Killer Innovations for Maker Faire

MakerFaire11_T.jpgIt’s kind of hard to succinctly sum up Maker Faire. It’s part carnival, part technology showcase. I like to think of it as an open forum, DIY technology party. Like HP’s founders, Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard, people are creating innovations in their garages every day.  And every year, when the weekend-long festival for the Do-It-Yourself-set comes to the bay area, I make sure to mark Maker Faire on my calendar. 

Heritage of Innovation: Bob Metcalfe

bobmetcalfe You may not realize it, but the work of Bob Metcalfe affects many aspects of your life. Whether it’s how you collaborate with co-workers, share data between all the devices in your house – or just want to host a LAN party, Bob’s work is everywhere. While an engineer-scientist (1965-1979), Metcalfe helped pioneer the Internet. In 1973, at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, he invented Ethernet, the local-area networking (LAN) standard on which he shares four patents. Since then, he founded the 3Com Corporation, helmed IDG’s InfoWorld and currently serves as the General Partner of Polaris Ventures.

Tales from the Next Bench: HP’s Archives

hparchive 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.

Heritage of Innovation: Jim Sutton and the HP-150 Touchscreen PC

Here at HP, we’ve been focusing a lot on touch screens in the past couple years. Today we have TouchSmart PCs and notebooks, printers, iPAQs and most recently, there has been a lot of buzz around the slate videos we’ve posted since CES. Yes, our ground-breaking mobile device is coming out this year, but I want to clear something up. People assume that HP is new to the touch space – since the iPhone and other touch devices have surfaced. What many don’t realize is HP’s more than 27-year history with pushing touch technology forward.

The Slate: A History of Innovation

hpslate We have been bombarded with requests for more information on the slate HP previewed at CES 2010. As you might expect, we won’t reveal the details until it is officially announced and available later this year. What I can tell you is more about our vision for the product and the development process behind it. I cover some of the story in the video, but I’ll tell you more of it here.The slate is not new to the HP family. It has existed, in one form or another, behind closed doors for about five years. The original concept was an e-reader device, which I showed off in 2007. During testing, we shared the prototype with 60 customers, and their feedback had a huge impact.

Heritage of Innovation: Interview with Geoffrey Moore Part II

In the second part of my interview with Geoffrey Moore, we continue our discussion on innovation in the present day, co-innovation in an organization and much more. For those of you just joining us in the series, Geoffrey Moore is consultant and author of multiple books, including the best-seller Crossing the Chasm, which has been heralded as the bible for entrepreneurial marketing. I'd like to share some highlights from the second part of the interview.

Heritage of Innovation: Interview with Geoffrey Moore Part I

Are there lessons we can learn from the people who innovated before us? The Heritage of Innovation podcasts are a series of interviews I will be conducting with people who created killer innovations that changed the world.  We will relive some great milestones in the history of technology and learn lessons on the nature of innovation from the people who were the driving force behind some of the world’s most important breakthroughs.

For the next installment of our series, I interview Geoffrey Moore, one the most respected consultants and thought leaders in Silicon Valley.  He is the author of multiple books, including the best-seller Crossing the Chasm, which has been heralded as the bible for entrepreneurial marketing.  Today, I'd like to share some highlights from the first part of the interview.

 

 
Part of what Geoffrey discusses in his books is how start-ups can transition to growth companies, and the challenges in crossing that chasm in-between. One of the things affecting innovators today is the downturn. 

"I think you're seeing changes on both ends of the spectrum.  First of all, when you have a down economy, you all of a sudden get a bigger supply of entrepreneurs, also known as laid off people.  You'll see a lot of companies get started in this down turn, and that will be great for everybody.  All they have to do is get to $1 million of revenue, and that's better off than we are today. There are a lot of ideas that can get to $1 or $2 million that frankly, big companies aren't going to spend the time on. On the other end of the spectrum, the large companies have pressure to cut costs.  The other pressure is to take share.  And to take share, you do have to do something that your competitors aren't doing.  Now it may not be tech innovation, it may be marketing innovation or operational innovation, but you'll be doing something."

Because of the downturn, many people are now finding the opportunity to pursue their dreams.  But a vital key learning to entrepreneurs is to always validate your work.

"What we talk a lot about is that at every stage of an innovation, before you even put pen to paper, you want to expose it to market forces and see if it is matching to your internal ideation.  What that means is - for an entrepreneur this is really important - the first piece of work needs to be done as fast as you can. What you do is go to a visionary customer who is in trouble one way or another, and say, 'We think [our idea] is a possibility and it solves this kind of problem, and it looks you have this problem.'  It's almost like a consulting project: you sign them up as your first [client].  What's great about that is you get a stream of revenue coming in, but more importantly, you get a stream of reality coming in. I get scared [for entrepreneurs that] go down this path without a customer."
 
You can download and listen to the first part of the interview here.  For more information on Geoffrey and his thoughts on innovation, you can visit his blog.  Be sure to stay tuned for the second part, which will be coming soon.

Heritage of Innovation: Interview with Art Fong

Are there lessons we can learn from the people who innovated before us? The Heritage of Innovation podcasts are a series of interviews I will be conducting with people who created killer innovations that changed the world.  We will relive some great milestones in the history of technology and learn lessons on the nature of innovation from the people who were the driving force behind some of the world’s most important breakthroughs.

 

Art Fong, the 6th R&D lab employee of Hewlett-Packard, has a long and storied career as an inventor and innovator.  Attenuators designed by Art in 1959 were still listed in the Agilent Technologies catalog in 2005.  He and his wife, Mary, are also dedicated to education.  They established the Fong Family Scholarship Award to UC Berkeley engineering students demonstrating scholastic achievement and financial need.  Today, as part of our ongoing Heritage of Innovation series, I’d like to share some highlights from my interview with Art, some photos, as well as the full podcast.

 

 


Photo: Art demos the first police radar, built with surplus military parts, as Bill Hewlett and engineers watch.  


One of Art’s most important and interesting innovations was his contributions to radar technology. “While we were at MIT Labs we had talked about [a police radar] before with various people, but nobody had built one.  I got to HP [and one day] I was up in San Francisco in one of those surplus stores...I see all that x-band gear up there...and for fun I bought a parabola [and other supplies] to build one.  One coffee break we all went outside and I wanted to show the radar.  Hewlett even joined us for a bit and said, ‘that’s real nice, Art...but we don’t want to make something like that...we’re in the instrument business.’  It was about twenty years later before the commercial police radar came out...of course they’re a lot smaller.  The one I made just helped prove that the idea was there.”

During his time at HP, Art often worked closely with Bill Hewlett.  One of his most memorable moments was with the company car, a Mercury station wagon.  “We had an IEEE meeting up in San Francisco once, and we were all in the station wagon.  We came up to a road that was just being built, and [they never] put the pavement in.  There were all sorts of [holes] and ruts.  And Bill says, ‘let’s see now, there must be a speed where I can just hit the tops of the bumps and it would be a smooth ride.’  We went all the way from 50 to 100mph.  He was a reckless driver!  We never did find that speed...”  

You can download the full podcast here or read more about Art’s history in this pre-interview Q&A. Be sure to check out some of the great photos from the interview here at our Flickr site.

Heritage of Innovation Preview: Excerpts from an Interview with Art Fong

In the last Heritage of Innovation podcast Phil McKinney spoke with Dave Cochran, who was part of the HP-35 calculator team.  For the next interview in the series, which will be posted soon, Phil interviews Art Fong, who was personally recruited by Bill Hewlett to Hewlett-Packard in 1946.

 

Prior to joining the HP team, Art had many groundbreaking achievements in his career.  He was a part of the development of the first AM/FM radio and radar technology, which became an integral part of the World War II efforts against the Axis. 

 

During his time at HP, Art made major engineering contributions to the company, with innovations such as impedance-measuring instruments, a line of signal generators, and the first calibrated microwave spectrum analyzer.  At one point, his innovations generated a staggering 30 percent of HP’s revenue.

 

He’s been a member of the U.S. National Security Agency advisory committee to improve digital data security.  Art also traveled to The People’s Republic of China with HP’s former CEO, John Young, to give lectures about the current state of technology.  He and his wife Mary Fong are also philanthropists through the Fong Family Scholarships for deserving Cal engineering students.  In addition to our interview, you can also watch a recent interview with Art and CBS Channel 5’s Sue Kwon

 

The following are excerpts of Phil’s interview with Art.

 

 

 

You’ve had extensive background of innovation, both before joining Hewlett-Packard and during your time at the company, and you’ve contributed to many milestones that had a great impact on the world.  Can you tell us about what inspires and motivates you when you’re developing new innovations?

 

I like to see how things work.  As a boy, when I would play at a pond in Sacramento my sail boat kept tipping over.  While at the library one day, I looked up sail boats and found they all had keels.  So I put a nail into the bottom of the boat, and it worked – the boat sailed upright.  When I was young I had built radios and transmitters, and I had lots of tinkering experience. 

 

We know that your help with the development of the radar was a significant contribution to the war efforts.  It must have been a very stressful time during the war- what were some of the challenges that you faced during the development phase, and how did you overcome it?

 

My contributions to radar are all in the microwave measurements area, because most measurements had never been worked on.  Very little information was available in literature and you had to search around to discover some leads.  There were about 3,000 members in the lab and if you were lucky you could get information from someone.  But most of the time, I had to dig it out for myself.  Fortunately, I was able to finish what I was working on because the projects had generous deadlines.  I never kept track of time; instead, I often worked 10-12 hours a day and on weekends.


How does it feel to be a part of and the reason for so many of the world’s most important technical achievements?

 

It feels great!  I love solving scientific problems - not emotional ones - and I see problems or something that needs improvements every day. 

 

What advice would you offer fellow innovators and engineers?

 

That is a tough one.  Every generation has different goals.  They are a lot more educated today.  But I would offer that when the going gets tough, go backpacking, fishing, skiing, so forth.  Relax.  It gives you a break when your problems are all mixed up in your cranium.  I found sudden answers while looking at the clouds, a falling star, or a fawn.  Thinking of problems while in a new environment often leads to a new path to the solution.

 

Be sure to check back soon for photos of the interview, as well as the full podcast coming soon!

Message Edited by Frosty on 07-21-2009 08:48 PM
Message Edited by Frosty on 07-28-2009 03:13 PM

Heritage of Innovation: Interview with Dave Cochran

Dave Cochran with Phil McKinney

 

Are there lessons we can learn from the people who innovated before us? The Heritage of Innovation podcasts are a series of interviews I will be conducting with people who created killer innovations that changed the world.  We will relive some great milestones in the history of technology and learn lessons on the nature of innovation from the people who were the driving force behind some of the world’s most important breakthroughs.

My first interview is with Dave Cochran, the product manager of the calculator that literally changed the world. Called the HP-35 after the number of its keys, it was the first calculator that could perform all of the functions of the slide rule to 10-digit precision. It was created at the request of William Hewlett himself, and the team pushed on with it despite warnings that it would fail.  

Throughout the interview, Dave, who was also part of the team recently awarded a Milestone award for his work on the HP-35 project, shares a lot of experiences and anecdotes about his work with Bill Hewlett and David Packard, along with stories about other team members including Steve Wozniak. Fittingly for this community, he even describes how the next bench concept worked:

“The set up in the laboratory was that you had a desk and behind it you had a bench...You were always looking over at what your buddy was doing because you were curious, and sometimes his project was more interesting than yours. But sometimes you would see things that were really exciting and you’d say ‘ah’...I could use something like that right now. Can you give me a prototype?...There was that back and forth.”

Download the full podcast here.

Message Edited by Phil on 07-27-2009 02:47 PM
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