in his sleep of the effects of heart disease. In 2000 the company the two men had built conducted $60 billion in business. Hewlett-Packard is a world leader in the manufacture of personal computers, computer peripherals, pocket calculators, and such medical devices as the fetal heart rate monitor, which was developed in 1967 to indicate whether a fetus is in difficulty during labor. Other medical measuring devices developed during the 1960s helped physicians diagnose illnesses and keep track of a patient's status during surgery. In 1968 Hewlett-Packard introduced the first desktop scientific calculator, the progenitor of the personal computer. The corporation also introduced the first electronic diode during the 1960s, an invention used to illuminate countless household devices, such as electric glow-in-the-dark clocks and illuminating buttons on printers, and lamps on street lights, all for less energy usage than incandescent bulbs.
Biographical information about Hewlett is in Rosabeth Moss Kanter, The Change Masters (1983); John N. Ingham and Lynne B. Feldman, Contemporary American Business Leaders (1990); and Frederick E. Allen, "Present at the Creation," American Heritage (May–June 2001). Obituaries for Hewlett are in the New York Times and Los Angeles Times (both 13 Jan. 2001). Packard's autobiography, The HP Way: How Bill Hewlett and I Built Our Company (1995), is a sprightly account of the public and private lives of Hewlett and Packard that also offers advice on how to build a manufacturing company. For biographical information about Packard see also Current Biography Yearbook (1969), and for both Packard and Hewlett see Michael S. Malone, The Big Score: The Billion Dollar Story of Silicon Valley (1985). Obituaries for Packard are in the Los Angeles Times (27 Mar. 1996), Computerworld (1 Apr. 1996), and Business Week (8 Apr. 1996).
Kirk H. Beetz