I have chosen to describe HP's 1960-era organizational philosophy by spotlighting one of the first four charter divisions, formed in 1962. Those divisions were, Microwave, Frequency & Time, Oscilloscope, and Audio-Video. I spent most of my career in the Microwave Division, renamed later in 1970, the Stanford Park Division. I used to present this following material to new employees in our divisional orientations, and to the newly-hired field engineers in their neophyte seminar. It consisted of a narrative of the division organization, plus a graphical genealogy chart (see below) of most of the early HP products and their genesis from 1939.
The Microwave Division (MWD) had a rich tradition within the Hewlett-Packard Company--both in successful products, and in organizational philosophy. As HP grew through the 1940's and 50's, operations were contained within one group of buildings at 195, 295 and 395 Page Mill Road in Palo Alto. Those buildings were used later to house the Palo Alto Fabrication Center, before being torn down in about 1998 to make room for Agilent Corporate headquarters. The move to new "sawtooth-roof" buildings (1-6) at the top of the hill in Stanford Industrial Park took place about 1957.
Management style was informal, the product line was relatively small, and customers were clustered predominantly into the high-technology (aerospace) marketplace. In a word, life for HP was simple, at least compared to dozens of later divisions and operations scattered around the globe, and involved in many business sectors.
During the late 1940's and early 50's, HP's product line broadened considerably. The original audio-video products such as test oscillators, voltmeters and distortion analyzers, expanded with RF and microwave equipment, which emerged from the post-WWII national research activity. HP purchased a few microwave products from Varian Associates of Palo Alto. Digital frequency counters, first capable of 10 MHz, then 220 MHz, and 12.4 GHz measurements were introduced. Finally, in 1956, HP made a commitment to enter the oscilloscope business, and, by 1960, had a full line of oscilloscope products to compete with the industry leader, Tektronix.
HP's central business strategy was then, as it is now, to develop innovative new products, which fill a measurement need. But the resulting proliferation of product lines was creating many problems, in managing different product and business strategies. In 1958, to provide more specialization, the centralized Corporate R&D Lab was divided into 4 product groups; audio-video, counters, microwave and oscilloscopes. Marketing and production remained centralized, for the time being.
HP's total worldwide business, in 1959, was $47.7 million, and that year's catalog boasted 165 pages and 150 products. In that business era, students of management knew that most companies passed through a critical organizational phase at the $50 million sales plateau (in 1960's dollars). This happened as management responsibility transferred from direct founder control to another necessary layer of upper and middle level managers. Separating HP's R&D Lab, thus, became the first step in transferring responsibility to those new division managers; Bruce Wholey, Microwave, Al Bagley, Frequency and Time, John Cage, Audio-Video, and Norm Shrock, Oscilloscopes.
|This remarkable product line photo was called the "Big Picture," created by Dan O'Rourke in 1958.|
|Imagine the troubles of assembling all these 350 instruments and waveguide items into the auditorium of Bldg 5.
From Measure Magazine September-October 1985. Courtesy of the Hewlett Packard Company
Focusing on product line strategy in the separate design labs worked well, and by 1962, the company's sales had grown to $109 million. Manufacturing operations expanded to Europe and Colorado, and a few outside acquisitions of related technology companies was taking place. Several of these were the Boonton Radio Company and Harrison Laboratories (New Jersey), the Sanborn Medical Equipment Company (Waltham, MA), and Moseley X-Y Recorders in Pasadena, CA.
In 1962, a major reorganization took place, and full operating division status was established for the four major product lines. Microwave Division was one of those four "Charter Divisions," at that time comprising products with annual sales of approximately $20 million. The line included signal generators, sweepers, power meters and coaxial and waveguide test equipment. That year also happened to be the beginning of a 2-3 year business recession, so that the microwave revenues were virtually constant for three years.
Bruce Wholey, later Vice-President of Corporate Operations, was appointed General Manager of the new Microwave Division. About a year later, Bruce moved to Boston to take charge of the newly-acquired Medical Operations. John Young moved up from Marketing Manager, to become Division Manager. John managed the Microwave Division for about 5 years, then progressed through various Vice-President positions to become one of our most successful HP CEOs for some 15 years.
The Microwave Division really hit its stride in the 1960's. Dramatic new HP product lines changed the face of industrial microwave measurements. In 1964, the HP 8551 Spectrum Analyzer put HP into the spectrum analyzer market. In the process, it expanded the market five-fold, since it made measurements in ranges that previous analyzers could not reach. In 1967, the HP 8410 Vector Network Analyzer product line revolutionized microwave component design with the concept of characterizing the "scattering parameters" of test devices. Major innovations were also developing in signal generators, sweepers, power meters and measurement components.
Successful product strategy is always critical to success, but perhaps much more crucial to long-term HP success, was a management innovation started by Young in the mid-60's. This innovation became MWD's well-known "triad" management concept, which provided the key organizational ingredient in focusing a product strategy team on product planning, for that particular product line. The three-person product team came from marketing, R&D and production. This resulted in the "Wednesday morning product strategy meetings," which assured continuous attention to this most-crucial management function. We began with 4 product triad teams.
The triad product teams devised the product strategy, based on their combined knowledge of the market, applications and production technologies. Then, in the Wednesday morning review, they presented the strategy to upper-functional management for approval. This process contrasted to many organizations of that time, where product plans came from upper management or some central planning group. The genius of the MWD arrangement was that the best creative ability of all those young team members was utilized, and yet the overall insight of the division's marketing and business upper management was also brought into the plan during the reviews.
Since those years, the strategic product plan and its weekly meeting became common practice in most all HP divisions. More importantly, personal initiative and creativity was encouraged and rewarded at lower manager levels. Relatively young first-line managers assumed an active part in the business direction, and learned to make important product decisions.
Many of those young triad managers of the 1960's learned well on those microwave teams, and went on to become division and top executive managers all across the corporation. The names of some of these young microwave marketing product managers of the 60's will be recognized as later leaders of our company: Ned Barnholt, Dick Hackborn, Doug Chance, Al Steiner, Harold Kramer, Scott Wright, Brian Humphries, and many more. Many others came from the MWD R&D and manufacturing areas, with names like Dick Anderson, Tom Louhon, Dave Weibel, and perhaps dozens more.
Sales of the Microwave Division grew to over $100 million by 1973, and all other divisions in the (then) Instrument Product Group had moved out of Palo Alto. Since long HP experience had shown that optimum division size was in the $50-75 million sales range (for that period), a division split was executed and we received a new name, Stanford Park Division (SPD). Plans were made to reassign the rather broad line of products that were manufactured in Palo Alto. Not all of these were microwave, but they were located in Palo Alto, partly because of the highly-sophisticated metal and plastic fabrication shops, that were located at 295 Page Mill Road.
The computer-operated microwave system product line transferred to Automatic Measurement Division (AMD) in Sunnyvale, microwave OEM components to the Microwave Semiconductor Division (MSD) in San Jose, tape recorder products to San Diego Division (SDD). The largest transfer was network and spectrum analyzers plus sweepers to the newly-formed Santa Rosa Division (SRD).
Once again, and re-starting at about $50 million revenues, the remaining products in the Stanford Park of the 1970's grew fast. The line included signal generators, power and noise figure meters, transceiver test equipment, and coaxial and waveguide measurement accessories. High performance solid-state generators like the HP 8640 and 8660 replaced tens of thousands of old HP 606s and 608s and drove business upward. Meantime, brand new products like the HP 8901A Modulation Analyzer and the HP 8950A Transceiver Test System zeroed in on customers who were equipping production lines for CB radio and mobile FM radios. The HP 8672A Synthesized Generator (2-18 GHz), introduced in 1977, began to amaze everyone, with how many hundreds of customers needed that $30,000 instrument.
By 1978, it was obvious that floor space was again running out at SPD, Palo Alto. Spokane, WA, Division was established, and plans were made to transfer the signal generator and transceiver test products below 1000 MHz, in a 3-year phased move. By 1981, most of the people and products had transferred. Soon after that, the Manufacturing Division (03), at the old 395 Page Mill site, Palo Alto, was re-integrated into SPD. (It had been spun off from the Microwave Division in the late 60's.) This put SPD back into major fabrication operations, making cabinetry sheet metal, plastic parts, and aluminum foundry operations for the entire corporation. And the huge printed circuit board fabrication, of Bldg. 15, was added, too.
The Stanford Park of the 1980's was primarily a microwave division again. Its products and markets found great potential in communications, radar, navigation and defense electronics. In addition, our products went into many other scientific and industrial sectors, from radio astronomy to drying plywood glue with microwave energy. The aerospace/defense business and satellite communications, in particular, grew rapidly in the 80's. And the international sales operations of HP accounted for an increasing penetration of world-wide markets.
As the 1980's grew to a close, consolidation plans removed the Palo Alto Fabrication Site to a corporate fabrication group. Then the Microwave Test Accessories (MTA) product line was combined with a similar product line from the NMD division in Santa Rosa, and the new business group attached to the Microwave Technology Division (MWTD) in Santa Rosa. By the end of 1990, marketing for MWTD had moved, and production was transferred out over several years.
Stanford Park's future in the 1990's was exciting. Microwave system technology had changed dramatically in those years, with the increased availability of ultra-complex devices and components. These customer changes led SPD to introduce two innovative new approaches to signal simulation, needed for testing these modern communication and military systems.
One direction away from the traditional AM/FM/Pulse modulation was called Vector or I/Q Modulation (which stands for In-phase and Quadrature). This digitally-oriented modulation format was increasingly used in modern microwave terrestrial and satellite communications. It is a very efficient use of the government-regulated frequency spectrum, and it permitted direct compatibility with digital signal formats such as computer data and digitized voice channels. The resulting products, like the HP 8780/82A Vector Signal Generators and HP 8980/81A Vector Modulation Analyzers, served for years with the highest performance, and without competition.
The other direction in modern signal simulation was the so-called frequency-agile signal generators, which matched up to new trends in radar and electronic-warfare system designs. SPD accomplished that with state-of-the-art technology called direct-digital synthesis. The HP 8770A Arbitrary Waveform Synthesizer (0-50 MHz, AWS) was launched first, followed by the HP 8791 Frequency Agile Signal Simulator (HP FASS), which at $225,000 each, represented a remarkable cost effectiveness for those system customers.
Several other product directions were the HP 11757A Multipath Fading Simulator and the HP 11758T Digital Radio Test System. Both of these directions were intended for field installation, commissioning and preventative maintenance of modern terrestrial digital communications radios. This market sector was still growing rapidly in support of digital cellular mobile communications, and became a massive worldwide trend.
Functionally, our products were used by design engineers in R&D Labs, by manufacturing engineers for production test, by evaluation and environmental engineers for quality control, and by engineers and technicians in service and maintenance facilities all over the world. Over 50% of our business then came from outside the US.
Typical applications would include signal generators used by FAA technicians to calibrate air traffic control radars used at most major airports. Our power meters were used to test microwave link transmitter outputs at a telephone company production line. A NASA design lab might have used our HP 8673B Synthesized Generator to characterize a telemetry receiver for the space shuttle. The HP 8970B Noise Figure Meter was used by component design engineers to produce better low-noise amplifiers for satellite earthstations.
The SPD Vector Generators were used in design labs of microwave radio manufacturers. The new HP FASS had been purchased for creating real-life electronic scenarios, to test radar and electronic warfare receivers, while still at the design bench in the lab, using a software library of realistic electronic threats. The HP 8770A AWS could create complex test signals which included desired signals, plus all manner of signal impairments, to test the read/write head electronics of high-tech computer storage disks.
SPD products were top-of-the-line. Brand recognition surveys of microwave customers consistently ranked HP signal generators near 95%, and power meters around 85% (these numbers were share of mind, not share of market). For HP's high performance and quality, customers were always willing to pay top dollar. (End of SPD profile.)
I always viewed my Marcom job as having a cheerleading component. I would point out, to anyone who would listen, that our outstanding HP reputation was a fragile thing. Customer orders made our world (and paychecks) go around. We didn't deserve these orders. We had to earn them, continually, one by one. And that every SPD person must help. Our reputation rides on high quality products of today and tomorrow, not on past achievements.
So, you can see I was trying to convince our new employees and field engineers, to understand the high regard we earned with our customers. I wanted them to know that reputation was a crucial part of our business. And that everyone from the production person, soldering a PC board, to the shipping clerk, could affect our quality of the product inside the shipping box, upon opening by a loyal customer.
The financial model of HP operations through those decades was quite consistent. R&D expenditures were set to 11% of revenues, 9.5% to the division R&D and 1.5% to corporate R&D.
"Return factor" of a new product, measured by a 5-year accumulated product profits divided by the project R&D costs, was set above a factor of 3.
Prices were set to deliver a gross profit of 22%, 2% going to profit sharing and 2% to the employee pension plan, with 8% going to corporate taxes.
Then, in a going-organization, such a company could grow at a rate of 15% per year, without having to go to the external finance markets for funding. Internal profits would throw off enough profits to sustain internally-funded growth.
Interestingly, when V.P. Frank Cavier plotted HP growth charts for almost 3 decades, it showed an average of just 15% per year, higher some years and lower on others, but on the 15% trend line. And for you scientific folks at HP, it was symbolic of the operation of the company, that when averaged over many years, the average return factor for new products came out to a number close to π, 3.14.
There was no equality between divisions, however. For highly-competitive product lines like oscilloscopes, marketing expenses as a percent of revenue, were often 8%, with advertising sometimes approaching 3-4%. In a market arena where HP owned the customer preferences, like RF/microwave, marketing expense was limited for years to approximately 2.5%, with <0.5% for advertising. It seemed unfair to our lab engineers, but for the good of the overall company, and its customers, Dave and Bill determined those relative allocations personally.
I added this short description of the SPD to VID transition in Rev #3. After serving for decades as the mother division of RF/microwave technologies, Stanford Park Division was assigned a new role for the 1990's. The original Microwave Division had created the Santa Rosa Division in 1970, and the Spokane Division in 1980, and had moved many other successful products to the systems and recorder divisions. At a time of dramatic change in the video recording and distribution technologies, the decision was made to exploit some of HP's technologies in the video test business. Digital techniques had come along so fast, that digital video was certain to take over that huge business.
Video technology hadn't changed all that much in the previous 4 decades. It was analog and video cassette tape technologies which dominated things. But with the digitization of video and the inroads of computer disk technology, both hard disks and CDROM type media, important marketing successes were out there. Jim Olsen took over as SPD division manager from Al Seely a couple years before, and took charge of the transition.
It was a major paradigm shift for the staid and traditional microwave team. The new division was called Video Instrument Division, and aimed its resources at broadcast video applications and post-production areas and the cable distribution markets. Major technology inroads were made, especially in video streaming servers, which were distinguished from ordinary computer data servers which merely served up batches of data. Video servers needed to stream continuous video data, and relied on highly-sophisticated data compression technologies like MPEG. Experts like Al Kovalick made significant contributions to digital video compression technologies and helped write new industry standards.
The VID Division learned how to play with the big-boys in the media game. For example, the major trade show of the industry was the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) show in Las Vegas every spring. It involved 15 acres of booths, major flash and flare, 150,000 attendees, and a week-long chaos of publicity events and hooplah. With the help of Walt Skowron, who had a long-time fishing buddy, and who worked in the management of NAB, we were able to mount some big-time display booths at the show. Our first year at NAB we were able to garner a booth on the front of the "mezzanine," which was raised about 10 feet off the main exhibit floor, when a previous booth space holder backed out. A spectacular win for our first VID exhibition. We also learned the complex process of Press Conferences, and Jim Olsen, our division manager, was a natural pronouncer of VID news.
After 5-6 years of heroic engineering and marketing efforts, we had succeeded in fielding a line of Video Disk Recorders, MediaStream Broadcast Servers. Good name. (16 channel I/O for TV stations).
|These video servers delivered streams of video data,
not batches like computer servers
We had also shipped a Video On Demand (VOD) cable server to PacBell for use in streaming up to 10,000 video signals to telephone customers, who could order up any video they wish, start, stop and pause just like a VCR. That VOD was ahead of its time. Al Kovalick observes, "Yes we did some amazing things with 500 MB drives (now 2 TB) and we could support about 2K VOD streams per rack. Today it's all Internet based or at least IP based and serving billions of streams to many millions of end users. 20% of all internet traffic is from YouTube. . . "
Sadly, after all that hard work, HP management concluded that the product line didn't fit our field sales coverage, and sold off the business to Pinnacle Systems in Mountain View, CA. A large team of engineering and marketing people went along with the products in the buyout. Pinnacle, which was acquired by Avid, continued to support it until 2009.
Before HP went public with their stock in 1957, the corporate ownership was a partnership entirely in the hands of Dave and Bill. Before that, they had determined to award a number of key employees and middle management, stock positions and options in those several HP affiliates, which supplied parts and components to HP.
HP Associates (HPA) was set up for working the technology in the semi-conductor arena. Some outside scientific talent was recruited from RCA and other leaders of the time.
Palo Alto Engineering (PAECO) manufactured power and highly-sophisticated signal transformers for HP production
Dymec was established to engineer and market custom systems for sophisticated customers in aerospace and manufacturing applications. The strategy was to leverage the use of individual HP instruments, coupling them into measurement or generator systems. The objective was to supply "turnkey" systems that most HP production lines were not equipped to handle. Most aerospace companies did not normally have the extra engineering resources available to take away from their main military system production, so there were advantages to buying turnkey system testers.
Dymec's original name came from the fact that "hp" turned upside down was "dy." I believe that they took those two initials and added "nac" to make Dynac, which was to stand for dynamic acquisition and control. Shortly thereafter, Westinghouse, which owned the name Dynac, objected legally, so the name was changed to Dymec.
Dymec moved strongly into computer-operated systems as the HP 2116A instrumentation computer rolled out. It was a natural for complex measurement and control systems. Dymec also moved into real-time production measurement systems which required faster data sampling than offered by the standard HP product like, so they designed special "system" digital voltmeters and fast D to A generators. They also designed some special microwave signal generators and test sets that had quantities too small for a normal HP division to consider in their calculations of "return factor."
As the main HP Corporation launched their first Wall Street stock, all of the manager-owners-employees of those affiliates were "bought out" with HP stock. Many became quite wealthy from those early stock portfolios.
The chart below covers most of the early products of HP, but in the middle decades mostly focuses on RF and microwave.
In any large organization, whether corporate or the military, there is always a creative tension between the corporate staff (Pentagon) and the operating elements (military divisions). HP was no exception. For some functions like R&D, Dave and Bill set the ratio at 1.5% of revenues going to corporate R&D while 9.5% stayed in the Division product engineering, for a total of 11% of revenues devoted to research. As mentioned earlier, HP found that such an amount in engineering with a reasonably successful batch of new products allowed HP to grow at about 15% per year without the need for outside financing.
Many of the important functions of any corporation MUST be done in a central group. Examples of this would be IT and certain finance and tax functions. And certainly the Comsys communications system described below, was a grand success. But there can be an arrogance that develops in central functions, especially when their funding comes from a highly-reliable source they can count on, or what we in the divisions used to call our corporate "tax." On all of our costing analyses for new product's prices, corporate overhead was one line item. It was about 4.5% of revenue, a considerable amount.
When the corporate functional groups were scattered around various locations in Bldgs. 1-6, 15, 16 and 18, on the hill, there was considerable interaction between division and corporate people. It happened at coffee discussions, and just running into each other in the halls. But by the time that Bldg 20 was built in the 70's, and many of those corporate groups consolidated into that Hanover Street" site, it was a huge operation. I think someone said that there were 2000 people there. I can recall John Young observing in one of his management talks that not a single penny of profit was made in Bldg 20, with all those people. Therefore he set their objectives to never outgrow that building. Alas, it was not to be. Corporate overhead tends to grow inexorably.
John was actually wrong regarding profits out of Bldg 20. They did take the royalty income from intellectual property patents for HP. And the corporate component engineering group became a huge money saver. As HP grew to many global production facilities, our parts procurement became a real model for creativity and efficiency. Creative engineering teams chose long lists of preferred parts to limit the proliferation of inventory items. That didn't mean a product designer couldn't choose unique parts, but he wouldn't get the advantage of low prices from the preferred parts database.
By restricting the number of parts, they achieved two things. They increased the global usage of those fewer parts numbers, and gave the purchasing guys huge quantities to dangle in front of the potential suppliers. This purchasing power resulted in large central purchase orders to fewer companies, and gave the using divisions the ability to just drop ship what they needed from the central purchase order.
More importantly, by providing these large annual commitments to fewer suppliers, HP was able to demand much higher quality and reliability specifications. It came at a time when customer attention was seriously focused on buying better reliability, which were inherent in semiconductors. So the corporate function of component engineering was remarkably successful in saving huge amounts of product cost, thereby increasing profits for all.
Other projects were not so fortunate. One program was initiated in corporate engineering, which was intended to create a template for how the design engineers in the divisions should work to invent their new products and engineer them into introduction. This albatross was truly ill-fated. Part of the reason was that the group grew to several hundred people, all without accepting suggestions or comments from the dozens of product divisions. Yet those divisions would ultimately have to accept this massive batch of processes into their engineering groups. Minimum inputs were solicited because the central group felt that such division suggestions would "taint" their creative ideas for how to run a "futuristic" divisional R&D organization. Bad idea. Worse, the central group manager was impervious to suggestions, and ultimately a new manager was brought in from Loveland, who killed the whole thing, or re-directed it significantly.
It led me to observe in some of our discussions with corporate personnel that perhaps a useful control tool for corporate programs would be that every January 2nd, all 2000 people in Bldg 20 would be kept out in the parking lots. Their managers would then appear before a panel of 5 randomly selected division managers, to present their job-function case. They would be permitted to go back to work on their projects, after justifying that they were serving to make the divisions more efficient or more profitable. For me, such a process would assure that at all times, the corporate groups would be looking to serve the divisions.
I also observed that over decades the military has devised a pretty good system for assuring that the Pentagon and operating armies work well together. They set up a routine re-assignment of officers so that they work on staff projects at the Pentagon for 4-5 years. Then they get posted to an operational army to carry out the orders of the staff work they just worked on. I was never able to see much of that kind of movement at HP. Quite a few divisional personnel moved to corporate, but almost none ever came back.
It was a personal thing for me. I loved products and applications. I was truly at home in a product division, and doubt that I would ever have been happy working on processes at corporate rather than products at a division.
For most of us who grew up working inside the product development teams of HP engineering, manufacturing, and marketing, it was not obvious that our processes for creating those new products were all that different from other companies. It was in 2006, when HP outsider and aficionado, Ken Kuhn, made the observation to me that HP seemed to spawn an exceptionally long string of highly creative new products over the years. Although Ken never worked for HP, his career in design engineering for instrumentation products sensitized him to the fact that there really is a culture of creativity in the product design world. He has accumulated 400+ vintage HP instruments in his basement, and created a website "museum" of HP products and historical documents. As a design engineer himself, he expressed great interest in how that culture worked at HP, and asked me for my observations. (See References at the end for URL.)
It got me to thinking, and I briefly consulted several of my long-time HP engineer associates for their thoughts. I am indebted to Al Bagley, Bob Grimm, Bob DeVries, Art Fong and others who gave me their comments. With such a record of remarkable instruments over all those decades it is too easy to think it just happening because Dave and Bill proclaimed, "Our products must make a contribution." A recent HP historical overview, released internally on DVD, and titled, "HP Origins," consisted mostly of interviews of several dozen retired HP middle and upper managers. Their remembrances certainly give the impression that it was top-down. Al Bagley remembers that "it was drummed into" the engineers that we would not build "commodity or me-too" instruments; others could do that.
Yet it seems to me that Dave and Bill's "top-down" direction is only one factor in the true overall culture that drove HP people to excel in figuring the right kind of performance that would provide a real step ahead for customers. Moreover, beyond the technical performance inside the box, there was always the additional creativity in the external feature set-the front panel controls-which reminded the user daily that they had the best machine money could buy.
More than once customers would mention to me that HP meant "High Priced." My answer always was, "It's worth it." Packard's pricing philosophy stated that we would price for value. If we contributed to customer value, it was worth a considerable price. Yes, we did use pricing formulas, but once the minimum required profit was reached, you could price higher if there was a clear, unambiguous, or often, a UNIQUE measuring capability. The HP 851/8551 MW Spectrum Analyzer was a clear example of that pricing philosophy, with its exceptional breakthrough performance.
TO MAKE IMPORTANT CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE
FIELD OF ELECTRONIC INSTRUMENTATION.
We have agreed that over the years we should concentrate our efforts in the general field of electronic instrumentation, and that we should direct our energies toward trying to make significant achievements in this field. This objective is precisely stated as follows:
TO DESIGN AND DEVELOP ELECTRONIC
MEASURING INSTRUMENTS AND TECHNIQUES
THAT WILL CONTRIBUTE TO THE ADVANCEMENT OF SCIENCE, INDUSTRY, AND HUMAN WELFARE.
In order to properly meet this objective, it is important that we place the maximum effort on our new-product program, for it is only by continually developing new instruments, new techniques that make real contributions in their technical capability, that we can build and maintain a position of leadership. This means we must continually seek new ideas for new and better kinds of instruments.
It is not sufficient, however, simply to discover new ideas and new concepts; we must be able to convert these ideas quickly and efficiently into new products. As the company grows larger, it is likely to be more difficult to maintain good efficiency in our new-product program. It is mandatory that we do so if we hope to maintain our position of leadership in our field.
In most cases, the success or failure of a product is determined by the care with which the details are executed. This means we must seek to develop in our manufacturing program the best and most efficient production techniques which assure at the same time quality and economy . A customer who buys an instrument from the Hewlett-Packard family must expect to get the finest of craftsmanship and the best in value for his money.
And, finally, in order to make a real contribution in our field, we must provide our customers with the best possible service. Again, when a customer buys an instrument from the Hewlett-Packard family, he should expect not only that it perform well the day he receives it, but that it be designed and backed with the best possible service so that he can expect long trouble-free operation from his instrument.
These are the elements of excellence we must concentrate on in every level of our organization and seek to do the best job that can be done in each of these important areas.
TO MAKE A PROFIT ON ALL CURRENT OPERATIONS
(end of excerpt)
It should be noted that soon after 1961, that the profit objective was raised to #1. H and P observed often that profits result if contributions come first, and all other operations were done efficiently. Plus the observation that profit was the SINGLE best overall indicator that we were doing EVERYTHING well.
I feel that the framework for creativity in HP new products was the formal strategic new product plan, usually prepared for a 5-year forward period, and reworked continuously. I don't frankly recall serious written product plans in my earliest days of 1958, when I was an application engineer assigned to Bruce Wholey. The four R&D sections in Barney's R&D lab were run by Bruce Wholey (microwave), Al Bagley (frequency & time), John Cage (audio-video), and Norm Schrock (oscilloscopes).
Bagley remembers, "A long time ago, we used to have regular Friday morning meetings of the lab engineers. At one meeting, we were all surprised when Hewlett showed up and said he wanted to propose something new. The idea was this: We engineers would spend all day every Friday doing nothing but looking for new and innovative "blue-sky" ideas. These might not occur to us while we 'had our noses to the grindstone trying to meet our present schedules.' Wow! That sounded great, but after he and his friend reflected on it, a 20% reduction in product development time didn't really sound too good, and so the idea was dropped. It was interesting, though, that shortly later, the central HP Labs (under Oliver) was set up to use 15% of the HP R&D budget looking for totally new ideas, not part of any lab section."
Bagley's mention of 15% allotted to central R&D was for the period after product engineering had been organized into product divisions (circa 1962), and Barney Oliver retained the central corporate R&D group. That R&D group was funded at a rate that was 15% of the overall company engineering budgets, which themselves ran about 11% of annual revenues for the 1960's.
We know there was new product planning done at Barney's R&D management level, because I recall annual offsite management meetings, where various planning slides, finance, fiscal results, future plans were presented. Barney ALWAYS delivered a stimulating presentation, with tantalizing pictures of revolutionary new product ideas to come. Of course, Barney's mission was to move HP into product areas that WERE NOT covered by the existing product divisions. They always made us proud to be on HP's team, because the possibilities were so elegant and exciting.
Soon after John Young took over the new Microwave Division in 1962, the formal product planning processes got to be highly routine. As I describe elsewhere, John's triad management organization structure and the Wednesday morning product plan reviews were key to continuously focusing on the strategic product plan. I believe that this management process was soon adopted by the other product divisions, partly because Dave and Bill were impressed with the results.
It has been asked who is responsible for developing the new product plan, marketing or engineering? Or, can that crucial job be turned over to a centralized product planning group, or perhaps even a paid consulting company? I think we all have heard of companies where product planning belonged to a central planning group. In the HP Origins DVD, it was mentioned that HP did run a consultant study to determine the market potential for the HP-35 calculator. For its own reasons, that study turned out to be dead wrong. I am sure that there may be companies where central planning could work quite well, say in food processing arenas, or perhaps pharmaceuticals.
In HP, the division's engineering department was custodian of the strategic product plan. But the responsibility for inputs was demanded from all three groups; marketing, engineering and production. Marketing was expected to survey customer needs, competitive aspects, business trends, and such. If there were new military system technologies, say on radar advances, new complex modulations, marketing was expected to be abreast of those application and technology trends.
Lab engineers were naturally watching the technologies, knowing what industry was doing in similar systems, component advances, better detectors, oscillators, amplifiers. They looked and innovated new measurement processes and techniques.
The production member of the management triad was supposed to be current on manufacturing technologies, microcircuit trends, PC processes, fabrication techniques, which could give us an advantage on production costs, or on new testing procedures they foresaw for future work.
Each product team was working 5 years out, trying to assess where the industry technology was going, military, communications, radar, etc. Having an open plan allowed everyone to contribute to ideas, marketing, sales, even manufacturing who needed better test gear for their own lines. And this was done continuously, since each product segment in the plan was re-visited maybe every 3 months. Bob DeVries emphasizes that the "next-bench" syndrome worked for us here, because every one of our engineers and customers USED test equipment every day. We could see what worked and what wasn't working well. And the feedback was immediate.
I always felt that our mechanical designers were unsung heroes in this creativity process, during their part of the instrument design sequence. When it came time to lay out the functional front panel controls, they recognized that how you "drive" an instrument has EVERYTHING to do with the way the panel controls were presented and laid out. I think that was often equally as exciting to a customer as the electrical performance. This was especially true as the front panels began to sprout digital keyboards and CRT displays. The measurement power was often embodied by the way the front panel and the data displays worked in a measurement sequence.
The Hewlett-defined "next-bench syndrome" was another key to our creativity. Not only did every design engineer use HP test equipment EVERY DAY, but they also lived next to other groups who were doing similar but adjacent measurements. The informal culture in the labs of HP afforded a lot of cross fertilization at the traditional coffee breaks twice a day. People did not hold their research protectively. So, measurement improvement became a challenge to each engineer. Almost a team-bragging-rights thing. They could see where productivity improvements in measurements would enhance their day, and strived to make such improvements in their next product. An HP product team that produced an industry-breakthrough got the same kind of internal management recognition as a winning sports team.
In a few cases, management permitted some actual direct competition in products. I recall at one time there were THREE digital voltmeter designs going at once. While not directly competitive functionally, many of us wondered why HP would waste resources promoting three similar products to customers. Admittedly, one was an integrating type which fit system applications better. Another was super accurate, suitable for standards labs, etc.
There was another aspect in the "critical mass" element that went along with everyone thinking of measurements every day. In the 1960s, there was an amazing breakout of technology, across a wide front. In the rf/microwave labs, as some new measurement technique came along, time-domain reflectometry for example, engineers like Harley Halverson were able to fire pulses down through the HP 355 step attenuator (500 MHz), and individually tweak the frequency response (capacitance tabs) of each of the four steps of pi-network resistive pads. Which ended up doubling the frequency range to 1000 MHz, without changing anything else. The TDR analysis leveraged any number of baseband coaxial components which could be characterized with a fast pulse.
New network analyzers permitted better component analysis using the revolutionary "new" scattering parameter process. With the concurrent sapphire microwave microcircuit technology, these design insights delivered better internal components such as filters, mixers, oscillators and amplifiers. And being assembled on a single sapphire substrate, wire bonding eliminated cumbersome external cabling connections between functional modules. So one innovation would contribute to many others. The abrupt-recovery diode mentioned elsewhere is another technology example that moved into many different product areas.
Then came the HP 2116 instrumentation computer, making automated measurements and data correction which leveraged design and iteration. The HP 8551 spectrum analyzer revealed signal performance over super-wide bands.
Creativity wasn't limited to the lab. Packard's book mentions that creativity and "inexpensive quality" should be pushed into manufacturing too. He mentioned the "Kingman card" which was a component mounting means. This was used before the wide application of printed circuit boards for component mounting. In those days, Tektronix used ceramic strips which positioned discrete resistors and capacitors, with wires connecting to the base of vacuum tube sockets.
Rufe Kingman was the mechanical inventor who built a machine which would do the legendary comic-strip "Rube Goldberg" justice. You fed into the machine black phenolic sheets 1/8" X 2" X 12" along with a spool of thin, tin-plated, 1/4" wide brass strip. The machine punched holes every 3/8" near each long edges of the phenolic board, then slotted, pierced, cut, inserted and crimped the plated strip so that you ended up with a complete fabricated component mounting board, ready for mounting and soldering components and wires.
In all areas of the shops and fab facilities, one would find clever inventions which made some process or another more efficient or safe or speedy or better.
The general HP practice was to hire brand new engineers, right out of college. Over the years, we did hire experienced people, usually with specific technical expertise, as needed. But in the 1960-70s, the way we grew was mostly through a huge college recruiting program. Dozens of college interview stops, several thousand engineering students interviewed on campus, and maybe 500 invited to factory visits, all day things. Each interview team spent a lot of time getting to know the professors on campuses to get recommendations of the brightest or more creative kids. I personally was never on such a campus interview team, but did a lot of the day interviews in the factory.
Bob DeVries remembers those day-long interviews. The candidate was hosted for breakfast, set up for maybe 7 interviews, including at least one technical "stress" interviewer. They all looked for enthusiasm, knowledge, communication skills, creative and technical talents. Then at the end of the day, all the interviewers would meet to make the evaluation and actually make a yes/no hiring decision. By the time several of the team would take the candidate out to dinner that night, they usually knew if they were going to make the job offer.
I had mentioned Russ Riley in another part of my history narrative. Russ was one of the stress interviewers, and came in as a very mild-mannered person who wouldn't harm a fly. But then he would launch into some questions about how the student would solve some particular problem. It wasn't a deep technical problem which the student wouldn't be prepared for, but something that would stand out in clear contrast just what the creativity was in the student's mind. His process of thinking. To Russ it would signal those clear signs of thought sequences, referral to first principles, etc. If Russ would pronounce an interviewee a suitable candidate, you could bet he would turn out successful.
Our MW division also had the idea of hiring what Paul Ely called "inventors" rather than "4.0 geniuses." These were people who knew which end of a soldering iron to pick up, hams, audiophiles, tinkerers, car engine buffs. We surely hired hundreds of the theoretical-leaning geniuses too, for the advanced HP Labs, and specialized technologies. I always had a hunch that "doers" were often more willing to try new things than "thinkers." Further, at every facility where we could, HP arranged with the local engineering school for a Masters program for our engineers, so they could return for the latest engineering theory and practice. This gave us a continuously improving engineering community IQ, and a pool of the latest university technologies. Typically, as at the Stanford "Honors Co-op" program, HP paid 2x the going tuition rate, so as to help offset the university overhead.
Bagley remembers that HP was an attractive company to work for, when creative engineers were looking. Our innovative engineering developments were frequently seen in AIEE and IRE Proceedings, as well as in our own HP Journal. That kind of innovation attracted the kinds of minds who aspired to those goals. Al, himself, while at Stanford was attracted by one of Hewlett's ideas which was published on the distributed amplifier, which overcame the frequency limitations of vacuum tubes by arraying individual amplifier tubes along 2 distributed transmission lines. Sadly, Al noted that HP put their focus on such amplifiers rather than launch into oscilloscope products, delaying our ultimate challenge to Tektronix for the scope market.
There was one other interesting aspect of Hewlett's attitude towards taking risks. I remember him making a point at some engineering review that we should never consider that EVERY product project would succeed. He felt that if we NEVER had any failures, we weren't venturing out far enough into the unknown. A wise command. Bagley said that ALL of Silicon Valley came to show those traits; venturesome decisions, risk-taking attitudes. These were in contrast to the once-fabled Route-128 technology centers around Boston in those years.
As years went on, HP grew a huge vertically-integrated operation. There were the obvious sheet metal fabrications, but also aluminum die casting, PC board fab and test, plastic molding, cable fab operations, high sophistication transformer design and fabrication. Then came semiconductor operations across the diversity of technologies; diodes, bi-polar, CMOS, NMOS, and most every variety of integrated circuits to support instruments and computer products. The availability of all of those component technologies, PLUS the technical consulting that those experts lent to the instrument designer was huge.
Highly specialized technologies were also funded, from Cesium tubes to quartz crystal labs to all sorts of semi conductors. Colorado built a broad capability in research and production of cathode ray tubes, including such unique features as the internal graticule, beating Tek. These allowed immediate research on new breakthroughs right at the state of the art. Those things were most useful in instrumentation.
Then there was a culture of building "bullet-proof" designs, with the respected HP Class B environmental performance that every new product had to undergo before accepting for production release. Heat tests, operating within specs from -20C to +55C, and without damage from -40C to +75C; vibration, humidity, shock, etc. The mechanical product designers were the key here.
Every layout had infrared scans and thermal analysis done to make sure that there weren't hot spots and to assure that fan-blown air was properly distributed. DeVries noted that they never designed an instrument with a fan if it could be avoided. He recalled having Barney Oliver spend a day with him analyzing the performance of the 3000 volt high voltage power supply of the HP 120 scope. By making it more efficient, they were able to dissipate less power and thereby avoid a fan. An unforgettable day with Barney.
There were derating charts for each component, for example, resistors were run at 75% of the published power rating; capacitors, at 75% of their voltage rating. Semiconductors and other active components had similar derating rules.
By the 1970s, HP had grown a huge centralized "component engineering" team, responsible for purchased parts and which HP contracted for in massive quantities. They controlled "preferred parts," and then drop-shipped to remote facilities. Because they wielded such massive purchasing power, they were able to enforce rigid specified environmental performance on purchased parts. Those were the only parts stocked in the open stock bins. You could use "non-standard" parts but had to go through extra paperwork to justify. Interesting how such a small stock-bin rule can dramatically cut the spare parts provisioning downstream in the service and repair chain and for customer repair stocks. As HP acquired other small companies, the parts team visited the new plants and installed the HP system.
Here are some other specific memories of Bob DeVries who lived the design culture:
* He was "blown away" on his first day in test engineering. He was introduced to the HP open stock rooms. He couldn't believe he could just walk in and get parts or vacuum tubes or hardware of any kind, and not be required to account for it or sign a charge slip. "Where is the stock clerk? There was none."
* "We were provided with the best tools to do our job. Fine drafting tables and drafting machines. Electric erasers and office supplies readily available."
* "We had well-engineered work benches with outlets for power, large work surface, lots of drawer space for parts and tools, and drawing drawers for storage."
* "Access to our precious model shop to make prototypes in-house. We had fast turn-around times and many fine machinists and metal craftsmen to advise us on fabrication tricks."
* "We had an engineers' "play room" for making our own parts if we so desired. We had all the fine hand tools; micrometers, vernier calipers, scales and rulers."
* "We had the HP Manufacturing Manual, a compendium of preferred design practices, a Preferred Parts Catalog, and a Value Sort Catalog. They were later computerized."
* "Later, of course, we had Computer Aided Design, almost before it was available elsewhere."
Bob was one of our pre-eminent product designers. These people were responsible for the mechanical layout and were the absolute key to the manufacturability, serviceability, and reliability. How do you partition the components on the PC boards? How and where are the boards positioned? They fought all the previously-mentioned concern about running cool. And, did anyone ever think of the lowly service technician in the customer repair department 5 years later? Yes, those designers did.
I recall seeing the internal construction of a complex RF/microwave/digital instrument (not one of Bob's designs). It must have had 30 small PC boards, each inside of its own pocket inside a large aluminum casting, which had to be done to isolate crosstalk and interference. Except, the top and bottom covers were designed to be ONE PIECE, each requiring about 45 screws to hold down at all points. Luckily a senior designer saw it early and made him break each cover into 4 or 5 parts. And more than one service tech would thank him later.
The engineering dept culture was ALWAYS directed to customer needs. When the performance specification sheet was written, product features and options always aimed to do a better measurement job. Naturally some new instruments were just performance or frequency extensions of an old product. But when some new technology came along, like step recovery diodes, which allowed phase locking of microwave oscillators, that technology spread like wildfire, as I mentioned; downconverters for network analyzers, comb generators for divide-by-n frequency dividers, etc etc.
And, finally, creativity being so elusive and unique, I recall a time when HP tried to do some training on creativity, which I attended. One of the elements the leader used was the showing of a Kaiser Corporation video training film on how to be creative. Kaiser is the huge Bay Area company, started by Henry Kaiser, one of the six construction companies that built Boulder Dam in the 1930s. He moved into WWII "Victory" shipbuilding and later cement manufacture and a huge healthcare operation which still rivals most competition. Their Human Resources had also attempted to train creativity into all their employees by funding this film. The film itself was interesting, because after the introduction, the authors revealed the truth; that they worked hard to figure what to tell people in HOW to be creative, and failed. So they decided that another method would be to show people a film that WAS creative.
The end result was a charming film, which as I recall was done in cartoon media. You left the showing with a definite feeling that not only was the film creative, but that you could do the same thing, and become just as creative. After all these years, the only image I carry with me, is a person working on a project, which took him up a long flight of stairs, at each step fighting off problems, overcoming them, moving ever higher. When he finally ran right up into a ceiling, hard and unyielding. But then he discovered that the ceiling was nothing but a trap door to a grand floor above and leading upward even further.
I have often wished that I could find or see a copy of that wonderful little video film of perhaps only 20 minutes. But the advice I would give to any young engineer, looking to leave their mark on their trade, would be to be curious, be inquisitive, absorb your field with plenty of reading. Find a creative mentor, and don't let them off easy.
In 2011, I had a discussion with Dave Kirby, our long-term HP PR manager, who told me that he had worked for Kaiser Corporation before getting into agency PR work. He knew the man who created the Kaiser video on creativity. The man's name was Don Fabun. I Googled him but was led to believe that he was long deceased. A pity, because I would really like to look again at that film.
Our HP advertising program of the late 50's, was essentially Noel Eldred, the V.P. of Marketing, and Bob Orr of L.C. Cole Advertising Agency in San Francisco. As the central marketing services group, they never asked many questions of those of us out in the product groups. I was application engineer with the microwave lab, and we would usually find out about a new ad on our new product when it appeared in print. That process always contained the elements of disaster, because there were often errors of specs and message.
Over the next several decades, the HP ad agency sequence went something like this: L.C. Cole to Lennen & Newell. Then George Richardson and crew bought their way out of L&N and it became Richardson, Siegel, Rolfs & McCoy. (This made it a San Francisco and Honolulu agency but we never saw any signs of the Hawaiian part). Then, Dick Garvin and others defected to form Pinne, Garvin & Hock. Don Herbers came in later, bringing in the Peterbilt Truck account. Dick Garvin was the thread who ran through most of those early agencies. He started as a young "gofer," I think with Lennen & Newell, and ended up being the creative powerhouse in Pinne, Garvin and Hock. Bob Pinne actually came from the graphics side and Owen Hock was their financial conscience. (Dick was Garvin and Dean was Dean Abramson.)
Garvin was a real advertising genius to work with. He drank too much, which may have led to his untimely early death. Often, after delivering some ad materials to us in Palo Alto, he would retire to the Cameo Club cardroom for the afternoon. He had a wide range of interests, and authored several books. One, the "Crystal Skull," told of a remarkable archaeological find in the jungles of Central America. I don't recall the details of how he found out about it, but it seems to me someone on the Peninsula was in the archeology business, ended up with the skull, and Dick learned about it at a cocktail party.
These 1/2 page vertical ads had
text wrapped around
Garvin went to the trouble of trying to get it carbon dated for age, and brought it to Barney Oliver for inspection, etc. Turned out it was formed from a single crystal of probably quartz, thus having no carbon, and therefore couldn't be dated. I do remember reading the book once, but mostly have forgotten its details. I just looked the book up on Amazon, and find it is still available. There is also information about it on the Internet.
Garvin also was a jazz music aficionado, who wrote off for tax purposes his trips to the Mississippi River haunts of Lead-belly Kelly, as researching a new book.
One of Garvin's more successful ad programs was one of mine. One of my product lines was the hundreds of little measurement accessories of RF and microwave components, including crystal detectors, attenuators, couplers, etc. The corporate edict for HP ad format was full page ads and spreads. But, since I had so many tiny products, with lots of new ones, I applied for a waiver to create a fractional page series. Garvin's proposal was a vertical half page, with the title , "HP's Small Wonders." The layout was constant, ½ page vertical, a product picture, model number and name, and 4-5 bullets with specs. We later moved to half page horizontals.
We saved tons of money, and still got lots of awareness and response. The beauty of this format was that it mostly prevented any other fractional ads on the same page, with just a slight premium for the space. With only editorial space wrapped around, it stood out nicely. Years later, I happened to be waiting in Garvin's office, in San Francisco one day, and noticed a magazine in his book shelves from the UK. It was a recreational vehicle magazine, and as I was paging through it, I happened upon an ad in the rear, 1/2 page vertical, with the title Small Wonder. Except in this case, the product was a recreational vehicle toilet. Some sort of hi-tech thing. So, when I showed it to Dick, he just smiled and said he thought of the HP theme on his own. I didn't mind, but it always amused me to watch the doings of ad agencies.
|The annual Peterbilt calendar was prized by owners and truck repair shops - and still is|
One of Garvin's clients of the 60's, Peterbilt Trucks, always intrigued me. Dick "stole" the account from their previous agency, when they brought Don Herbers, the Peterbilt account manager, into PG&H.Their early Peterbilt ad campaigns aimed at the owner-operator of trucks, who was a blue-collar guy that invested more than $100K dollars in the rig, and more or less lived in the cab. The first campaign I was aware of was titled , "Class, You've Either Got it, or You Don't." The visual was one of those gorgeous custom-painted Peterbilt monster trucks, with a dazzling woman, in a classy evening gown standing alongside. Showing almost innocuously, would be a tiny pin or ring with a Peterbilt logo. Sort of like the well-known, "hidden" Playboy bunny symbol. These pictures were also used on the huge Peterbilt annual institutional calendars.
The man responsible for those photo shoots over many, many years, was Pierre Jacot. It was fun hearing him tell of the odysseys he followed, in choosing the trucks, the dazzling, custom paint jobs, the women models, and the locations to shoot this truck ad series, year after year. The lore included stories of close calls, like the afternoon they almost got caught by the high tide on the Oregon coast. They had driven down the beach a distance from the access road, and didn't realize that that part of beach filled in first. Oh, yeah, a $125 thousand dollar truck under sea water. They barely made it out.
Russ Berg came in from Scientific American, in the mid-60's, to run the corporate Communications Dept. I don't think we used the term marketing communications early on, I think it was just advertising. Ross Snyder was responsible for corporate PR, and a finer and more competent writer and magazine-negotiator and all-round gentleman, could not be found. Ross retired to his hillside wine cellar, with associated home in the early 1980's and we never found another equal to take his place. (See Ross's complete story in Legendary People.)
Our divisional interaction with corporate was typified by the well-known "good-taste-review." This was a standing committee, chaired by Bojana Fazarinc, a charming, tough-minded professional, who took seriously the task of cleaning up our ad agency's over-aggressive ad claims. The committee had a legal purpose, of verifying performance claims, and getting rid of embarrassing flaws which divisions tended to allow. And, it was left to Bojana to come out of the meeting, and often on ad deadline, get on the phone and negotiate with the divisional ad manager to change text which contained unsubstantiated product claims. A never ending job, which I would NEVER, ever accept. All we had to do was sit on the committee occasionally and make findings on the need for caution in our claims.
In the Microwave Division marketing, Dean Abramson was our resident curmudgeon. Dean had been hired in the late 1950's, by Carl Mahurin as a service engineer. Carl was partial to ex-Navy electronics technicians, because his experience was that they came highly trained and were serious employees. Dean had been trained in the Navy's Chicago Navy-Pier technician school, and after leaving the service, he gained his BS degree at the University of California. He moved to the Microwave Division marketing group in the early 60's. His tales of Carl Mahurin's "charm school" were always fun, and Dean had a way of deflating egos. For example, when he visited certain managers, he would ask their administration person whether "His Eminence" was in.
When the decision was made to spin off the Santa Rosa Division in 1970, Dean elected to move back to the town of his birth, and run advertising and sales promotion (ADSP) for both divisions, which he did until 1974. At that time, I had done my LED work at the HPA division, and Calibration Systems work at AMD, so I assumed the ADSP work for Stanford Park. Dean and I worked closely on common ad programs, since the product lines were so complementary, and the agency was the same. I admired that man for his perspicacity. (I also always liked big words --like sesquipedalian-- which means a weakness for using big words like sesquipedalian.)
Under the divisional approach to advertising, Dean and I were responsible, not only for creating the ads with the agency, but also for the budgeting and cost of the media advertising. In that role, and in cooperation with Ginny Cooper, the media buyer for the Garvin agency, Dean would hold an annual visitation of magazine sales people (called space salesmen) of the big technical trade magazines like Microwaves/RF. HP was buying up to 100 pages a year from such magazines, meaning big money. And in spite of the fact that the magazine established and published a "rate card," which stated quantity price breaks, HP usually ran over the highest quantity break, and thus qualified for "special and private negotiations."
Since Dean had moved from the Stanford Park Division to the Santa Rosa Division, that annual price negotiation became known as the Cloverdale Castration Carnival, Cloverdale being sort of a distant suburb of Santa Rosa. Since their competition was fierce, Dean and Ginny got excellent price breaks with each magazine, including other free benefits like ad studies on effectiveness. I elected not to join in, although I enjoyed the cost reductions on my many ad insertions, too. I don't think I need to tell you who got castrated each year?
Garvin died young, and the Pinne, Garvin agency struggled, without its creative genius. Meantime, a new central crew took over at HP Corporate. Gil Reeser brought Carol Scheifele over from the computer side to T&M Marcom Manager. They fired our previous agency, and replaced them with Satchii and Satchii, who had just been fired from the HP computer account. It was not a good time for the product divisions, because the "central command and control" got us ads like the "William Tell" 4-page insert. The ad showed a youngster with an apple on his head, a worried look, and the headline, "Close Only Counts in Horseshoes and Slow Dancing." We inferred that they meant that HP product specifications were better than "Close Enough."
This was supposed to sell instruments?
The problem was that the ad's theme, while clever and attention-getting, didn't play at all to the international customers. They had no clue about scoring in our American game of horseshoes, and couldn't relate at all to "slow dancing." Worse, since the central group was using the insert to introduce about 12 new products at once, it meant that our new $30,000 synthesized signal generator got about 5 column inches of promotion. Hardly the impact that a division would have allocated.
A few years later, Scheifele retired, to marry Ben Holmes, one of our V.P.'s who started as a Neely Field Engineer, and ended as Group Manager for the medical group in Boston. Into the central group, came Kathy Babcock, who had run her own ad agency in Colorado. She structured a new, shared-management arrangement with the product divisions, calling for central formats and styles, but using divisional inputs on products and benefits.
This was a pretty good arrangement, since the guy in charge of all that coordination was Monte Smith. He innovated a powerful new process for writing down all the product attributes and benefits in a 15-page document called a PIM, Project Initiation Memo. It was a comprehensive way of getting marketing and lab people to work together on what was truly important about their new whizbang. It formally clarified all the tendencies to translate mushy attribute statements into solid customer benefits, and establish the priorities of those benefits, so the agency could know how to pitch the ad.
At a later time, the central instrument marcom group came up with a new advertising slogan, "What If?" It was a way to proclaim that our products were so creative that we were able to offer customers the ability to really dream about how HP could make their needs come true. Concurrently, the computer group had been running with an advertising theme of, "It Works!" It proclaimed that our computer offerings could make magical things happen in the world of big-time computing. So, naturally one of our divisional wags noted that we could go with a new corporate slogan, "What If? It Works!" That didn't get favorable responses from the corporate folks, but it wasn't intended to.
With multiple instrument divisions selling through the same global sales force, it was incumbent for each division to compete for share of mind among those hundreds of Field Sales Engineers.
At the annual visitations to the factories, all sorts of promotional events competed. In the rest of the year, various promotional flyers and news bulletins announced new product introductions, often beyond the approved procedures of pushing them through the standard corporate marketing processes.
In the mid-1970s, an unusual publication emerged from an "underground printer" in Tomales Bay, CA, where it is said that Santa Rosa Division Manager Bill Wurst and Marcom Manager Dean Abramson co-owned a vacation house. The name of the printer was the Grubby Grape Geographical Society, and it began an aperiodic newsletter called the Grubby Grape Press. Coincidentally, all of the content was devoted to SRD products and promotions.
Soon, along came the Grubby Grape Calendar, which was a very creative publication which did indeed identify all the year's shows and training sessions and conferences, along with local wine cultural “events.” The following pictures give just a hint of the other 11 months. Being a distance from corporate headquarters, their marketing department was able to engage in occasional non-standard training practices which were not under review by the more conservative corporate-practices, good-taste committees at headquarters.
| A typical GG calendar "Month."
HP Field Sales had just been split between
"A" bag and "B" bag product lines,
instruments and calculators
It also took a wild-ranging and humorous view of various corporate personalities of the time, e.g., "The Ralph Lee and Bruce Wholey Black Tie Banquet Day." It was never determined whether Ralph or Bruce EVER wore a suit to work, let alone a tux. Or the "Kirwin writes his Autobiography (The Wrath of Grapes) Day." Or "The Paul Ely Quiet Meditation Hour," to compensate for Paul's exuberant communications style. Or the "Love Story" remake, starring Blake Peterson, who was their most mild-mannered Sales Engr.
Many of my fondest memories of HP marketing were involved in the interactions with some of the fabled, entrepreneurial people in the SF Bay Area. These legendary characters were building some of the most imposing product lines and brands and business empires in the nation. We look back now, and wonder where these giants of the technology industry came from, but those of us who were there, know that they all started in small ways, and grew to fit the huge responsibilities they created.
Michael Malone, and his recent series of interviews (The Entrepreneurs, on San Jose's KTEH) has showcased many of those intriguing personalities; Jerry Sanders, Seybold, etc. The TV series by Bob Cringle covering the 60-70's period on the inside stories of technologies like the PC, have also been interesting, I thought.
One of my continuing fun evenings in the late 1960's, was the monthly meeting of the PMA, the Peninsula Marketing Association. We met at Rickey's Hotel most of the time. From 1964 to April, 1969, I was Marketing Manager of HP's Microwave Division. Dean Abramson was my Advertising and Sales Promotion manager, and of course the division worked within a corporate structure for PR and advertising.
Even though Dean was responsible for advertising and PR, I loved to attend the PMA meetings. I found them very educational in marketing expertise, since the various program chairmen were able to enlist so many terrific speakers. And they were not just technology speakers. I recall Famous Amos, the young black man who started a chocolate chip cookie empire in LA. There was a man from Wyoming, who had somehow managed to crossbreed a buffalo with a cow, and got a Beefalo, which promised to revolutionize the meat industry. It had the leanness of buffalo meat with the flavor of beef.
But the important speakers were indeed from our valley; Les Hogan (Motorola), Wilf Corrigan (Fairchild), Nolan Bushnell, the founder of Atari (Pong). Disk guys, computer guys, semicon guys, and some of the early startups in biotech, Djerassi of Syntex, Zafferoni of Zoecon and Alza. There were the prominent Ad and PR gurus of the day, Regis McKenna, and others.
Possibly the best part of each meeting was the round-the-room self-introductions. It was part of the format of the meetings. And with all those well-oiled promo type folks, it got pretty imaginative. For example, during the Nixon Watergate scandals, one man introduced himself as Maurice Stans, and said that his business was the confidential finance---big laugh. Stans, of course, was later convicted of money laundering. Another night, one of the men pronounced that he was a doctor and was giving free annual physicals for women, in his room xxx, at Rickey's. No immediate response, until a later table, when a marketing woman introduced herself, and asked "what was that room number again?"
Fred Hoar or Dan Bellack, among others, were the Masters of Ceremonies. I recall Bellack responding to my introduction as being from HP, by stating that you could always tell guys from HP, because their ties always had a horizontal crease in them. This was true since they were always known to be asleep at their desks much of the time.
One of the most inventive ads which was used against me, was a Wavetek ad out of Indianapolis , IN. Marketing Manager Ed McDonald had a new, solid-state, signal generator, which competed directly with the venerable HP 608D VHF generator. The HP 608D was a vacuum tube model, which had made huge profits for several decades. But with limited R&D budgets, other technologies had to be emphasized, such as the new spectrum analyzer and new network analyzers, so that new signal generator developments had to wait their turn.
Our venerable vacuum tube 608D got "buried" by
the transistor Wavetek 3000
The Wavetek ad showed an open grave in a cemetery, with a number of men standing around the open pit, obviously in formal morning tuxedoes, with striped pants and plaid spats. Down in the grave, just enough of the demised HP product showed, so that any RF customer would recognize the two round meters at the top of the front panel of the HP 608D, like two sad eyes.
The headline was a catchy, "So Long, Fatso!" The ad copy proceeded to strike a sad going-away message for the old HP 608. Its customers would miss his hot, glowing vacuum tubes on those cold winter evenings in the lab. And also miss his weight and bulk when they had to move him around. And other losses. There was a new kid in town, the transistorized Wavetek 3000, which ran cool, had more features than the HP 608, and would replace the HP 608 in their memory in a short time. It was an ad with a perfect punch, and it was about 3 years before we could launch our own winning HP 8640, mostly because we had to work on other crucially-important products.
That problem of getting beat by competition happened fairly often at HP. We had such a broad line of hundreds of products to support, with better and higher-technology replacements, that we often had to pick and choose the priority products to put at the top of the R&D schedules. I used to call it a process of "drowning kittens," which never earned me much respect in the eyes of cat lovers. On our family farm, when I was a teenager, literally, there were times when there were too many cats, and I guess spaying wasn't popular then. It was probably too expensive for most farmers, so the cat population-reduction process would just take place.
One specific product line that exemplified that priority system, was when the Loveland Division moved into the desktop computer sector, first with the HP 9100A and then the HP 9810/20/30. In order to pay for that massive R&D program, they had to minimize the work they were doing on audio-video instrumentation products. In a real sense though, those computers put HP into the long-term computing and printing technologies, big time, although they did result in product losses to Fluke, in the voltmeters and other instrumentation. Almost all would agree it was the right choice.
One could ask why HP just didn't go out to a bank, and borrow funds to support R&D in the old product lines, as well as the new exciting ones? Fair question, but one which flew into the face of Hewlett and Packard guidelines that HP was to financially grow from within. That meant we would only grow our business as the revenues and profits generated enough funding for buying new buildings and hiring more engineers. It was a highly conservative financial philosophy, and in retrospect, a good one. Not just that, but it was what Dave and Bill wanted.
In 1972, as Packard returned to the company after his 3+ years as Deputy Secretary of Defense, the company had gotten itself into a serious cash shortage, and was ready to take on a $100 million dollar bank loan. This was due to some computer division marketing strategies, which postulated that HP computers should follow the pricing processes of top semiconductor companies. They argued that the right strategy was to price low, thus "buying" market share. Profits would come later, as later competitor arrivals could never catch up with the production economies of the leader.
This process had been advanced by The Boston Consulting Group, who had been intimately involved with the marketing strategies of the semiconductor industry, where that pricing philosophy was born. This had been extended to some computer product lines, and they were being sold at less than target profits, necessitating the loan. Packard immediately quashed the loan, and cut back R&D appropriately, and ordered re-pricing of all of those products. His specific instruction was that HP priced for customer value, and NOT to gain market share for later profits. A lot of management was appropriately chastised.
HP has gone through many different levels of personality and vocational interest testing. When I hired on in 1957, the marketing department requested that I take a vocational interest test, which, of course, I agreed to take. If I recall, the results said that I was best suited as an Army officer or a Certified Public Accountant. Being an engineer, I guess taking orders in a disciplined environment, or manipulating data and making the columns of a spread sheet balance, can work well in marketing. In any event I was hired.
For the Neely Enterprises field organization, they had refined a method of testing potential recruits for field engineering success. What they did was to test and profile some of their "most successful" field engineers, and use those profiles to measure how new people would match up to them. The test process, naturally, tended to identify aggressive and ambitious people, mostly men. It also looked for flexibility and resilience and persistence. And it tended to exclude more passive individuals.
As marketing manager in the 60's, I had an occasion where one of my product engineers (call him Joe) wished to move out into the Neely field organization. He agreed to take the test, which came back with the prediction that he was too bright, and too inflexible for good FE success. It predicted that Joe might become too frustrated when a customer might not see his line of reasoning, and refuse to buy. Or that he couldn't roll with the usual punches and frustrations, caused by customers who might often refuse to buy your pitch, without any explanation. He was in the 99th percentile for inflexibility.
Well, Joe came to me to plead for another chance. I talked with the Neely manager involved, and we agreed that we would move him over to the training department (charm school) for one year. He and the training manager would work hard on increasing his flexibility and patience in dealing with the visiting customers he would train during the year.
One year later, Joe took the test once again, and I can still recall the day I received his new profile, on a sheet of paper with maybe 30 personality characteristics vs percentile. I put it together with the same paper from a year before, and held them up to the window sunlight. Amazingly, all the characteristics matched within one percentile. I couldn't believe that a person's basic personality wouldn't change much, even with all that hard work.
The outcome of all that work was that the Neely manager and I agreed that since Joe was so persistent in wanting to do field engineering, we would allow him to move into the field. But he went with the understanding that Joe's managers would monitor his progress very carefully, and very regularly. Ultimately, Joe actually rose to district manager, controlling 6 engineers. But I am convinced to this day, that his pre-knowledge of his limitations was one key to his success. Otherwise, I believe that he would have become tremendously frustrated, perhaps even impacting his marriage or other personal elements of his life.
I was so impressed with the validity of the test process that I arranged for myself to take the same test, even though I had no interest in moving into the field. I had been solicited several times to move to the field, but I knew that wasn't my style. A field engineer needed a sort of "killer instinct," and needed to live that philosophy every day. I heard in one sales training seminar, that you needed to maintain the attitude that the customer, "had your money in his pocket." Although I do honestly believe that HP delivered superior value for the customer's money, if you were on the front lines selling, you took on a huge responsibility for delivering HP's revenues.
In any event, I flew to Los Angeles to the headquarters of Psychological Testing for Industry Company, on Wilshire Blvd. I spent about 3 hours answering hundreds of questions. To assure no fudging, the same personality characteristics were probed with a dozen variations of the same question. To test impatience, they would ask whether I was the type of personality, who protested when someone stepped in front of me in a theatre line? Later they would ask the same thing with 10 different variations of the same questions. Thus, it was hard to cheat, because the same profile element came back over and over, and one couldn't keep track of the way you answered old questions.
Finally, I handed in the answer sheet, waited in the reception room for 15 minutes, and was invited into the office of Dr. Bob (are you ready for this?) Reveal. Would I kid you? Reveal had only a few minutes to see the answers before I joined him, and I was absolutely flabbergasted, as he proceeded to lay out my private personality, right in front of me. I was anal, obsessive, loved to have my checking account balance, technical, somewhat pedantic, and generally impatient. It was uncanny, I have never had such revelations to what I considered some pretty innermost personality traits. So, I did learn personally, that such tests could go quite a long way to understanding which characteristics influence a person to be good at something and bad at other things.
Early in my career in the 60's, HP sent some of us to an outside sales training course called Sales Sonics. It was owned by Larry Wilson, a highly successful insurance salesman ($5 million a year) of Minneapolis , who had created a way to classify personalities. It turned out that such profiling was important for field salespeople, enabling them to define each of their customer personalities. That way they knew the best human approach that worked for each different personality, and yet was an honest process which met their sales needs. For example, engineers most often fitted the "analytic analytical" personality, which liked to be hit with data, to be comfortable enough to make a purchase decision. "Driver" personalities were usually manager-types, who liked the testimonial approach, where they heard of other success stories of HP equipment purchases.
MIR Personality profile aided our understanding
of customers and co-workers
This course was later adopted by HP corporate for personnel training across the company. It became known as Managing Interpersonal Relations (MIR). I believe that it was extremely successful in equipping our people to understand each other, and to know where they were coming from. No one personality was "right," you were what you were, and you learned how to best deal with each of the 16 types. It worked for dealing with more than customers, it was useful for even understanding your own family relations. I truly believe that the MIR training across the company was one of the most successful and useful things HP ever did for its employees. This chart shows the four basic personalities, and each of those one has four subcatagories.
I, of course, was properly profiled into the "analytic analytical" category. Later, as the company adopted the course, and renamed it MIR, Managing Interpersonal Relations, for general training of most employees, they used to put on the course in Bldg 18, on Page Mill Hill. Since I was working nearby, over in Bldg 5U, for Stanford Park Division, they would call me over to be a "subject" person who sat in the middle of the training class. I was the test case, and was asked questions about my behavior, so that they could try to peg my classification. The thing I haven't mentioned so far, is that although everyone has a place on the grid, you also have a "versatility index," which all people have which allows themselves to range over into other personalities.
Well, I admit that I am really a shy person. Which would tend to point me to the "amiable" quadrant. The last thing I would ever do when younger, was to enter a party room, and start going around to introduce myself. But, as I matured in marketing and sales, I got pretty comfortable with such, resulting in a generally high versatility. So, when I was called in to the group, and asked questions, I would usually leave them all pretty confused, moving my arms around a lot, displaying a sort of aggressive attitude, etc. I guess that wasn't entirely fair, but it did teach the students to be somewhat careful before pegging customers into a quadrant, before you had enough data. The real value of the course was to correctly profile people so that you knew what needs were important to that style of personality.
The formal classification process involved a long questionnaire, which the subject handed out to 5 friends or co-workers, before the course date. The answers were processed by computer, and the results handed out in the training session. There were people who didn't necessarily accept the pronouncements of MIR. One lab section manager got his test results back, which pegged him, as usual, as the typical engineer, analytic analytical. He protested that he was not such, and was pretty angry about it.
So they allowed him to re-do the profiling process. He was to choose 5 completely different friends, some from his work team, and some from his personal friends. It was no surprise to me, when the results came back exactly the same as his first process. I believe it is hard to cheat on personality testing. And frankly, there is no reason to cheat, you are what you are. I believe that the MIR program really did perform a very useful service for humanizing our personnel. It brought out the importance of the individualism of everyone's personality, and helped our huge number of engineers to better understand how to get along with people and, more importantly, customers.
There was a period in the 1960's, when the HP personnel departments had a plan to use a new personality training method called a T-Lab, which I think stood for Training Labs. It was a psychological steam bath, which lasted 5-days, under the guidance of a certified psychologist. Presumably, it was supposed to allow the enrollee to get in touch with his inner self. Trouble was, it didn't do that very well.
I learned of the results of one person's experience in our division, when I heard that one of our managers had returned from the one-week course, and was really in some considerable mental distress. I believe that he missed a lot of work, and later was replaced with another manager. A year or so later, one of my own young MBA recruits, who was a product engineer in marketing, requested my approval to attend. I specifically consulted with the HP Personnel Dept for reasons to approve this, and registered my great concern that it sounded pretty intense, and not something for any fragile personalities. And true to my worry, I observed that the young man did come out mentally stressed, although he was soon OK and able to carry on.
I determined to figure out why HP was approving such "training" when it seemed to be so destructive. I decided to enroll myself, for a week of stress that I never expected to endure. I drove down to the Alisal Dude Ranch, just north of Santa Barbara . There were 14 of us, and Terry, the psychologist, who never identified himself for some hours. There was Dick, the Budweiser salesman, "Casper Milquetoast," an R&D manager for a canned food company, a man from Varian, a high-level manager from Texas Instruments (TI), a non-Mormon station manager at a Mormon TV station in Salt Lake City, and so on.
The format was just us 14 people in a small room, with few breaks, with sessions that went on about 15 hours a day for 5 days. Totally unstructured, Terry, the leader/psychologist was unidentified at first, so like any gathering of impatient managers, we started to introduce ourselves. The TI manager seemed like the most successful of the group, "I'm a mean manager, I hire and fire, and am very successful." Dick, the Bud guy, was just the genial sales type, and Casper seemed way out of place in this driver-type environment. The rest of us fell in the middle.
During the intense and psychologically stressful days, the leader occasionally would take polls on 1) Most respected, 2) Least respected, 3) Person you'd want as a friend, 4) Person you'd want your daughter to marry, etc. TI won #1, and Dick won #3 at first. But then, as the days wore on, it became obvious that TI would stab anyone in the back, and step over your fallen body to get what he wanted. So, the beer sales guy, at the end, won most of the #1 votes for everything, and we finally figured out why the TI company had sent their manager to get his edges rounded off.
Several anecdotes were memorable to me. During our Wednesday recess some people played golf. Dick was in a foursome, and happened to look behind and saw Casper , playing along by himself. Dick called him up to join their foursome, although that is not good golf protocol, and the rest of the foursome weren't happy. But it was vintage Dick, the good guy.
Since I didn't play golf, the TV older man and myself went downtown to visit the main street. He was shopping to buy a gift for his son. As it happened, I reminded him of his son, who was estranged, and I found him to be a very friendly and understanding father figure, having lost my own father at 8. Strange. We got along great the whole week.
It was almost surreal, the way the conversation would drift, from putting one person "in the barrel" and zeroing in his foibles and personality shortcomings, one after another. One night, in a particularly difficult session for Frank, a young manager, he was getting distraught, near crying. He admitted that just before he flew out to California , he had to tell his little daughter that he would be away from home, for still another week. Terry pressed him with an unhelpful question about why he was so unthoughtful to his kids and wife. Whereupon Frank did break down and cry. I jumped to his defense, and wondered why Terry would pile on, when Frank was obviously in trouble? Terry said, "Wait, John, let's just ask Frank how he's feeling." Frank stopped crying and said he was OK and he knew just what he had to do.
Then, unexpectedly, I started crying, when I realized that I was right there in the same situation with Frank, who had been ignoring his family. When he figured it out, I suddenly did too, and realized it was a serious problem with me that I had been ignoring. It was an amazing week of personal interactions and realizations.
Well, the final upshot of the week was that Dick, the Bud guy, won all the votes, and the ruthless TI manager was at the bottom, and unrepentant, and no doubt still in trouble with his management.
I drove home from that awful, stressful week, sort of in a daze, moving up the Salinas Valley on Saturday, in a mild rain. I was determined to do everything I could to shoot down HP's personnel department from ever enrolling any more people in that program. I survived, and perhaps even gained some perspective, but I could see that such a program, even supervised like it was, might crush young people who didn't have a strong sense of themselves.
In my career, I met probably thousands of customers, in visits to their factories and research and production facilities, at trade shows, and during their visits to our own factories in Palo Alto. I always saw it as a privilege to know these people, mostly engineers, because they represented our revenue stream. And I found their applications genuinely interesting and often fascinating.
I have wonderful memories of the human side of our customers. One group of US Army engineers, visiting from the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, AL, were in town for a large system negotiation. I volunteered to take the group up to San Francisco for a nice dinner and night on the town. I decided to host them at the Franciscan Restaurant on Fisherman's Wharf. As we walked up the stairway to the second floor dining room, we were busy talking, and I missed the tiny sign at the base of the banister.
We had a productive and delicious dinner. When the bill for $250+ came, I pulled out my HP credit card, and the waiter said, "Didn't you see the sign at the foot of the stairs? We don't take credit cards." Unbelievable for an expense account tourist town! So I tried to offer a personal check. "We don't take personal checks." I showed them my business card from HP and offered to pay them with a company check the next day. No deal. So, the upshot was that I had to ask my customer guests to lend me the money to pay the bill, and of course, pay them back later, when I could get a check from HP. Needless to say, at many a trade show for years, they would remind me of that incident, and ask if I had brought enough cash this trip?
An important high-level engineer from the U.S. Navy Research Lab of Washington, DC was visiting to negotiate a huge development contract we had going for new signal generators. Such contracts were crucial, because they defined the technology for instruments that the U.S. military would later buy in quantities of tens of thousands. The military often shared the designs of MIL-SPEC instruments. In spite of his rank at NRL and his importance to the contract and HP, Bob was a genuinely nice person.
Bob was scheduled to fly out of SFO the following morning, so he made reservations to stay overnight at the San Francisco Hilton, which had a hotel limo pickup for the airport, early in the morning. I volunteered to take Bob up for a nice dinner in the city, and to deliver him to his hotel, along with his luggage. We parked in a garage on Bush Street, preparatory to going to the restaurant. I remember talking to Bob over the roof of the car, he on the passenger side, and I, just outside the driver side. I was asking him whether he wanted to check in at the hotel first, or after dinner? He said after. At the same time, the parking attendant was saying something to us, which I didn't register.
So we had a nice dinner, and I hosted Bob at a another show club, and we returned to the garage at about 12:30 am. It was locked up tight . Imagine my predicament. One of our most important customers, without his suitcase, at 1:00 o'clock in the morning. Bob was gracious, saying that he would just check in without luggage and I could send it to him later. But I found a pay phone nearby, and called the local police station, looking to find a person's name, who owned the garage. Amazingly, they had a name of the owner, out in the Sunset district by the ocean.
By the time I reached him and woke him up, it was 1:00 am, and he was not happy, of course. To his offer to open at the regular morning time, I made him a proposition that because of my VIP customer, it would be worth a LOT of money to me for the owner to come downtown and open the garage right away. I forgot what number we agreed on, but I justified the expense on the basis that if I had had to rent a room for the night, or lease a car for a day, it would have cost quite a lot too. I guess I did get John Young to approve the extraordinary expense with some lame explanation. Bob never minded the extra hassle, and continued to be one of our most important customers until he retired from the Navy decades later. In his case, he thankfully never mentioned it again.
I was a pretty naïve Midwest young man, who never ceased to be amazed by my luck. Generous expense accounts for trips to Philadelphia and New York City. Every two months, I would spend two weeks on travel, visiting customers for big deals with the local field engineer. I would spend the first week in Pennsylvania, go up to NYC for the weekend, and then go to either New Jersey or Long Island where most of our business was. NYC itself had long since sent its technical manufacturing out of the downtown Manhattan.
The May, 1964 Measure Magazine story,
"Birth of a Salesman," shows one of our FEs
with his scope demo in downtown New York
The weekend was terrific. I could usually go down to the theatre district and visit the ticket offices and pick up a single ticket at the last minute. I had found a small deli just opposite the Radio City Music Hall, and loved to have a steak there. The waiter I always came back to impressed me once with a baked potato which had the usual sour cream and chives and butter, but he also mashed in some A-1 sauce, which I thought was superb. I went back often.
I was able to find unusual clubs and restaurants on different trips. There was the Gay-90s, a three story club with Jazz music on all floors, where one night I saw Colonel Robert Sarnoff, the founder of RCA, making a drunken ass of himself. Others which come to mind was the Stockman Steak house, which picked up people from the street with a horse-drawn stage coach that just drove along the streets of Manhattan.
I usually stayed around the middle eastside just east of Times Square. On Sunday morning, I would almost always go to mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral, nearby. When I felt like spending two hours there, I would go to the 10:00 "Solemn High Mass." This was the full Latin mass, with the full choir, and the audio splendor of their huge pipe organ. When that organ played up to full volume, the pews shook, and so did we small humans in the pews. It was staggering. Loved it, but only a couple times a year.
Rick Alexander was one of my favorite field engineers. He was an aggressive salesman, and not always the symbol of HP integrity. For a time, he had the territory that included downtown Manhattan. After we would finish at the end of the day, he might take me to one of his favorite Italian restaurants down on the lower eastside, by the newspaper district. One of his favorite red wines was called Revello. When I got back to San Francisco, I tried to buy some Revello, but no one had ever heard of it.
In about 1970, I took a business trip to Europe, and ended up one night as the guest of the U.K. Country Manager, David Someone. He treated me to what I was told was the second best restaurant in all of London, the Mirabelle. While we were waiting for a few minutes, the wine sommelier came by with the wine list, which was a book with about 200 pages. I thought, ah ha, with this inventory, they must have Revello. When I asked him, he turned up his nose, and sniffed, "Monsieur, we do not serve Italian wines at this establishment." Later, when he found out I was from California, he turned more friendly, and commented that he respected California wines but was not allowed to sell them there.
Rick took me to dinner one night at the Plaza Hotel, which was at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Central Park South. This is the world-class hotel that is always featured in the movies with boy and girl in the park, with the horse-drawn carriages. (Think Crocodile Dundee.) They had a gourmet restaurant in the basement, with a grand circular staircase that you walked down to get there. It had a magnificent carpet that went up the sidewalls.
Our food was excellent but the service went from bad to worse, and Rick didn't tolerate it very well. At the end of the meal, he tipped the waiter I think $1. This guy had been sporting a sort of French accent, and once he realized that he had been stiffed, he came running after us up the staircase. He grabbed Rick's coat sleeve, and muttered something about being a cheap bastard, in Brooklynese. Rick just turned and grabbed him and flung him back down the circular stairs, but because of the thick carpet, I am sure he never hurt himself. But, it reminded me of just another New York incident of brusque people.
Several decades later, Donn Mulder and I visited one of the top electronic trade magazines in Midtown NYC to pitch and demo a new product. We offered to take three of their editors out to dinner, and they chose a fancy French Restaurant on the upper East side. We were told that it was frequented by Jackie Kennedy and just around the corner from her home. It was a terrific meal and service, and I put the bill on my credit card, to the tune of maybe $375.
As we were walking out toward the door, the captain came up behind me and took hold of my elbow, gently. "Was there a problem, Monsieur?" I replied that I didn't think so, and that we had enjoyed the food and atmosphere. He said, "But there was a problem, Sir, with the tip." And I said, "I don't think so, because I left a generous tip. "But there was still a problem, Sir." So I said that he was just going to have to tell me directly what his problem was because I didn't think I had one. "You forgot to tip the Captain," said he.
Turns out that on credit card slips in big cities, you get a place for waiter tip and another for captain. So even though all this guy does is stand by the table, and take dishes delivered by waiters, and put them in front of the guests, he is supposed to get 5%, and the waiters, 15%. Well, as I said, the farm kid from the Midwest needed to learn that. I won't go back to a place like that.
On one of my trips to Bell Labs at Holmdel, NJ, I don't recall why, but we visited one of their communication sites, which housed an abandoned microwave horn. That particular horn design was one of Harold Friis's inventions, when he was R&D manager for new ATT microwave communications, in their early years. If you look at the towers on top of PacBell central offices, they will feature these unusual antenna shapes like an expanding tapered sheet metal thing which opens on one side in a square window, which points in the direction they want to transmit and receive communications signals. Friis had pushed this design because it represented a parabola shape for forming the beam. These particular horns had essentially zero side and back lobes, which is very important to keep out interfering signals from false directions.
Harold Friis later came to work for HP, after he retired from Bell Labs. He was a brilliant engineer, and was perfect for helping train our new engineers. His job was to browse around our microwave lab, and look in on each engineer, and provide advice if they needed it. He was amazing. I would occasionally watch him at work. He would get a complex problem from a young engineer, and just start out by deriving equations from basic principles and and his memory. It impressed the new engineer that the thought process was the important thing. He would typically come out for the winter, and return to New Jersey for the summer. He was the father of a microwave amplifier performance factor called Noise Figure.
This gigantic microwave horn antenna
resulted in a Nobel Prize
Later, when they started the early communication satellites research, called Project Echo, they built a huge version of his horn, maybe 35 feet long. But this time laid it on its side. It was on gimbals so it could be pointed in any direction of the sky. The reason I mention this is that that very horn was involved in a Nobel prize. It came about because two Bell Labs engineers were starting to work on another satellite project, and were given permission to rehabilitate the old horn, which had sat unused for a decade. When they turned it on, they had available some new super-low-noise amplifiers. But after installing them, they found that there was an inextricable background noise presence of 3.5 degrees above absolute zero (Kelvins) coming through. They spent weeks cleaning the horn of bird droppings and checking every soldered joint for signal losses which would show up as noise. All that did not solve the problem.
Here is where the serendipity comes in for science. One of the engineers went to a technical conference of physicists who were working on astronomy. He just happened to be standing by a coffee table at a break, when he overheard an adjacent conversation. One man mentioned that his study indicated that IF there were a universe-creating Big Bang, 15 billion years ago, it would have caused a lasting radiation effect. This would show up as a 3.5 Kelvins residue temperature in EVERY direction of the sky. Bingo. Can you imagine the mental gyration that engineer went through right at that moment? The upshot was that after substantial measurements and checking data and writing their findings, some years later he and his associate were awarded the Nobel Prize for physics. I love that story.
In all my 37 years with HP, I only took two business trips outside the U.S. In 1971, I took a trip to Japan, with the objective of selling our new light-emitting-diode display technology to their calculator manufacturers. We had arranged for the field engineers to set up high-level management talks with the idea that their organizations usually insisted on getting their top managers to approve any purchase decisions. We got extensive briefings ahead of time to understand that you might spend 1-2 hours just sitting and getting to know the people personally, before going into technical discussions. It drove me crazy. But we did depend on our HP country manager to lead interference for us. He was a graduate of the University of Tokyo, the most prestigious educational institution. Their graduates were a small fraternity which ended up running most of their country politics and industry.
I found that culture hard to accommodate. I know it had developed out of centuries of their custom. And certainly I went along with it, but it seemed such a waste of time. Naturally, our field engineers had to absolutely respect those customs, and we did too. After 3 weeks of traveling and Japanese food, I must say I yearned for a steak. So on my last night in Tokyo, I went out for dinner with Art Fong, one of our top Microwave Division engineers who had been posted over their for 3 years to bring some U.S. technology to the YHP Division R&D. Art and I went to Tokyo's Ginza Strip, and ordered an American type steak. It cost something like $75, and was pan fried in butter. Not my best meal of the trip, but better than sukiyaki, I thought.
Worse, we never convinced a single calculator manufacturer to buy into the LED displays. Some years later, of course they not only built them in, but many companies went into competition with us. I think we did sell some of the technology to a railroad traffic control manufacturer, who put the displays in their large wall-sized train status boards.
My other overseas trip was to the UK and Germany. I had been scheduled to visit customers in France, but there was imminent danger of a general transportation strike, and I was warned if I got in, I might spend a month there. I also visited Geneva. My main memory of Switzerland was being introduced to "Fondue Chinese," which was similar to regular fondue, except that it used a boiling pot of water instead of cheese or oil, dipped thinly sliced sirloin strips instead of bread.
I guess one of the reasons I loved marketing and applications engineering was that one was always encountering dramatic new technologies of customers. I found the military applications very fascinating, mostly because the funding available was used to exploit the highest technology capabilities. One example was the sequence of electronic warfare in the fighting of the Yom Kippur war between Egypt and Israel.
The Israelis sent small remote-piloted vehicles (RPVs) over the battlefield, powered with chain saw engines, and outfitted to emit electronic signals that mimicked an attacking F-4. The Egyptian surface-to-air (SAM) sites turned on their radars to illuminate the attacking "threat." High overhead, out of SAM range was an electronic warfare aircraft called a wild weasel. They detected the SAM radar threat radiation and fired a HARM (High-velocity Anti-Radiation Missile), which seeks out the source of the SAM radiation, and blinds its radar.
Meantime the ground control scrambled the Egyptian MIGs, to intercept the "incoming" attack fighter-bombers. But the Israelis had communication-jamming aircraft loitering along the horizon, and transmitted noise to effectively cut off ground communications to the protecting fighters. In Egypt, their military used the Russian order of battle, which stated that their fighters were to fly under ground command, and not use their own initiatives to seek out their threats. When ground control was lost, the orders were to fly in circles to wait for orders. That made them sitting ducks for other Israeli fighters with heat seeking missiles. I only used this example because you can guess that the American version of all that technology was ten times better, which it was.
In the industry jargon it is electronic warfare, consisting of radars, radar countermeasures, and counter-countermeasures. And in each functional operation, there is a profusion of radio frequency and microwave signals to be used to accomplish their mission. Old traditional radar signal formats changed dramatically, so that our test instruments had to advance to handle the frequency-hopping and spread spectrum formats which resisted jamming.
Then there was the exploitation of the entire world of satellite technologies. There was MILSATCOM, a monster switchboard in the sky, capable of interconnecting strategic and tactical formations for command and control. We all know of the performance of the Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) with its ability to determine position anywhere on earth to a matter of a couple feet. It was originally a DOD funded program, degraded to allow it to serve civilian functions, until times like wartime.
Surveillance satellites served the cold war against the Russians by flying several hundred miles up with exceptional cameras in a satellite as big as a school bus. The early ones had means of encapsulating exposed photographic film, throwing it out, slowing it with a small thrust rocket motor, and catching the parachute capsule somewhere over the Pacific. Later versions used completely digital imaging with unbelievable resolutions. Even the early ones could read license plate numbers from 200 miles up. They also could monitor wireless telephone connections in the adversary's hometown.
While some of us had national security clearances, you could find out much with just commercial contacts. For example, there was a professional association called the Association of Old Crows, some 40,000 individuals working in electronic warfare, with two of their own trade magazines. The name derived from the WWII flying personnel who flew on signal surveillance aircraft, and called themselves Ravens, being crafty old birds.
The AOC's local group had unclassified monthly meetings with informative presentations that discussed a lot of current technologies. The Bay Area was home to several dozens of companies working in that field, large like Lockheed and SRI, to small firms working on highly-specialized technologies. All their work gave massive capabilities to the fliers who risked their lives in wartime.
Another professional organization I belonged to was called the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA). This was an even larger group of engineers working on every conceivable manner of military communications. It ranged from tactical jeep to jeep to satellites and fiberoptics for fixed installations. There were major computer overtones too, since most of the 4Cs, Command, Control, Communications and Countermeasures were based on complete computer control of the links and databases that were used. One prominent local example which commuters saw every day was the "Blue Cube" at the intersection of routes 101 and 237 in Sunnyvale. Surrounded by 4 satellite transceiver antennas, the equipment and personnel inside the cube were responsible for "controlling" dozens of satellites flying overhead in every direction.
The cube didn't care about the details in the communications traffic or data flowing through those birds, only the monitoring of "housekeeping" details. Every day they would contact each satellite several times to check on battery power, temperatures, thruster fuel supplies, transmitter and receiver performance.
AFCEA's local group also held monthly meetings to present capabilities and information on the status of their technologies and programs. I found these customer technologies highly interesting, and useful for projecting our future product design and capabilities with regard to new signal formats, etc.
I found that in spite of the fact that HP was a very customer-oriented company, that the growth of normal bureaucracy often distanced our employees from real life. Real life says that nothing happens until we get orders and ship the products. In the recession of the early 80's, I found the occasion to cheerlead our factory troops to help our field engineers whenever they could. I was trying to raise awareness of the need for everyone to support sales in this following article I wrote for our employee magazine, Measure. As you might guess, I got quite a large number of enthusiastic letters from our Field Engineers around the world, who appreciated what we did to help their sales efforts.
Invites Measure readers to
"Getting the order" is the lifeblood for Hewlett-Packard, according to John Minck, advertising and sales promotion manager for Stanford Park Division in Palo Alto.
Dave and Bill understood that The HP Way included more than just the workday business activities. HP was a team of people who trusted each other, in a way few companies of the time envisioned. Most were military-style organizations, with a philosophy that developed out of the WWII successes. The "Whiz Kids" in the Robert McNamara Pentagon Production Office, who invented the concept of "Operations Research," pioneered the idea of central control of inventories and production. But, they ignored the value of people in the trenches who yearned to exercise their creativity. That method obviously worked well in wartime.
But Packard often mentioned, in his explanation of The HP Way, that if you tell people your objectives, and trust the honesty and integrity of your employees, almost everyone will give you far more effort than if you send down commands from a central department. That was the principle of Management by Objective (MBO).
Early HP was like a family. Christmas parties were organized, with Packard handing out the bonus checks to the crowd. Actually that practice eventually was called off, because too many employees were arriving home long after the party, somewhat drunk, and some portion of their bonus check spent.
The traditional summer picnic became a fun day for whole families, with wonderful food, games and a variety of horse rides and ball games, etc. HP bought the real estate for many picnic sites in nearby mountains, around the world. There was Little Basin near Palo Alto, Estes Park near Loveland in Colorado, and more.
One interesting cultural difference resulted when HP tried to install the family picnic in the YHP operation, in Japan . John Brown was the co-manager for the division, on assignment from the U.S. Long prior to the week of the picnic, word went out to all employees that the employee's whole families were invited and supposed to come. But, on the day of the first employee picnic, only employees came, no families, no kids.
Brown was furious, because the value of getting employee's families into the mix was crucial. So the next year, he was extremely vocal in stating that there would be no excuses. It was causing such a cultural divide that an employee committee was sent in to see him, to try to persuade him that Japanese custom didn't permit wives and children to join men in company affairs. So, he had to make it a direct order, with serious consequences if not followed. That worked, because his employees observed direct orders, and took them to be more important than their learned culture that excluded their wives and kids. Needless to say, future picnics were highly successful, and the cultures "intermarried."
Dave and Bill wrote a series of company objectives, and adapted them over the years. One was to give back something of value to our communities. Dave and Bill themselves gave us their own examples. Dave served on the Palo Alto Unified School District Board, and used his cost effectiveness expertise to save the Palo Alto district a lot of capital funding. His common-sense approach to building the many new schools, needed to keep up with Palo Alto 's growth of the 50's, was to force the architects to re-use the same building plans, school after school. Before this, each school got expensive design and unique structures (and big bills from the architects) for each site. Dave later served as Chairman of the Board of Trustees at Stanford.
Bill was Chairman of the Stanford Medical Center Board, and served a term as President of the International professional organization, the IEEE. Manufacturing V.P. Noel Porter served two terms as mayor of Palo Alto , working for the city in the morning, and back to HP in the afternoon. He was a dynamic force in both organizations. Barney Oliver was President of the IEEE, and he also served two terms on the P.A. School Board. It took several years for the ordinary citizens of Palo Alto to round off Barney's somewhat arrogant and intellectual style in head-to-head combat at the School Board meetings. He ultimately became a very successful and well-liked public servant.
I have always been disappointed in the poor showing of the hundreds of other high-and mid-level HP managers, who didn't step forward to choose public service. Compared to the huge pool of highly competent managers, it seemed to me that few served. Jack Beckett served on the Metropolitan Transit Commission for more than a decade. Dean Morton was also Chair of the Stanford Medical Center. Bill Terry served on the Board of Trustees for the University of Santa Clara.
In later years, Gary Fazzano was City Councilman and Mayor of Palo Alto. And a small number of our Field Engineers found some calling, Earl Davis was mayor of his small Texas town. One of our Boston FEs was a village "Selectman." There were occasional finance or legal folks who led their national professional associations. There were also many top managers who were tapped to serve on corporate boards of directors, which is a sort of public service, but not the same as industrial or political volunteering.
As much as my HP job meant to my feeling of accomplishment in life, I also attribute a lot of enjoyment to my 30-year involvement with an international trade association called the National Conference of Standards Laboratories (now NCSLI - for International). In 1972, I became Product Manager of a new HP product line of automated calibration equipment, which was aimed at a very highly-specialized group of customers. These people were called Calibration or Quality or Metrology Managers, and in their organizations they were responsible for the upkeep, reliability and calibration of all the inventory assets of test equipment throughout their company or organizations. I joined NCSL to meet some of these special customers, and ended up working up through the ranks of the industrial volunteer organization.
In 1978, I served a year as national president of the NCSLI. Don't confuse this word "metrology," which means precise measurements, with "meteorology," which means work with weather and climates. NCSLI member companies were all good HP equipment customers, and their "Member Delegates," the men who represented their member companies, were all "gatekeepers," for equipment purchasing. This meant they managed the metrology and calibration and repair departments in their companies.
For example, one of those Member Delegates, and a good friend, told me once that in his company, any requisition for new test equipment had to be reviewed by him. The reason was that every company had a lot of investment in spare parts for test equipment, and they have their people trained for calibrating specific model numbers of equipment. Therefore Bob was permitted to review the lists, and substitute model numbers that were already in his support system and processes. He pointed out that HP almost always won in any such review, that he had crossed out hundreds of competitive product numbers and substituted HP, to keep his costs down.
|A trade magazine cheerleading article I wrote for more budgets from Congress for unfunded NIST program mandates|
Another reason NCSLI was exciting was that it was sponsored by the U.S. National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST), our Nation's pre-eminent federal center of measurement research and standards. This meant that NCSLI was always in the middle of important national metrology coordination work. And, as the decades progressed, they took on major international standards issues as well. These initiatives also happened to influence new instrumentation products and industry standards that HP needed to follow, and in some cases helped to create. Our personal contacts with NIST were valuable to us when we were embarking on some new product technologies which would create new standards for a national standard. During my year of Presidency, Congress had gotten into bad habits by writing new laws with technical mandates for NIST, but they didn't authorize extra funding. I was able to get an article in Business Week and this article above in one of our Microwave Trade Magazines. In the microwave magazine article I proposed that tomorrow, the ENTIRE organization of NIST disappeared-my version of "zero-based" budgeting. The next day, I proclaimed, there would be an ARMY of angry NIST constituents descending on Congress to DEMAND that NIST be put back in service. And FROM EVERY BUSINESS AND AEROSPACE SECTOR. My purpose was to enlighten the public on the crucial role that NIST played our nation's advancing technology, and supporting a HUGE measurements sector, what NIST called the National Measurement System.
My NCSL work was a personally-rewarding experience for me. After my year as president, I have spent another 28 years editing the organization's quarterly newsletter. This has led to travel and interaction with exciting and advanced programs in science and technology. One example was a trip I made to an NCSL Board of Directors meeting in Cape Canaveral, Florida . We were able to tour the NASA VAB, the 55-story Vehicular Assembly Building, which everyone who watched the Apollo moon shots would remember.
Our host invited our metrology group into the building, and we took an elevator to the 45th floor. To all appearances, we were in just another office building. We then came down a corridor and passed through an ordinary double-door, and suddenly we were on a tiny observation deck, looking over the railing, and down 45 stories to the ground. Under us was the construction of the Skylab, a later rocket system, about 30 stories tall, used for scientific space work.
In the Apollo years, the gigantic Saturn rockets were assembled in that building. It was built with 4 huge assembly bays, so that parallel assembly of 4 rockets could happen at one time. That 45-story rocket was built in a vertical configuration, and rolled out 3 miles to the launch pad on huge caterpillar platforms, in a vertical position. It was grand, but you couldn't quite relate to being one of the astronauts, sitting on top of that monster, unless you stood overlooking that railing and realizing how many million parts were necessary to get you to the moon. But, when I stood there, I recalled the astronaut's joke about his sitting on the top of his Saturn, ready for the countdown, when he realized that every part under him was supplied by the lowest bidder. It took on new meaning.
Publishing the NCSLI Newsletter allowed me to keep up working relations with almost 100 different people on the roster of the volunteer organization, in committee work, regional coordinators who manage meetings and their annual workshop and conference. For high tech professionals, they were a remarkably friendly and personally interesting group of engineers and managers. All together I published around 120 issues plus 3 commemorative issues. (The 45th Commemorative Issue shown below can be downloaded to get an operational overview of the workings of this remarkable trade association, NCSLI.)
|45th Commemorative Issue of the NCSLI Newsletter
||I published about 120 issues from 1978 to 2008.
This cover was a precision deadweight tester
In 1987, I was awarded the organization's highest honor, the William Wildhack Award for meritorious service. I infer that it was mostly for editing the newsletter, which I have continued for another 20 years. Bill Wildhack is a real name, and he was a mid-manager in NIST with considerable influence on test and measurement, from the 1960s. The $1000 honorarium was nice, but it was the recognition of one's peers that was the most satisfying.
The picture on the right is the Silver medallion for my Wildhack Award in 1987.
NCSLI supported a specialized sector of technology - test and measurement - and the highest level of standards of measurement. These were the ultimate primary standards, which stood at the pinnacle of each country's measurement system. They made sure that weights and measures were correct, that different pieces of a satellite would fit together, when manufactured at different locations and assembled in another. They also supported colleges which maintained curricula for those specialized subjects of metrology and standards.
Once, when looking over a storage room at HP, which held hundreds of surplus pieces of test equipment, I realized that those under-funded schools could probably get good use out of the equipment. Those equipments were usually sold at an employee auction every 6 months or so. I felt that even though it was "old" for HP use, it was really "new" for schools, if I could get it to them. I was able to convince Division Manager, Rod Carlson, to pay for the freight. I worked with Judy (Miller) Silva, who was in charge of asset administration and the auctions, to set up our donation process. This required legal paperwork to transfer title from HP to the school, with proper waiver of liability, and was not trivial. The upshot was that I probably was able to transfer 200 items over some years, and help two or three schools and their students learn about real life test products.
The non-technical activities of a going organization as creative as HP people were as varied as you can imagine. Birthday parties were highly popular, with everyone taking some time off the phones and joining in the celebrations. Retirement parties down at the Palo Alto Elks Club or some other hotel venue recognized the tremendous personal contributions that some employee had made with his lifetime at HP.
During any given year, there were numerous parties, from coffee break birthday gatherings
to serious parties offsite. In this case, my entire Dept of maybe 100 people,
sent me off to HPA to work on Light Emitting Diodes.
Here are a couple of other examples of internal promotions that we organized for promoting the United Way campaigns. One of our most creative SPD accomplishments was to produce a promotional videotape, "It Brings out the Best in You." Ed Cantrell was one of our young marketing engineers, who was an experienced band keyboard player. Ed, plus a few of us created a rap video script, based on popular rock stars.
Our tall, slim Division Manager, Al Seeley, dressed up with a guitar to become "The Boss" Bruce Springsteen. Debra Dunn, our diminutive manufacturing manager, dressed up in black leather, became "Ma-Dunn-a," while stout Ray Shannon, the R&D Manager, became "L.L. Cool Ray." One of our test line persons was the "Head Rapper." All the division top management of 6 or 7 took part.
Al Seely, The Boss
Debra Dunn, MaDunnA
Ray Shannon, L.L. Cool Ray
Ed directed the whole thing and it was fascinating to see how he did it. He had previously done similar tapes for some religious programs. He worked with multiple-track audio, creating the background music first, with a rap beat. Then we staged each star, one at a time, playing the music for pacing, and recording their United Way pitch, each on their own audio track. Then Ed went back and combined them all in a post production studio. It was a terrific hit in the division, and I still have one copy of the tape at home. SPD even won a United Way award that year for the tape.
For a different year's promotion of the United Way Fund drive, the marketing department "volunteered" Eric Jennings, Marc Saunders, and me to lip sync the WWII Andrews Sisters, "Boogie-Woogie Bugle Boy from Company C," for an outside barbeque event. Look at those legs-and combat boots!
|United Way fund drive in the parking lot|
At its peak, HP sponsored a wide variety of employee clubs. There were the usual baseball and basketball teams with HP sponsorship in the industrial leagues. There was a sailing club, bridge club, flying club, speaker's club, HP chorus, and many more. It was kind of like the extension of our employee family.
In 1958, HP had well-defined coffee breaks all over the company. Twice a day, the chimes would ring, and everyone would leave their desks, or production people their stools, and drift to the end of the production line, where there were coffee pots and large trays of donuts or on some days, Danish rolls. I recall that some production line aluminum donut and Danish trays were set over the top of several soldering irons, set up with variable power transformers to heat them up, without burning them.
These breaks were all company furnished, and used to amaze customers, we were touring through the plants, that employees didn't have to pay for any of it. At my previous job in Albuquerque, not only did we employees have to buy our own coffee and donuts, but as it turned out, we chose to walk about 20 minutes, each way to the cafeteria, which made it quite expensive in engineer-time, since we always figured that company owed us that walking time.
One summer we hired a young business intern, who we assigned a study task for trying to determine the real cost effectiveness of having company-paid coffee breaks. He factored in the time saved for hundreds of employees, who didn't have to walk to some central dispensing station, to wait in line for a machine, wasting production time. 10 minutes later, the chimes sounded again, and the employees were only 50 feet from their production stools.
For the office areas, and the engineering stations, he also factored in the communications value of standing around the coffee pot, and seeing people from other departments, like marketing people talking to engineering, and so forth. Managers were there, and the air was very informal. Sure, there were lots of personal experiences covered, ball games, skiing, boating, vacations, etc, but there was lots of business transacted as well. We were quite impressed that this formal study actually put numbers on the cost to HP for the outlay of food and 10 minutes of employee time. Not surprisingly, the study showed the costs to have a very high payoff factor.
In the 80-90's, it seemed to me that coffee became an all-morning thing. Many people would fill up their coffee cup upon arrival at work, and go directly to their cubicles or production places, and start working on their computer screen. And the informal and more routine meetings at the end of the line went away. Even the chimes disappeared. I felt that this was unfortunate, because we never regained those feelings of closeness and teamwork.
This story was triggered in Nov, 2010 by an article in EE Times Magazine, about a reader who reported a case that involved considerable difficulty in troubleshooting a bad PC board. After quite a long frustrating time, the engineer finally found out that about 1 out of every 10 of his component diodes WERE MISMARKED for cathode/anode end.
The payoff to this introduction comes at the end, but I will first describe how innovation at HP went well beyond R&D and manufacturing. In our rapidly growing company, we moved departments a lot. So our facilities people invented several clever fixtures. To move office desks, they welded up a special dolly on wheels about 1 ½ feet high, which was just wide enough to fit under the desk's chair opening. They used an auto jack to lift the top frame, which raised the loaded desk, and simply wheeled it across the floor or up the elevator. No need to empty the desk or drawers, and quite a convenient time savings for the desk owner.
The second innovation involved moving bookcases. Most of our early bookcases were manufactured by our wood shop. They were 5 feet long and when loaded with books of binders could weigh 200 pounds at least. So some inventive facilities guy made some triangular steel corners about 1 foot on a side, which rode about 1/2 inch over the floor on 3 castors. To move a bookcase, they rocked a corner, pushed the low rider corner under, added the second and away they went down the aisle with the full load of binders and books.
Some clever facilities guy
created this bookcase mover
But then, in a cost-cutting change--I guess--they began to hire commercial movers. Those contractors employed the usual mover practice of using those 6 inch high carpeted wheeled dollies. So to move a bookcase, we'd have to remove and pack ALL the books into moving boxes, and replace them at the new location. Probably cheaper for HP but using up a LOT of expensive engineer time. Oh well, of such cost cutting are management decisions made.
This new practice leads to my story of disaster. Our SPD lab stock of resistors and components, probably in the 1980s, were stored in one HUGE commercial case, maybe 3 feet wide and 2 foot deep and 5 feet high, with perhaps 20 drawers, each 2.5 inches high. Each drawer must have had 100+ bins with tiny resistors, capacitors, etc. In those days the components had reached minimum size, with color codes barely readable without a magnifying glass.
The problem came on one office move when the movers came to move the heavy component drawer stand, without precautionary instructions. They just tipped the unit 90 degrees and laid it on its back on their carpet dolly, brought it to the new location and tipped it back up--and moved on.
Imagine the shock when the first engineer went looking for some resistors! On each drawer, probably tens of thousands of components were packed into one corner. This was the opposite of the needle in the haystack. We had millions of needles in piles. And no way to sort into values and bins.
A little like a book in a library which is mis-filed, never to be found again.
HP Journal, Sept, 1986
Among many truisms in the military, one goes something like this, "You may be promoted to command an army, but you aren't IN COMMAND of that army, until you can communicate with them." The same is completely true in any large commercial organization, and HP envisioned and constructed one of the best backbone communications systems of the day. HP's communication system, and its Comsys internal communications development is a real untold tale.
In 1958, when I joined HP's marketing department, business communications were rudimentary. Internally, it was a heavy reliance on typed memos and personal contact, the phone and the routine coffee break conversations. For field communications, written letters, telephone and the teletype were the mainstays. A lot of the urgent written communications with the field had to be done with the teletype because it left a written record. It was also known as the TWX.
Through the 1960's, under the Division Management of John Young, Hank Taylor was the Information Technology Manager, although the functional term IT hadn't appeared yet. I think it was just called the Communications Dept, and may actually have reported to finance. Hank recognized the growing problem of communications costs, sometime in the 1960's. The company's telephone and teletype bills were growing and growing, and it was obvious that an overall system problem existed.
HP had been buying outside communications services from the local phone company, Pacific Bell, just like every other large company, sometimes using leased lines, or buying time by the minute. Then came a newly introduced WATS (wide-area-telephone-system) lines, which AT&T had rolled out to squelch the upstart microwave communication links installed by their competitor MCI, from Chicago to St. Louis . WATS was a sort of discount deal for sucking in large companies with wide-ranging telephone needs.
In the early 1970's, out of this analysis came an HP system known as Comsys. Cort Van Rensselaer relates that Rich Nielsen (now with Agilent) was the technical genius behind our early worldwide communication system. He and Hank Taylor and Bob Puette were the team that created it and made it go.
In the Comsys model, anyone would hand-write a message on a two-part form, give one to the secretary who would get it to the Comsys center, where another clerk would keyboard the message into an HP 2100 computer, acting as a router. These messages would be assembled, batched on some kind of daily schedule, and computer-routed to the appropriate field office or another division, anywhere in the world. Hard-copy delivery was typically the next day, normally delivered using the internal mail operations. This process was remarkable. And it lifted the company to new levels of capability.
But Hank wasn't done there. His vision was to engage every employee who needed to communicate with any other, into the system, years before the Internet PC revolution swept up the ordinary citizen. Once we found out how expeditious the Comsys could be, Hank moved to the next step, which was to install the keyboarding terminals into each department. Then the secretary/typist became the gatekeeper to the communications system.
At the same time, the company's global operations were being computerized with hundreds of HP 3000 mid-sized computers. Production control, materials engineering, order processing, and accounting were all migrated to rooms full of HP 3000s across the world. Email software, which was being developed as a product by HP, in the United Kingdom for commercial sale, was beginning to be available for the HP 3000. Since most of the centralized HP 3000s were often running idle, by using a small portion of their power, each entity could have the central powerful server needed for accumulating messages and routing.
One thing to remember is that HP expenditures for such massive overlay systems always demanded strict cost-justifications. But these types of overhead processes were virtually impossible to justify, so Hank had to convince, not just the central services managers, to spend those millions, but also, each of the entities, sales offices and factories of their value. Hank was really after each employee, engineer, field person, and manager, to assume the responsibility for individual keyboarding, which would be the ultimate rationale for a corporation which prided itself on technology contributions.
This system was a human revolution, because it required a lot of old timers, engineers and the older managers, to actually learn to type, or at least get comfortable with the concept of two-fingered typing, or else they would fall way behind. And as HP pushed the PC computers into the desks of individuals and engineers, the HP communications system advanced, with huge servers across the world, which moved millions of messages to keep the company on the front of the onrush of business communications. In the HP Journal article of Sept, 1986, the comprehensive story noted that at the time, there were 483 HP 3000 computers in 31 countries processing billions of characters and millions of messages.
The HP system was far ahead of other companies, partly because we had the computers and technical prowess to write the software for such a pervasive system, which impacted everything we did. But, it was also the people, and the managers, who could see the efficiencies which would result. The thing most of us never saw during the planning and installation years, was Hank's behind-the-scenes training and help-desk functions, which were not-so-subtly sucking us in, so we became comfortable with all these new functions. I used to brag to some of my peers in the industrial trade magazine business, that when I was organizing multi-division attendance at trade shows, or the RF/Microwave Symposium, that I could have organized the D-Day invasion of Europe, had the HP email system been available in 1944.
Following that came other communications innovations, which enabled our modern HP era. They include shared files and massive spinning disk farms, distributed across the world, which hold the very brains of the company. Data, which is the heart blood of HP, underpins our engineering and production and marketing and financial databases. They can be moved across the world in an instant. Remarkably, much of this happened before the early installation of the public Internet, because Hank and others had foreseen the need and made it happen. I should also credit Cort Van Rensselaer, who was Hank's boss, and who also fought for the financial funding for the entire program.