When HP started out, Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard took on all sorts of odd contract jobs—Harmonica tuners, automatic toilet flush sensors for Stanford…but one of the first tech support calls that Packard made for the company – about 70 years ago – was for a bowling alley. The foul line indicator Hewlett and Packard created wasn’t working properly. But there was Dave, sleeves rolled up, troubleshooting.
Why “The Next Bench,” you ask? When Bill and Dave were back in the garage days, they built devices useful for the guy next to you on the workbench. Or, to be more accurate, if the guy on the next bench wanted the product you were working on, chances are that it would be a success. That same spirit carried over as the company grew – making devices for whomever is at the next bench. In a sense, it’s still that way today. (You can learn much more about HP’s origins from a story in the July/August 1998 issue of the Stanford alumni magazine.)
A lot has happened since then. Printers, computers, calculators, touch screen technology—HP has blazed trails and created essential technologies that touch your life today. But to understand how we got to where we are, we need to take a look back. And that’s the point of the Tales from the Next Bench series. We're going to walk into HP’s virtual vaults and show you some great gear from yesteryear and give you a little perspective.
For this series, we consulted with Anna Mancini, Hewlett-Packard’s Corporate Archivist. The HP Archives were established in 1987. In her care: The first of each product line and the products that really changed the direction of the company.
While many older products are safely stored away off-site, a number of products lie behind security doors in building 20 on HP's Palo Alto campus. (Sorry, it's only accessible by HP employees). We’ve included a couple insider pictures, but you can also take a small virtual tour at HP’s Virtual Museum.
In the coming weeks and months, we’ll tell you about some pieces that haven’t seen daylight in years. (The calculator collection is Mancini’s personal favorite).
And if you have stories to share about classic HP electronics you’ve used, please join the conversation here or check out the installments below.
The Tales from the Next Bench series is collected below!