When David Packard and Bill Hewlett started their electronics company from a rented garage in Palo Alto, Calif., they weren’t just creating a new business. They were essentially creating Silicon Valley.
Hewlett-Packard would spawn numerous technological advancements and become one of the world’s most dominant companies.
Packard held Bachelors and Masters degrees in electrical engineering from Stanford University. It was there he met Hewlett. With a mere $538 on hand, the two started their new electronics venture in 1938. The Hewlett-Packard name was chosen based on a coin toss.
In the ensuing decades Hewlett-Packard would pioneer products ranging from hand-held calculators to ink jet printers to personal computers and become synonymous with Silicon Valley.
Called “the first high-tech mogul’’ by The New York Times in 1996, Packard’s management style was perfect for the electronics industry. He believed in managing from the ground up, talking to workers and getting to understand their needs. The “HP Way’’ was copied across Silicon Valley, with other companies imitating Packard’s style of setting clear goals and giving workers the freedom to achieve those goals without interference from the executive suite.
Packard was also active in politics. He served as deputy secretary of defense during the first term of President Richard Nixon, and in 1985 was named by President Ronald Reagan to the Blue Ribbon Commission on Defense Management, which probed defense spending.
Packard, one of the wealthiest men in the U.S., poured huge amounts of money into philanthropic causes through the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. Packard willed billions to the foundation when he died in 1996.
At that time, HP, the company started on $538, had grown to $31 billion in revenues. And that garage in Palo Alto? It had been added to California’s registry of historic places, as the “birthplace of Silicon Valley.’’