Hewlett leaves lasting legacy at HP

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Hewlett leaves lasting legacy at HP

Daniel Thomas


Daniel Thomas

With the death of William Hewlett, aged 87, in California last week, Hewlett-Packard has lost both co-founders. Fellow technical entrepreneur David Packard died in 1996.

The company was started with $538 in a small, rented garage in 1939 and is now a $49bn company with nearly 90,000 employees.

Many of their early developments were somewhat leftfield, including an optical device to flush a urinal automatically.

However, HP made its mark with the "audio oscillator", a device for measuring soundwaves, invented by Hewlett during his postgraduate studies. Walt Disney ordered eight for use in the production of the film Fantasia (1940), giving HP its first commercial success.

The company's biggest breakthrough came in 1972 when the HP-35, the first ever pocket calculator, hit the streets. HP was also responsible for the laser printer.

Probably HP's greatest legacy was its philosophy on employee relations. The founders believed in openness and respect for the individual and introduced concepts such as flexible working hours and production bonuses to all staff.

Hewlett, who retired in 1987, leaves a wife, five children.

daniel.thomas@rbi.co.uk


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