It was a remarkable place to work. "Bill and Dave" were household names: I was really struck by how much of their vision and values had been embedded in the firm's DNA. Quite amazing for a multi-national.
I remember the UK general manager coming to visit our site. He wasn't immune to the usual entourage of hangers-on, but always insisted on going walkabout on his own for an hour or so. Precisely so he knew what was actually happening at the coal face, not the filtered and abstracted artefacts of managerial reports. He stopped to speak to one of my colleagues - a recent graduate. The grad had no idea who the manager was, and asked him politely to give him 10 minutes as he was waiting for a build to finish (1990s remember). Those of us who knew the manager were aghast and assumed the grad would be in for a bit of a tough time. But the GM just smiled and said "of course, hope it compiles OK", went away, and came back later.
That moment has stuck with me throughout my career. I've sought to emulate that level of humility and respect. Can't say I've always been successful, but it remains inspirational.
Enterprise (HPE) or Inc (HPQ)
This passage in particular should be memorized by every "Manager".
Over the years we have developed the policy that it is important for the supervisor to thoroughly know and understand the work of his group. A debate on this has been carried on by management people for years. Some say you can be a good manager without having the slightest idea of what you are trying to manage, that the techniques of management are all important. There are many organizations which work that way. I don't argue that the job can't be done that way but I do argue strongly that the best job can be done when the manager or supervisor has a real and genuine understanding of his group's work. I don't see how a person can even understand what proper standards are and what performance is required unless he does understand in some detail the very specific nature of the work he is trying to supervise. We have held closely to this philosophy and we intend to continue to do so. We expect you who are supervising to learn techniques of supervision and keep up to date. I want to emphasize you can supervise best when you know a great deal about the work you are supervising and when you know the techniques of supervision as well.
I learnt to program on an HP-85a. At the time, my friends had ZX80s or ZX81s with 1k of RAM. My HP-85a (my dad's really) had an insanely massive 32k. It came with really great manuals which taught you to program in basic, a built-in screen, magnetic tape drive and thermal printer and was fantastically engineered in general.
The HP12c financial calculator is legendary. There are HP12c still running on their original battery 30+ years after production (the original battery now no longer permitted for non-military applications due to toxic chemicals and what-not) and the legend goes that a zookeeper once accidentally fed one to a hippo (he had been using it to calculate how much feed to give it or something) had it travel through the whole digestive tract of the aforementioned beast and had it still working. My two HP12cs have each been running for 10+ years on their original batteries even though they are using the inferior modern battery technology.
I could go on but you get the point.
On the high end technical side, they are absolutely killing it lately. They have a new out of the box modular system for quantum computing, a new 100 GHz bandwidth oscilloscope that has crazy good noise performance, and their new portable microwave analyzer is a VNA and RTSA in one that works better than many previous generation benchtop boxes but runs on a battery. Those were all released this year.
I'm very relieved to hear that they're still innovating, actually. Thanks :)
I was working on a project Sunday that involved fairly precise current and voltage measurements using an HP3458A benchtop meter. I was a little careless and put about 4A through the current shunt (which is rated for only 1.25A). It immediately failed open circuit, shutting down my circuit. I finished up the work using a lesser quality meter and figured I was in for an annoying repair task, at a minimum pulling the meter out and replacing a fuse in the back or, worse, maybe having to take the cover off (and break the cal stickers).
Instead, the design is incredibly thoughtful and user-friendly, obviously designed by someone who cared to think through how the device would actually be used in the field and not just relentlessly “cost engineered”.
If I’d known, I could have replaced the fuse faster than going to get the other meter.
"Bill & Dave: How Hewlett and Packard Built the World's Greatest Company" by Michael S. Malone