Remembering Early Times at HP

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HP Memories

One of our 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 a 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.

The contributions made by Hank Taylor during his career at HP are illustrated in this chapter. This chapter is a good example of the type of memories we like to present on this website.

Many thanks Hank for this highly valuable contribution.


Anybody Else ? Please get in touch using the Contact US form.



Experiences During 40 Years at HP
by Hank Taylor



Foreword by John Minck


Mr. Information Flow - Hank Taylor


There is a truism in the military; that you may be promoted to command an Army Unit, but you aren't IN-COMMAND until you can communicate with your Unit. It is the same in any organization - no corporation can manage its business unless it has established a viable and efficient communication system within the entire corporation, both inside and outside. Further, no corporation can manage its operations unless there is a comprehensive information system where the data undergirds all activities; production control, order processing, purchasing, finance, accounting and many others including HR.

As the Hewlett-Packard Company grew rapidly from its 1940s Palo Alto inception, through its expanding presence outside the state into Loveland, CO, and then Germany and many other states and countries, the communications were traditional. All the global sales offices were part of the communications mix. US Postal mail was primary for all written communications, (UPS was not everywhere yet), and the ATT TWX (teletype) services handled more urgent written communications. The Ma Bell telephone system, which was the so-called common carrier telephone service was highly used, and ATT adapted that system for businesses, with their WATS tariff arrangements (Wide Area Telephone Service).

HP production processes of those 1950s years were based on batches, which we called "runs." The schedulers got their runs data from information in the "order books" in marketing. These were staffed and hand logged from customer orders and individually managed for things like government priorities. Inventories were controlled with the venerable Kardex system, each purchased part updated by hand on its individual drawer card. Work orders for fabricated parts were likewise scheduled by hand, based on sometimes long cycles of casting, machining and plating. It all worked amazingly well, but was cumbersome and frustrating. All those hand systems were just waiting the on-coming computer revolution, and HP's purchase of a Big-Daddy-Sperry-Univac central computer.

LONG BEFORE the advent of the Internet, as we know it today, and its pervasive reach with email and file transfer, there were creative people working in HP's central services to modernize our communications. US communications business and technology of the 1960s was a regulated monopoly, with just the beginnings of alternative competitors. Down in the main computer complex, many hand operations were being replaced by punched cards and large format computer printouts of schedules, purchase orders and other data-driven processes.

In the early 1970s HP 2100 engineering computer were broadly deployed in the Company to support electronic communication and also provided some limited, but important business processing. By the mid-1970s HP business computers were appearing in mid-sizes, and the HP 3000 series was being deployed to replace processes being done on IBM and other externally made computers. Our Information Technologies (IT) geniuses were just waiting in the wings to exploit the capabilities of our own business computing equipment and leverage HP communications and IT processes to be the best and most technically advanced of their time. It was only fitting that the world's pre-eminent technology company would establish the central services teams to create Comsys for Internet-like written communications and Telnet for leveraging the commercial telephone system to our advantage. The definitive HP Journal article of Sept 1986, proclaimed that Comsys was "piggybacking" on 453 world-wide HP 3000 computers, "while they were idling."

Hank Taylor of the HP Information Technology section, was in the middle of all of those revolutions, and not JUST the hardware innovations needed for collecting, batching, and scheduling world-wide use of the commercial telephone facilities. But, even more so, he envisioned the human cultural changes that ALL of our HP people were going to need to accept and use (learn to type). He was cheerleader for this powerful new set of communication tools and data services like HEART that were being put into place to run the company. In many ways, his memoir reads like his manager saying, "Let's see what Hank will do with this."

Hank's Memoir recalls many personal observations of our company and our HP people relationships. His walk through HP's IT history will be long remembered.


John Minck



Bud Eldon, Bruce Wholey, Ralph Lee and me



Experiences During 40 Years at HP
by Hank Taylor


Table of Contents:


Click here to download Hank's Memories - The 60 pages document is a 2.2 Mb PDF file.


Experiences During 40 Years at HP

- Part 1 -

HP's Foundation of Trust


Looking back on a wonderful and satisfying life and an interesting and challenging HP career, I still can't imagine my good fortune. At HP, Dave and Bill established many attributes deep in the DNA of our company that were uncommon. Generally these traits fell under the umbrella of what we called the HP Way. These traits were somewhat illusive and were seen in different ways by different people within the company. For me, since most of my career at HP involved changing the way people did their work or encouraging them to cooperate --- when on the face of the request it did not appear in their own best interest --- one set of characteristic stands out.

In all the other companies that I worked with closely, I never saw anything like it. These traits were a common trust in the organization's integrity, fairness and humanity. Further our personal responsibility was to help the company succeed and be the best it could be. There was a strong feeling that each of us had a common goal to help the company progress and that trumped personal preferences. This created a spirit of cooperation and common sense that I have never seen elsewhere. If a person could make a solid case that their proposal, even though it involved substantial change, or investment, yet resulted in the least expense to the company, the best product, the most productivity, the best quality or the best service, that proposal was virtually always approved. More importantly that proposal was accepted and appreciated by people throughout the company.

In trying to figure out where this uncommon ethic came from, it seemed to me that it grew out of the personal integrity and clear, logical, people-oriented judgment of Dave and Bill. The original profit sharing scheme was a striking example of this as it not only shared the success of the Company, but also trained people at all levels to ask "how will this action (large or small; mine or others) affect the Company?" This instilled in HP people, at a gut level, a concern about the overall impact of an action on the company, and that as the company succeeded overall they did also. It seemed to suppress ego driven decision making.

Through all my time at HP I was involved with very able HP people in numerous projects, some of which resulted in major administrative, operating and job dislocating changes for people in the Company. Some of these will be described below. All of these companywide projects would have been virtually impossible without the framework of trust that Dave and Bill established.

Graduate School

I had worked at several jobs to make my way through Brigham Young University, and, in the spring of 1955, graduated with a degree in Business Management. My department Chairman at BYU had graduated with a Doctorate from Harvard Graduate School of Business. About a year before graduation I told him of my interest in an MBA degree. He assured me I would be accepted and he noted that in my chosen undergraduate program, there was much the same content as I would get in graduate school. So he waived all of my business management courses and in their place I was to take what interested me. Thus, in my last year, I took courses in geology, botany, tree & shrubs, English, advanced grammar and other non-business courses. When replies to my applications came back I had been accepted at Harvard, Stanford and Northwestern.

During our senior year at BYU, Colette Green agreed to marry me. She was a very attractive student leader and "Snow Queen" graduating with a major in Elementary Education and a minor in Art. Together in the fall of 1955, with the help and transportation provided by her father and mother, we set off for Harvard Business School in Boston. My school preference would probably have been Stanford, but at the time most of my earnings had gone to my undergraduate degree. We had little money for the costs of graduate school and at that time Stanford had no funding for financial aid. Harvard was able to be helpful in this respect, so that's where we went.

In the summer before moving to Boston I worked three jobs: one as a graveyard shift arc welder at a pipe company, one as an analyst for the BYU financial Vice President and as an upholsterer at my family's furniture store, about 100 hours a week. Colette worked as a window display designer for the furniture store. While at Harvard Business School I also worked several part-time jobs; J.C. Penney, HBS publication distribution, MIT Lincoln Labs and at General Electric’s executive training program in Crotonville, NY, as summer intern writing cases. Colette worked at Miss Cannon's Children's Store in Harvard Square. She had intended to teach school to help support us, but nature directed otherwise. Our first child was born in April at the Boston Lying Inn, (kind of a medieval clinic where people with no funds could get low cost obstetric care).

We loved the Boston area and our experiences there, but we were far from our families. They were eager to see more of their new grandchild and they knew a second one was expected a few months after completing the MBA. For this reason we decided that I would search for a job somewhere west of Denver.

There were numerous interviews at the HBS placement office. Hal Edmonson and Tom Christensen came from Hewlett Packard and seemed like really good guys. They were the only interviewers who took my picture. Today that might have been considered racist, but in those days it seemed a smart way to remember who they interviewed. The interviews at the placement office resulted in a number of factory visits to a variety of western companies. From these visits the offers of greatest interest boiled down to: Ramo Wooldridge in greater Los Angeles (this was before it became Thompson-Ramo Wooldridge or TRW), Hewlett-Packard in Palo Alto, Del Monte in San Francisco and Longview Fiber in Longview, Washington. (1956-7 was a much better time to look for work than 2010 thru 2012.)

Having received offers of employment from all of these companies I prepared a very analytical spread sheet with these job options listing on one axis and all the factors of importance to us on the other; then rated each alternative. The two that came to the top were TRW and HP.

When I had visited TRW, they had a classy building and showed me what would be my spacious office and the impressive title that I would have, plus what to me, was a very impressive salary.

On the factory visit to Palo Alto, Tom Christensen had met me at SFO and drove me down 101 to HP's headquarters building. Once in Palo Alto, he selected the best possible route, up University Avenue past scores of stately mansions. We arrived at 275 Page Mill Road, the company Headquarters at the time. It was just across the Southern Pacific railroad tracks, facing a street lined with rusty tin warehouses and a large building materials supply yard with gravel piles, concrete mixers and stacks of cement blocks.

I was escorted through a small lobby which also housed the company switchboard and some personnel functions. When I stepped through the door beyond the lobby I was in the front office with a sea of gray desks, completely in the open, all bathed with brilliant indirect sunlight from north facing clerestory (factory like) windows. There I met Frank Cavier, Ed Van Bronkhorst, Keith Elledge and others. Dave and Bill's offices were along the western wall of the big open space and these were the only 2 offices in sight. The base salary offer was just adequate and with it there was a confusing explanation of a production bonus in each paycheck, which was a bit variable and not guaranteed, but could equal as much 30% of your total pay. Frank Cavier said the starting job would be to work as a trainee in cost accounting and that this would help me to become familiar with the company products. I was excited by the fact this was a smaller company, just a little beyond the startup phase.

When I returned back to Cambridge I asked a friend in Engineering at MIT what he knew about HP. He said he knew nothing about the company, but that when engineers queued up to check out test equipment for their lab work the HP equipment was always gone first. This was a heartwarming recommendation. Palo Alto beat L.A. for location and HP was still a small company, under a thousand employees and sales in the last complete year, 1956, were just $20 million. All the HP facilities were in Palo Alto so there would be no capricious bouncing around the country with training assignments. These plusses offset the higher wages and plush offices of Ramo-Wooldridge. In addition HP exuded a no-nonsense, no-frills work ethic that was appealing to me.

The HP Choice

I accepted the HP offer and came to work in July of 1957, after graduation. Colette and I drove across the country in the first car we had owned since we were married, purchased just as we left the Boston area. It was a $700, well used, somewhat rusty, blue and white Ford Victoria. It ran most of the time and looked pretty good, as the paint actually held some of the rusted body parts in place. We visited our families in Canada and Utah as we drove across the country. In mid-July we drove into Palo Alto. It was afternoon, much of the landscape was dry and brown. Even the sky was brown from heavy smog. Colette was 8 months pregnant and quite uncomfortable. We had a restless 1½ year old boy to add to the challenges of the arrival day. Colette looked around as we arrived at our destination and asked, "is this it?" It didn't match her vision. We booked a room in the Coronet Motel (which is still there more than 50 years later) while we looked through the Palo Alto Times house rental listings and called the likely prospects on the Motel's pay phone.

I reported in, at the HP headquarters, to Frank Cavier. I told him that we were looking for a place to live and then would like to take a week to visit my parents and brothers who were temporarily living in Southern CA. Then I would report to work on July 27th if that was OK. He said that would be fine and asked me to talk with Ann Laudel, who served as the telephone operator supervisor, receptionist and the personnel department of the company. She was an attractive blond with a southern accent and a very low voice that sounded nice over the public address paging system. Her mellow paging was heard frequently throughout the entire plant and her telephone operators had equally nice voices. Ann got me through all the necessary personnel paperwork. I had had a fairly high security clearance with MIT Lincoln Labs and we set about to extend that, though it was not urgently needed at HP.

After the paperwork was done Frank suggested that I talk with Eileen Dugan in the HP Lab library. She was the housing expert. She had maps and a lot of good advice. One warning I still remember was that we should stay well away from the sloughs as they smelled awful when the tide was out and the wind was unfavorable.

[Note: The air quality in the Bay Area has been cleaned up remarkably well since 1957. Also the creeks which created the sloughs have been largely concrete lined to the Bay and lost their not so charming stench.]

We did find a nice small home on Moreno Ave in Palo Alto and were lucky to avoid a bidding battle to lease the home as several people were there at the same time wanting to take the place. The owner somehow liked us and said it was ours. Probably that was because of HP's good reputation and my future job there.

Our first home in Palo Alto on Moreno Avenue

Just before departing to Southern California, FrankCavier said it's really a hot July day, so you should take the coastal route to L.A. The inland route will be very hot today. That made sense, so as we rolled away we pulled out the California map to see what our route would be. Well, to newcomers it looked like the coastal route was highway 1, so that's what we took. It was beautiful, stunning actually. We really enjoyed the incredible views for first hour. Then as the winding road continued on and on, and our gasoline got lower and lower, we realized that there was no chance for a refill on this route for at least 60 more miles. Before we found a gas station we did run out. Drivers on the highway were very nice to pick me up as I started to walk miles to a gas station and again as I returned to our car with a full gas can. This route took us several extra hours and we stopped at a pay phone to call my folks and tell them that we were going to be several hours late, but we did finally get there.

It turns out what Cavier meant by Coastal route was US 101, not highway 1, and coming back to Palo Alto we took 101 which was beautiful also, but not as spectacular, or as slow.


Experiences During 40 Years at HP

- End of Part 1 -

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