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Before Steve Jobs And His Garage

August 6, 2012

Most of us have heard the story of how Steve Jobs started Apple Computers in a garage. Long before that happened another technology company got its start in a garage in Palo Alto, California which is known today as Silicon Valley.  In fact many consider this garage the birthplace of Silicon Valley. This was before Steve Jobs was even born.

In 1939 Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard formalized their partnership that would eventually become one of the largest technology companies in the world today-Hewlett Packard (HP).  The two were classmates at Stanford University.  Their first product was an audio oscillator in 1938. This is an electronic test instrument used by sound engineers. Walt Disney Studios was one of their first customers.

While the founders of some companies had a clear vision of what they were about to do, for Hewlett and Packard they just wanted to build something that somebody would buy and earn them a profit. In fact even the choosing of their company name whether it would by Hewlett-Packard or Packard-Hewlett was based on a coin toss.

In 1942 HP built its first building using an open floor plan for versatility then they found out that this had a positive effect on creativity.  That same year HP introduced a pioneering health insurance plan for all employees.  The following year the company enters the microwave field that eventually led to its position as the leader in signal generators.

HP introduced the first desk top scientific calculator in the world in 1968.  The term “personal computer” was used for the first time in the advertisement.  In 1971 the company creates a laser interferometer that could make infinitesimal measurements. Again HP became a leader in this market.

In 1980 the company produced its first personal computer. Over the years it introduced numerous products including desktop printers.  As the company was in the technology field many competitors started cropping up and in a number instances they made inroads on HP’s leadership and some companies like Apple became dominant in several markets.

Despite of some missteps and competitors becoming more dominant in particular markets HP is one of the largest companies in the whole world. Last year it had around 349,600 employees with revenue of $124 billion and net income of $5.23 billion.

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