Remembering Early Times at HP

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My Memories of Early Days at Hewlett-Packard GmbH
by Willi Jirgal


Mr. HP Europe Administrator -- Willi Jirgal

Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard changed literally tens of thousands of lives across the globe. It wasn't so much that we couldn't have found other challenging jobs in high technology. But it was our luck that we signed on to the best company with the best work culture in the world of the second half of the 20th century.

That culture which was largely US derived soon found Bill Hewlett extending it internationally. Bill was always the internationalist, and started the HP moves overseas with operations in Switzerland, Britain and Germany. This was done to exploit the new European Economic agreements on trade. Some of this history is covered in the Ray Smelek and Carl Cottrell memoirs on this website.

Willi's memories will fill in more information on the rapid growth of the German manufacturing operation. He recalls some writings of Fred Schröder and Eberhard Knoblauch, as they reviewed some of the early decades of their endeavors. It is always interesting to review memories of managers like Fred and Eberhard, as they lead a creative team of enthusiastic engineers and manufacturing personnel to build an entirely new facility in a new land. We can then compare their experiences with other memoirs like Al Steiner's memoir of his success in moving Delcon from Mountain View, California to Colorado Springs. Or Cort van Rensselaer in his establishment of the Oscilloscope Division in the brand new site in Colorado Springs. There is so much in common with all such memories, in a way which shows how HP people adapt previous experiences and successes to install the HP Way across the globe.

John Borgstedt's memoir also contains several written references from Fred Schroder, since John and Fred spent quite a bit of time on various activities when Fred travelled here. We provided click references to those other writings.

We all know that HP became a second family for all of us. We spent more than1/3rd of our time at work, and strong relationships developed on the various teams. In Willi's case, he also found his wife, Traudi in the factory team, and made a long 50 year life with her. We don't have statistics on "company-enabled" marriages but it is not zero.

Probably the best results of the global nature of HP was the camaraderie which developed between nations, whether it was reinforced by email correspondence, or by the huge amount of travel which our high tech industry required. In my own case, my wife and a neighbor took a tour to Germany, Austria and Italy. The neighbor bought a new Mercedes and had it delivered in Sindelfingen. They drove all over, ending in Italy. Where the car was stolen. Luckily, they had moved most of their purchases into the Pensione the night before. When my wife called, desperately, I simply told her to contact the Hewlett-Packard office in Rome. They quickly sent a car over, picked up the boxes of goods, and packed and shipped them back to me in Palo Alto.

Lifelong friendships were the coin of our realm at HP. We see this reinforced and recalled in every memoir of this series. Willi Jirgal showed how the HP work culture grew up in new places like Böblingen because HP's leadership style allowed people to be effective immediately in any HP office and transferred easily to the many HP sales and service offices across Europe which opened up in the late 60's and early 70's , but transferred easily to other locations like his leadership in Geneva.

John Minck

My Memories of Early Days at Hewlett-Packard GmbH
by Willi Jirgal

acro_offClick here to download Willi Jirgal's memories in PDF format - The 16 page document is a 12 Mb PDF file.

HP Memories

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

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

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

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

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