HP TECH TAKES /...
Exploring today's technology for tomorrow's possibilities
History of HP
September 1, 2019
History of HP
When the Hewlett-Packard Company (HP) was founded in 1939, the world was a very different place. There were no fully electronic computers. The only printers were industrial-sized printing presses. Palo Alto, California was composed mostly of fruit orchards. The internet was decades away from fruition.
The storied history of HP coincides with the development of home computing and the rise of Silicon Valley. HP’s innovations were instrumental in making home computers and printers more affordable for the average consumer, and their success inspired a wave of electronics companies to start up in Santa Clara County, California. Everyone wanted to hang out in HP’s neck of the woods.
HP celebrates its 80th birthday this year! There’s no better time to explore the history of HP, from its earliest inventions to its most modern technological advancements. Take a tech-tastic trip through time in the infographic below.
Let’s trace the growth of home electronics by exploring the history of HP®. Let’s take a trip through history and learn how a small company formed in a garage grew into a tech giant that revolutionized the way we interact with technology.
How It All Began
In the 1930s, American culture was dominated by sound film and radio. These technologies were made possible by electronic signaling. It’s easy to see why young Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard were drawn to study electrical engineering at Stanford University.
- Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard become friends when they bond over a two-week camping trip.
- Bill and Dave work part-time building devices in a Palo Alto garage.
- With only $538 in capital, they invent the “HP Model 200A”, an oscillator used to test sound equipment.
- The Walt Disney Company buys 8 HP oscillators to prepare movie theaters to screen Fantasia.
- Bill and Dave use a coin toss to decide between “Hewlett-Packard” or “Packard-Hewlett.”
The Early Days
Bill and Dave formalize their company in the 1940s. They lay the foundations for HP’s future success and pioneered business innovations that many tech companies would later adopt.
- HP moves into rented facilities in Palo Alto.
- HP establishes a pioneering health care plan for its employees.
- HP utilizes an open floor plan in their office. It provides versatility, but unexpectedly promotes collaboration and creativity. Nowadays, most tech companies utilize open floor plans.
- The business incorporates on August 18.
The Electronics Industry Expands
In the 1950s, American culture vibrantly expands with television, rock and roll, and car culture. The tech industry also expands. Due to HP’s success, a variety of tech companies establish themselves in Santa Clara County.
- HP invents the 524A high-speed frequency counter. These kinds of signal measuring products will earn billions for HP.
- HP goes public, with shares selling for $16.
- The company constructs its first HP-owned building in Stanford Research Park. It’s designed to boost employee comfort and creativity.
America sets a new course in the 1960s. In society, civil rights leaders march toward a brighter future. In science, America reaches for the stars and lands on the moon. HP makes its presence known across borders.
- HP goes global and establishes facilities in Switzerland and Germany.
- Space exploration is in full swing, and HP invents a frequency synthesizer that’s used aboard vehicles headed for deep space.
- During HP’s 25th year, the company invents the atomic clock. Capable of coordinating international time to within a millionth of a second, it’s the most accurate clock ever invented.
- HP Laboratories opens. HP Labs conducts research into new technology. The same year it opens, HP Labs invents light-emitting diodes (LEDs).
The Computer Age Begins
The first personal computers come about in the late 1960s and 1970s. HP is at the forefront.
- HP develops its first “personal computer,” a scientific calculator called the HP 9100A. Ads for the calculator coin the term, “personal computer.”
- HP introduces the world’s first programmable pocket calculator.
- Journalists coin the term “Silicon Valley” to describe the cluster of thriving tech companies in Santa Clara County.
HP Makes Technology Accessible
The first computers and printers are too expensive for the average consumer. HP aims to change all that.
- HP produces its first PC, the HP-85. It has intuitive peripherals and can even communicate with other computers.
- The HP-150 Touchscreen PC is introduced, which allows users to navigate the interface by touching the screen.
- The first HP LaserJet is released and quickly becomes the world’s most popular laser printer.
- HP creates an affordable color printer with the HP DeskJet 500C.
- HP builds the first all-in-one office device, the HP OfficeJet. It can print, fax, and copy.
HP LaserJet, DeskJet, and OfficeJet printers are still popular today!
A New Millennium
In 1996, flags fly at half-staff across Silicon Valley to mourn the passing of Dave Packard. Bill Hewlett passes away in 2001 and receives a similar tribute. Although Bill and Dave are gone, HP® continues to innovate as the internet comes of age.
- Intel and HP team up to develop Itanium architecture, which advances computers from 32 to 64 bits.
- An image-compression algorithm developed by HP Labs is used by NASA to create high-resolution images of Mars transmitted by NASA’s Spirit Rover.
- HP achieves its goal of recycling 1 billion pounds of hardware.
- The original HP garage in Palo Alto is listed in the National Register of Historic Places as “The Birthplace of Silicon Valley.”
- HP introduces the HP Photosmart Premium with TouchSmart Web. It’s the world’s first web-connected printer.
- The HP Jet Fusion debuts, HP’s first 3D printer.
- HP debuts a sophisticated 3D metal printer, the HP Metal Jet.
Today and Beyond
- HP celebrates its 80th birthday!
We have our eyes set on the future. HP® continues to lead the way in computing, printing, 3D printing, AI, VR, gaming and more!
 HP.com; Timeline of our history