Remembering Early Times at HP

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My Story at Hewlett-Packard and Before Hewlett-Packard Laboratories
by Christopher R. Clare


Mr. HP Inventor--Chris Clare

Once John Young was promoted to Microwave Division Manager in 1962, he adjusted his management team to his liking, Paul Ely, Engineering, John Doyle, Manufacturing, and myself as Marketing Manager. Young turned out to become a brilliant industry manager, and of course, was promoted to HP's CEO in 1978. I imag-ine part of the reason for that came from his Stanford MBA.

Soon after his team was working together, he pronounced that we were going to do a "division audit." While that term meant something to an MBA, we soon found out he meant to take a deep analytical look at our divi-sion operations. That turned out to mean ALL our division operations; product strategy, installing triad man-agement, recruiting, technologies, customer measurement trends, and many more. The Hewlett-Packard expe-rience had already shown, in the 25 years since its birth, that hiring brand new engineers directly from college, was a winning idea for HP's growth.

It was not so obvious at the time, because many industrial operations, like Aerospace, needed personnel with deep technical experience and mature judgment to mesh those HUGE teams of equipment and sub-systems suppliers for a moon rocket for example. The NASA global management structure was an exceptionally com-plex organizing and scheduling and technical venture, requiring immediate contributions, no time for training new people. But at HP, Dave and Bill had found out that with our rapid revenue growth at 15% per year, our technical ranks needed a concerted effort to build our lab and production engineering ranks, and often to spin out brand new divisions.

College recruiting became a year-round process. In early years there were dozens of travelling teams who vis-ited the colleges for interviews with graduating engineers. And some MBAs. The teams did more than just re-cruit graduates, they worked year-round with key professors and deans to improve the school's curricula. In the Spring, at the campus interviews, they selected those who were offered trips to the HP factories. As the century progressed, HP probably visited over a hundred campuses, offering thousands of plant interviews. And out of that came our expansion brainpower.

I still remember it distinctly, in one of Young's audit meetings, we were looking to provide guidance for our travelling recruiters. What was the typical personal profile we should define, given that there were many attrib-utes that were valuable to our company. Did we expect that engineers with a 4.0 average were preferred over an engineer with a 3.5, but who was president of his student IEEE group? Did we want highly theoretical capa-bilities, compared to a young person who fixed their own car, or built their own ham radio or high fi amplifier, or had experience making things, and knew which end of a soldering iron to pick up?

Well, of course, we ended up needing them all, brilliant engineers for tough technology projects. But we also were on the lookout for the person who was editor of the student newsletter, who might make a great market-ing engineer. Then it was Paul Ely who defined the archetype of the team member we needed in greatest pro-portion. He called that profile an "Inventor." Understand that in HP engineering teams, there are virtually no technicians, the engineer builds their own hands-on circuits, assembles their own mechanical prototypes. Of course, there was a large tooling and model shop to support the research lab. Over the years, Bill and Dave were "tinkerers" and I don't mean that in a negative sense. Bill especially felt that the thought process that went along with building and assembling circuits worked well together, and reinforced creativity.

So, it took me about one page to figure out that Chris is the Inventor personality. There on the first page of his memoir you see the picture of the Norden bombsight of WWII, disassembled down to the nuts and bolts, all laid out in an "obsessive" and organized array. You know immediately that Chris built things-and sometimes takes apart things, to figure how they work. He showed this in his youth, and in great success in his HP career.

But the next pages that recount his youthful zest for science, with a father who obviously indulged his curiosity and creativity, you will just smile as you read through all his "experiments," from a Jacobs ladder of arcing and sparking noise that interfered with neighbors to a motorized cart, built with a Ford Model A transmission. It was also telling that after a first year at the University of California at Santa Barbara, which was one of our HP prized theoretical engineering campuses, that he found his real calling at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo. While visiting a friend, he discovered that campus which was REALLY "hands-on" engineering. We factory types who were out doing the interviews knew that Cal Poly engineers knew how to build actual things.

It was probably random chance that his first work project at HP was the scientific desktop 9100, a blockbuster product which was one of the first personal computers. It's transcendental and logarithmic computational power was profound. And he stayed in the HP Labs product team which fairly quickly was able to exploit integrated circuits to build the 9100 functions into a shirt pocket size wizard HP 35. Looking back from today, I would suggest that Chris won the project assignment lottery, with those two jobs right out of college.

But then semiconductor technology was in ferment. The industry was booming with visionary companies-Fairchild and Motorola and Intel and a hundred others- creating not just integrated circuits, but all the mer-chant suppliers to silicon processing; wafer growers, slicers and dicers, diffusion furnaces, and surface chemical processing and wire bonding apparatus and testers. In that chaos, Dave and Bill and probably Barney made the decision that HP must build our own semiconductor processing labs, to provide unique functionality to HP products. With his HP background already strong, Chris was a natural for appointment to the automatic control and test strategies. And his description of the computer based lab functionality, collection of measurement data for process control, and those successes gave me a truly enjoyable and incisive picture of the HP contributions to the science and applications of crystal technology.

I had forgotten about subjects like algorithmic state machines which revolutionized some digital design, and which Chris documented. His writings and some predictive statements which he dredged up were remarkably prophetic. I love stories like Chris's, it was a time of 20th Century "high tech" that I often describe by noting that "We thought we were pretty hot stuff." And I can say that now, in spite of watching what the 2017 "high tech is doing for us now. Enjoy this story.

John Minck

My Story at Hewlett-Packard and Before Hewlett-Packard Laboratories
by Chris Clare

Table of Contents:

  • My Early Years
  • HP Labs - HP 9100A
  • Barney Oliver
  • HP 35
  • Electro sensitive Line Printer
  • Digital Design and Teaching
  • Computer Architecture
  • Semiconductor Design
  • Integrated Circuits Processing Laboratory
  • Automate 4-Point Probe
  • Computer Controlled Diffusion Furnaces
  • Process Control System, PCS
  • Facility Monitoring
  • Automated Thin Film Measurement
  • Automated CV System
  • Automated Parametric Test System
  • Mass Flow Controller Calibrator
  • Low Pressure Plasma Etching System
  • SMIF Development
  • HP Labs Networking
  • SEMI SECS Standard
  • Yield Improvement
  • My Personal Life at HP
  • Leaving HP

acro_offClick here to download Chris's memories in PDF format - The 25 page document is a 3 Mb PDF file.

HP Memories

This memory of Chris's career at hp results from the work of the website of Marc Mislanghe, who with John Minck edited and published this Memoir. After Marc's untimely death, Ken Kuhn has now assumed the custodianship with John, and together they will continue to expand the Memoirs section.

One of the main objectives in starting this website five years ago was (and still is today) to get in touch with people who have worked at hp from the birth of the company up to today. We are interested in hearing your memories no matter what division or country you worked in, or whether you were in engineering, marketing, finance, administration, or worked in a factory. This is because all of you have contributed to the story of this unique and successful enterprise.

Your memories are treasure for this website. While product and technology are our main concern, other writings related to the company life are highly welcome, as far as they stay inside the hp Way guidelines.

Anybody Else? Please get in touch by emailing the webmaster on the Contact US link at

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