Hewlett-Packard, The Early Years
By Ed Sharpe
The historical journey you are about to
embark upon began well before the formal starting date of Hewlett-Packard
as a company. The setting was correct, the circumstances were aligned, and
all the players were in their proper places for this saga to unfold. Had
one of the conditions been different, these two dynamic individuals might
not have met, and without the influences of their environment and of Fred
Terman their meeting might not have progressed into what has become one of
the leading instrumentation and computer companies in the world. -Ed
The positive influence Fred Terman
had in the world is shown by the history portrayed here of the
Hewlett-Packard Company. Bill Hewlett and David Packard, who under the
guidance and friendship of Fred Terman, built one of the leading
instrument companies in the world. The Southwest Museum of Electricity and
Communications is proud to present the history of Hewlett-Packard. Though
not complete, this sketch gives an overall view of the early days of the
people who made the company what it is.
We were fortunate to obtain a copy of an interview between Bill Hewlett
and Dave Packard. This taped interview took place starting on August 26,
1982, and consisted of another two parts at dates following the initial
segment. Other sources are listed within the text, as well as in the
credits section at the end of the article. Enjoy! - Edward A. Sharpe,
The start of it all.
David Packardís decision to come to Stanford was more or less a matter
of chance, as events that happen to all of us often are. In the summer of
1929, Dave drove his mother and sister from Pueblo, Colorado, where their
home was, to California. They spent some time in the Los Angeles area, in
Hermosa Beach, and then went up to visit an old friend of Daveís mother
in Palo Alto. That family had three daughters. The oldest daughter was
going to Stanford and she was very enthusiastic about the university, and
took Dave around to examine the campus. At this time, Dave had already
decided that he wished to study electrical engineering, however, he had in
mind Colorado University which had a very good electrical engineering
school. But the trip to California and the time he spent in Palo Alto in
the summer of 1929, convinced him to submit an application to Stanford and
he was accepted.
Dave also had a fascination with radio or wireless as it was called in
those days. This interest and study grew in the early days of grade
school, and continued for years to come. Dave was a regular visitor to the
public library in Pueblo, and took out all the books about how to make
electrical motors and other devices that would tend to make an
experimenting mind quest for even further electrical knowledge.
Conspirators in wireless waves.
Every inquisitive lad needs someone to conspire with, and Dave found this
in a neighborhood chum several years his senior who lived in the house
behind his. Dave Packard and Lloyd Penrose, who went on to be involved in
the radio department of American Airlines, spent a lot of time building
various devices including a radio. For an early detector of wireless waves
they experimented with a coherer, but were disappointed due to the lack of
sensitivity since there werenít many good stations located close to
Dave Packard remembers his first really successful radio when he says,
"I obtained one of the early vacuum tubes, a triode and I wired this
thing up in a rather haywire manner..." In the early days, many first
radios were built as a trailing mass of components and wire residing on
the familyís dining room table, Daveís radio was to be no exception to
this development technique! Dave continues, "At that time we didnít
have any antenna but we had antenna eliminators that you could put in an
electric light socket."
This technique was quite common in those days, and found extensive use
particularly in high density neighborhoods in large cities. Folks who
wanted to embark on the new exciting endeavor of radio listening either
did not have room to string up a large antenna, or had no ambition to do
so. Kids! - Donít try this at home! Only the experienced experimenter
should attempt this; if the wrong value capacitor is chosen, it could
result in a transfer of the AC line current into your radio thus
destroying the radio or the experimenter!
Dave was able to pick up the signals, and was rewarded with receiving WHO
in Des Moines, Iowa, and heard a very good program crowning his first
truly successful radio construction adventure.
By the time Dave enrolled in high school, he had become
actively involved in amateur radio and had a ham license, 9DRV. In those
early days he used Tuned Grid - Tuned Plate oscillators and Hartley
oscillators. Later on he had crystal controlled transmitters, which
provided greater frequency stability. The power supply for transmitters in
those days utilized electrolytic rectifiers to change the alternating
current into direct current. Since the large value filter capacitors that
we now use in power supplies were not available, this caused a very large
AC component to exist in the power supply voltage. The result? Really
raspy signals being sent into the air! During his high school years, Dave
stayed quite active in amateur radio and that of course whetted his
appetite to learn more about radio and electronics in his future.
Bill Hewlett's introduction to radio.
Bill Hewlett traces his early interest in electronics to the first crystal
radio that he built out of a combination of store bought parts, in
conjunction with coils that he wound by hand. This set hooked up to a good
antenna allowed Bill to be entertained by a lot of the local stations.
There were a pretty fair number of stations around San Francisco. One of
the stations that came to Bill Hewlettís thoughts while remembering his
early experience was KJBS that was owned by Julius Brunton and Sons. In
looking through the massive collection of call books and radio magazines
at the Southwest Museum of Electricity and Communications, we find this
station operating at 1079 Kc with a total power output of 100 watts! All
radio stations in those days had slogans, and the slogan for this station
was ĎTHE VOICE OF THE STORAGE BATTERY. The slogans used by radio
stations during this period were either meant to amuse or to advertise.
Since there is no amusement here, we know that Brunton sold storage
batteries as part of their line.
A high school classmate of Billís, Ed Porter, took Bill up to his attic
to see his ham radio station. Within the confines of this home laboratory
resided the most haywire thing Bill had ever seen! Ed Porter's transmitter
had electrolytic rectifiers pumping 1000 volts around on bare wires. Ed
had already worked five continents on only one transmitting tube.
Bill was on the fringes of ham radio, but it never took hold of him to the
extent to move him to obtain a license of his own. With an interest in all
things that were electrical, he built a Tesla coil for a project in
physics class. Another project that Bill undertook was to build an
electric furnace to make carbide.
Bill and Dave enter Stanford
Billís father, a medical doctor, had passed away when he was 12 years of
age. No doubt his fathers early influence peaked Bill's early interest in
the area of scientific studies.
He put in an application to Stanford and an official called his mother in,
and he said, "Mrs. Hewlett, your son has applied to Stanford. There's
nothing in his record that would justify my recommending him. Do you know
why he wants to go?" and she replied, "Well, his father taught
there" He asked, "Was his father Walter Albion Hewlett?"
and she stated, "Yes." He replied, "He was the best student
I ever had!" The official applied the 'like father - like son' theory
and Bill was admitted!
Dave Packardís father was an attorney in Pueblo Colorado, and he
indicated that he hoped Dave would go into law too, but Dave actually
never had any interest at all in a law career. Daveís father had very
little mechanical ability or technical interest so he didnít actually
give him any help in the things that Dave was working with, although both
his mother and father gave him lots of encouragement to do whatever he
wanted to do.
Besides his burning interest in technical areas, Dave Packard played
football, basketball and track in high school and his favorite sports were
basketball and track more so than football.
Hard times were upon the majority of the people in the United States, as
the Great Depression swept over the country in a wave in 1929. The event
that made it possible for Dave to attend Stanford was that his father was
appointed a referee in bankruptcy proceeding a year or so earlier but
otherwise the law business was very poor. The fact that Daveís father
was gainfully employed made it possible for him to provide the support,
with some assistance from jobs Dave held during his four years at
Although tuition was $114 a quarter, the reader must realize that amount
of money, in those days, would have purchased the bearer a fine used
automobile. The dollar had far greater value!
Dave, besides studying and working, participated in track during his
freshman year at Stanford. Daveís Coach, Dean Templeton, was very
disappointed when Dave decided to slow down his participation in the track
team. Dave remembers that he enjoyed track and participated in many facets
of it such as broad jump, high jump, the hurdles, the discus and the shot
put, and he recalls winning as many points in the little big meet as
anyone up to that time.
Dave looked on attending Stanford as an opportunity to get an education
and to do something beyond just athletics. He resolved not to go out for
football when he arrived, but the peer pressures were just a little too
much and so he did go out. He always made an effort to keep athletics from
dominating his studies at Stanford.
Dave was a tough, determined competitor as far back as his football
playing days at Stanford University. Photo courtesy HP
Dave liked basketball and track although as it turned out he spent more
time with football. He often looks back on his athletic experiences and
says "I think you learn a lot of things in athletics and theyíre
very important in your later career." He continues on, "You
understand the importance of competition and fair play and you develop a
sense of the importance of teamwork."
Bill Hewlett remarks that, "It also forces you to organize your life
a little bit better... to get in all the practice you really have to be
better organized ..."
The meeting place - Stanford University
or, pigskin and electric waves.
The relationship between these two Stanford students started when they
both went out for football as freshmen, and continued as they found
themselves sharing other classes. This bond occurred due to Bill
Hewlettís friendship with Ed Porter, and Daveís interest in
Dave Packard remembers that both he and Bill were interested in fishing
and on a field trip to the Sierras to visit to one of the PG&E
hydroelectric plants, namely the Big Creek Power System, they took that
occasion to do some fishing as well!
Outdoor activity was again to play into their plans of recreation after
graduation. They went to Colorado for a two week pack trip with one mule
and covered the San Juan Mountains. They had a great time on that trip,
until the night before they were supposed to come home. Bill had a bad
toothache, so he decided to hike out while Dave stayed up at the camp.
Dave remembers that it was quite a ways to travel with the horse and the
pack and miscellaneous goods. Daveís night at camp wasnít really
restful. Something out in the wilderness surrounding the camp was howling
all night, and believing that it might be a mountain lion, he made sure
the gun was next to his bed!
Hewlett meanwhile had walked out to the car, which was a long ways off,
and went down to Durango. They had been camping for two weeks, and
undoubtedly were sight to behold with their mangy looks and growth of
beards! Bill finally found a dentist in town and upon examination it was
found the tooth had died so the dentist relieved it. When Bill asked him
what how much the bill was, the dentist looked at Bill, judged that his
patient was probably poor, and asked if a dollar would be too much.
As time progressed, this common interest in the outdoors had a lot to do
with Bill and Dave developing an even closer friendship. When Bill would
visit Dave at General Electric in Schenectady, they would go canoeing and
skiing. Dave yields superiority in the art of skiing to Bill, who Dave
thought was more talented than he was.
Bill remembers those canoe trips! On one they almost got swamped up near
Indian Lake when the wind came up. The other trip was up at Portage on the
Fulton chain of lakes, where Bill went out and collected a bunch of fresh
water clams. There was a big pot of them and they were so tough they
couldnít possibly eat them, and after cooking the clams with some
potatoes, they threw away the clams and had clam chowder.
During many of these outdoor excursions, Dave remembers that Bill, Ed
Porter, and he had talked about doing something on their own during their
senior year. This was still during the great depression and there
werenít very many jobs around and they were very concerned about whether
they would be able to find employment.
Enter the scene, Dr. Frederick E. Terman
In the following, we will see the effects of Dr. Terman on Bill Hewlett
and Dave Packard. He was their teacher and friend, as well as functioning
as a mentor and later business advisor. Bill and Dave both agree that Dr.
Terman had a great deal to do with their development of a desire, "to
do something on our own."
Bill Hewlett met Fred Terman in his graduate year. He wanted to do some
more graduate work, and because he had heard about Terman, who taught an
excellent course in radio engineering, Bill undertook a graduate year
filled with a lot of Fredís courses. Bill admits that Terman's courses
were the first formal radio education that heíd had.
Dave Packard became first acquainted with Fred Terman in his junior year
when Dave had been going up to the ham radio station at that old
engineering building where Fred Termanís laboratory was just a few steps
above the station. Many times Dave would see Fred Terman, who took a great
interest in all of the students at that time.
As it turns out, Dave did not know as much about Fred Terman, as Terman
knew about him! Dr. Terman stopped Dave in the hall one day and chatted
and it turned out that Terman knew all about Daveís athletic activities
and apparently heíd checked on how he had done in courses at Stanford.
He asked Dave, if in his senior year, he would like to take his graduate
course in radio engineering. This of course was an area that interested
Dave very much! Bill Hewlett was also to take the course in his graduate
Dave Packard remembers an early lesson in private enterprise provided by
Fred Terman: "I vividly remember visiting Charlie Litton, John Kaar,
Heintz and Kauffman, Eitel-McCullough, and Philo Farnsworth who had a
research laboratory in San Francisco and was working on a new television
camera. These people in the local young radio enterprises were Fred
Termanís friends - they admired him greatly and they knew his students
would help develop the competitive advantage of this young industry."
Dave remembers that it was in Fred Terman's class that he first met Barney
Oliver, who was later to be head of HP Labs. Barney had come up from Cal
Tech (he was a junior at that time). Barney had already taken all the
courses that one would normally require to graduate and he looked around
and thought the course in radio engineering would be something of interest
to him. Barney proposed this to Fred Terman. Dave recalls Fred telling
him: "You can start out in the first few weeks of this course and
weíll have a mid-term" and then adding the challenge, Terman
continued, "...if you can pass the mid-term then you can continue,
but if you canít pass the mid-term Iím going to have to ask you to
drop out." This was a class of primarily graduate students, and who
got the highest grade in the mid-term but Barney Oliver! Who got the
highest grade in every other exam, but Barney Oliver! This gave Dave an
indication of the kind of a fellow Oliver was.
Dave joins General Electric.
Daveís job at General Electric did not start until February in 1935. He
had some time after Bill and he had spent the summer together to do
something useful that fall. Dave went up to the University of Colorado and
Dave loved the area. Dave comments that, "It may have had something
to do with my interest in our location in that part of the country."
Hewlett-Packard was later to open a plant there.
Dave remembers, that they were still very much interested in figuring out
how they could do something on their own. The University was going to put
in a public address system and Dave put together a proposal to do this for
them. He was not the winner of the bid and figures that they didnít have
enough faith in him, or perhaps the bid was too high. These early thoughts
of joint projects indicated that Dave was pretty well committed to wanting
to do something with Bill on their own even before he went east to G.E.
It was after graduation when Dave Packard went to work for General
Electric. He joined the company on a test program where they took new
graduates from engineering colleges around the country, which Dave
remembers as being 50 or so, and placed them in various manufacturing
departments in Schenectady and other plants. The new employees would
produce equipment, perhaps electric motors and others worked on
transformers. These items had to be tested before they were shipped to the
customers, and these test departments were places to train the people who
are new to the job. The procedure was that an employee would be assigned
to various test departments, and the first assignment Dave had was in the
refrigerator department where he tested defective refrigerators for Freon
leaks and other problems. Dave found this work to be relatively
uninteresting so he scouted around a little bit and looked at some other
areas. He was able to get transferred down to the radio department, where
they built radio transmitters and receivers.
What Dave was working on at that time were military communication sets of
about 50 watts output. They also built some very large low frequency
transmitters, in which the final amplifier stage was in a facility about
as big as a room. Daveís recollection was that the operating frequency
of these transmitters were 15 KC or 30 KC. This frequency is called very
low frequency, or VLF. These transmitters were used as the land based end
of maritime communications, and sent messages to ships at sea.
During that period, when Bill Hewlett was in Palo Alto and Dave Packard
was in Schenectady, Fred Terman would make a trip east once or twice a
year, and would usually go through Schenectady. He'd act as a message
carrier, and tell Packard what Hewlett was doing, and vice versa. In a
way, Fred was carrying personal impressions back and forth between these
two young men who continued to nourish the idea that they would some day
go into business together. They were corresponding with each other as
Dave Packardís next assignment at General Electric was in the vacuum
tube engineering department where he spent the rest of his time working on
Ignitrons. These tubes were mercury vapor rectifiers that had a controlled
arc used in various industrial control circuits and spot welders.
According to Fred Terman, "In less than two years after Dave arrived
at GE he was the senior author of an IRE paper announcing a new vacuum
tube device-the GE version of the ignitron tube which immediately became a
widely used product. He thus achieved a position of importance very
Bill Hewlett finished his graduate year at Stanford, and then applied to
MIT where he was accepted. This year resulted in Bill earning his Masters
Degree. During this period Bill was able to go over and visit with Dave.
Bill well remembers what he went through to get to Daveís residence.
Bill tells us, "I remember taking the bus to Albany... that shake
rattle and roll operation that would go from Boston over to
page 16 and 17
During the many visits Bill made to Daveís house, he met
John Fluke who would later start Fluke Engineering, as well as Jim Wilcox
and Bobby Wilson. Bill was impressed with the "...attic full of the
most tremendous amount of equipment." Bill was impressed by the great
time these three bachelors were having.
Dave Packard gives us some further background on Bobby Wilson, who was
also a great amateur radio enthusiast. Bobby Wilson had gone to Yale and
after he graduated from Yale he took a trip around the world with a Doctor
Light in a private plane, Bob was the navigator and radio operator on this
John Fluke, Bobby Wilson and Dave Packard, during their employment at
General Electric, haunted a site called "Building Number 97"
where GE sent all of their defective equipment for disposal. Dave
remembers that there was always a vast number of interesting items that
were still useful to the person wishing to experiment in electronics. Dave
recalls purchasing Pyrenol capacitors that had a nick in the case and were
still usable for an independent project, but had not passed the quality
control process for use in a General Electric product.
Aside: Pyrenol and Dykenol oil filled
capacitors work well as the additive to the oil keeps them from breaking
down with high voltages. Both of these additives contain massive amounts
of PCBís (carcinogen), and knowing what we all know now, none of us
would want one, especially if it had a flaw in the sealed case!
This availability of bargains resulted in a full attic of parts and
apparatus that Dave and his friends enjoyed!
Dave remembers the high powered transmitter from those bygone attic days: "When
you pressed the key, the lights in the whole house would light up...
whether they were turned on or not!"
Bill Hewlett also associated a lot with Bobby Wilson and John Fluke during
World War II as Bobby and John were stationed in the Navy together. Bill
was in the Signal Corps and they used to get together. Since all of their
families were about the same age, he enjoyed his association with them.
Bill Hewlett spent a short stint in the Army following his days at MIT.
After Bill was discharged from the Army in 1936 he found things werenít
much better in the world, due to the continuance of the depression. He had
only one offer of a job but from Jensen Speaker in Chicago.
Fred Terman again enters the scene to help Bill out! Terman had inquired
around and found a doctor in the local area who was interested in having
someone build an electroencephalograph. Bill was employed to design this
project. It was a 4 channel device to measure brain waves, patterned after
one the doctor had seen back east. The recording surface was a drum which
was about 8 feet long and about a foot and a half in diameter. Being a
large recording surface, the device lended itself to lengthy sessions of
observing brain waves. Although this was not, as Bill Hewlett put it was
not, "...my kettle of fish"-meaning interest area, but he was
proud that the electroencephalograph worked very well!
Fred Terman tell us: "Hewlett studied at Stanford for a year after
graduation, went to MIT for a masterís degree, then returned to Stanford
and did some free-lance research, took some courses, and built the
diathermy machine, and also a rather bulky recorder for brain waves wanted
by a woman doctor connected with the Stanford Medical School." (2)
Fred Terman comments: "It was my impression that as a boy Bill had
not previously worked much with mechanical things or made things with his
own hands. At Stanford we had a small student shop in the radio
laboratory, and Bill got to playing around in this shop during his
graduate years. He was an unusually energetic fellow, who always had to be
doing something extra to wear off his surplus steam, even while taking a
full academic load. And he did this by making things in the shop. When he
got something made and working, that was it, and he would quickly lose
interest. For example, he was one of the early skiers, and he built
himself a portable transceiver that worked off of batteries-to carry out
on the ski range. He enjoyed making it, and took it out on one or two
trips, but soon it was taken apart and the parts used for something else.
He got his real satisfaction from making it and getting it to work."
"As I have said, my impression was that Bill hadnít done much of
this before, and was finding that making things was a lot of fun. At the
beginning he wasnít particularly skillful in either design or
construction. I have said that he alone could create more disorder in the
shop in one afternoon than all of the other fellows put together would
create in a week. I know he hadnít done much in radio before, because he
used to take circuit diagrams from the magazine QST, and go over them
laboriously in great detail. I can remember once he looked up with a broad
smile and said to me with obvious satisfaction, 'Well, I just finished
studying this diagram, and Iíve figured out what every component in it
is supposed to be doing.'"
"In this period, when he was first building things, Billís
designs were pretty primitive. But he is one of the few students Iíve
ever had who, as one watched, rapidly acquired a feel for nice ways of
making something, a clever way of doing it. Most of my students seemed
either to have been born with this kind of talent or they lacked it-and
those who lacked such skills at the start never seemed to get much
better-except for Bill Hewlett. He acquired the flair through his own
initiative and drive." (2)
The project was carried out in the upstairs radio engineering laboratory
at Stanford, and this was to be an environment where Bill did many other
projects. Bill remembers one time, during a productive work session he had
spread out a little bit too much in the lab. Fred Terman had come around
and told him that he had to get back into a much smaller space. Bill,
acting as any other creative designer would have, became very indignant!
Terman scolded him by comparing Bill to the physical gas laws, "...
youíll expand into whatever space is available and if youíre
compressed you get hot."
Dave Packard also remembers that a little bit later, after they were
working in their own laboratories that both of them used to get things
spread out in a pretty vast area, and commented that, "... I think
that was pretty natural..."
Dave Packard had met his wife Lucile at Stanford. She was a Delta Gamma.
Her home was in San Francisco and although they were in separate parts of
the country, they kept up an interest in each other. He went back to see
her in 1937. In those days, at the salary he had, Dave concluded that he
couldnít afford to come out to San Francisco so she got on the train and
came out to Schenectady all by herself and they were married. Dave
Packardís mother traveled to Schenectady and attended the ceremony on
April 8, 1938.
Fred Terman and the 'Wide Grid Tube'
Fred Terman again pleasantly intervened in the future life of
Hewlett-Packard and arranged for Dave to get a job back at Stanford. In a
letter to C.V. Litton, dated June 1, 1938, Terman states, " I
received the official authorization for the expenditures yesterday and am
wiring Packard an offer of the assistantship." This telegram sent by
Terman was to change Dave Packard's life! The newly married couple packed
up and moved back to California in August 1938. (1)(8)
Fred Terman states: "Then, through an unusual chain of circumstances,
my laboratory received a $1,000 gift - big money for those poverty
stricken days. This gift was a by-product of the Sperry Gyroscope
Companyís interest in the Klystron tube, and was to explore some side
ideas. Packard would be ideal for this assignment in view of his
experience at General Electric with vacuum tubes, so I asked Hewlett:
ĎDo you think Dave would be interested in taking a leave of absence from
GE to work on this project for nine months or so? We could pay him about
$55 a month for nine months, and still have $500 for expenses. He could
take a leave of absence from GE and so not burn his bridges behind him
(remember there was a depression and good jobs were scarce), and decide
for himself whether you are right in feeling you have an adequate basis
for starting a company."
"Hewlettís reaction was: 'I donít know, but I can write and find
out' I hope that letter was preserved, because on the basis of its
contents Packard took a leave of absence and came out here. I saw the GE
people a few months later, and they were very puzzled as to why Packard
wanted to break his continuity with General Electric just to return to
school, when his prospects in Schenectady were so bright!" (2)
After Dave returned to Stanford, Fred tells us: "Back at Stanford,
Dave worked half time on the tube project, and half time on formal
courses. He told me subsequently that after being back a few weeks he knew
he would never return to GE." (2)
Dave Packardís fellowship at Stanford, arranged by Fred Terman, involved
research on an idea proposed by Russ Varian. This idea involved what was
called a wide grid tube. The high frequency limit of vacuum tubes was
determined by among other things, the transit time of the electrons from
the cathode and the grid to the plate. Russ Varianís concept, was to
make the grid thick enough so that they would get a full cycle of transit
time inside the grid, out of the field, and the electron would come out
with the proper timing to add energy in the transit beyond. Indeed this
was a ingenious idea. Work on this project took place off-campus at
Charles Litton's Laboratory. (1)
Charles Litton was a very skilled machinist and craftsman as well as a
good engineer. Litton's work pattern consisted of starting to work late in
the day, and continuing until 3 or 4 oíclock in the morning. This worked
out very well with Daveís schedule, because he could go to class in the
day time, and after dinner he would go up and work with Charlie Litton
until 2 or 3 oíclock in the morning. This made it possible for Dave to
build the friendship that both Hewlett and Packard were to enjoy with
Litton for years to come. Dave gives Litton credit for help when
Hewlett-Packard got its start. When Federal later decided that they were
going to move east, Litton didnít want to move, so he set up his own
shop to manufacture tubes up in Redwood City. (1)
At the beginning of, what is often referred to by Dave as, the 'Thick Grid
Tube Project', Charles Litton had reported to Russel Varian, with Dave
Packard as Litton's assistant. Later, Dave Packard was to take more of a
leadership role when Charles Litton received an offer to do work for ITT.
Since it would have been a conflict of interest for Litton to have both
projects ongoing, and extremely difficult as to which patentable ideas
were derived from which project. In the winter quarter of 1939, the 'Wide
Grid Tube Project' was moved From Litton's laboratory to the Stanford
Communication Laboratory. (9)(10)
Unfortunately they found, although Dave questioned some of the research
methods, that there were other factors that took over and tended to be
dominant. By April 27, 1939, the project was essentially over, as Fred
Terman states in a letter to Professor J. Hugh Jackson, acting Comptroller
for Stanford University, "...the initial wide grid idea has been
abandoned in favor of other ideas that appeared more promising, and there
is actually no work on the wide grid idea now being done." There were
other techniques that made the high frequency triode more practical. For
instance triodes could be made with very close spacing, such as the
lighthouse tube developed at General Electric and used during World War
Aside: A post war tube development at Bell Laboratories was the Western
Electric 416A Planar triode. This high frequency tube was also known as
the Morton triode. It was named after its inventor, a famous engineer,
Jack A. Morton. This tube was to become the heart of the TD-2
Transcontinental Microwave Relay System that provided not only long
distance telephony, but brought network feeds to our local television
stations to be re-transmitted to home viewers.
Since the advent of active synchronous communication satellites and the
large land based fiber optic networks the TD-2 system has become
obsolete.-Edward A. Sharpe
The outcome of this project with the largest impact for Dave Packard and
the future company of Hewlett-Packard, was that Dave did this work up at
'Charlie' Littonís shop. Charles Litton, in Daveís opinion, was one of
the really brilliant engineers. Litton had done work for the Federal
Telegraph Company which became part of ITT and had been started by Cyril
F. Elwell. Litton' major part through his years of association with the
company was to devise a number of ways to get around patents on vacuum
Dave remembers Bill Hansen, Russ and Sig Varian and Ed Ginzton working on
the Klystron over at the Stanford physics department. This close-knit
group succeeded in building the first klystron that oscillated on August
Aside: For more information on early klystron research at Stanford, be
sure to read Ed Ginzton's excellent article, "The $100 Idea" in
this issue. - Edward A. Sharpe
Bill Hewlett was there in the same vicinity because Fred Terman allowed
him to use the laboratory for the construction work Bill was doing on the
electroencephalogram. After completion of the equipment the funds ran out
so he spent time taking some courses to further his education.
Bill and Dave both found that their association with Ed Ginzton, who
eventually became head of Varian; Joe Pettit who went on to be Dean of
Engineering at Stanford and later to be President of Georgia Tech; and
others; to be fun, an interesting time and to be stimulating as well.
The Oscillator - The beginning.
A key event in this period at Stanford, was Billís involvement with the
development of negative feedback there. Both Hewlett and Packard note
these events as the genesis of Bill Hewlettís world changing
The article by H.S. Black of Bell Laboratories on inverse feedback had
greatly intrigued Fred Terman. He really fired up the class on everything
that could be done, and Bill, like most young people, thought thereís a
better way to accomplish the things discussed in class. Bill tried all
kinds of experiments, some of them worked, so he continued on and built a
Wien Bridge Oscillator.
One of the major problems was to find a method to stabilize the amplitude
of the output from the oscillator. There was such a low 'Q' that the
normal limiting means could not be used as they caused clipping. The
secret turned out to be a simple light bulb acting as a non-linear element
that was sensitive to amplitude by heat and you were able to stabilize the
amplitude but not corrupt the wave form.
Dave Packard credits Terman with simplifying the article written by Black
on inverse feedback to the students. Black's article was fairly
sophisticated and Terman had a great ability to simplify these equations
and make them easy to work with. Dave remembers Terman wrote an article
about negative feedback in which he had simplified some of these equations
to the point so that even he could understand them!
The principle of inverse feedback was to play a role in so many of Hewlett
and Packardís other early instruments; such as the their model 300A Wave
Fred Terman explains: "To complete the requirements for an
Engineerís degree at Stanford, Bill had to prepare a thesis. At that
time I had decided to devote an entire quarter of my graduate seminar to
the subject of Ďnegative feedbackí I had become interested in this
then new technique because it seemed to have great potential for doing
many useful things. I would report on some applications I had thought up
on negative feedback, and the boys would read recent articles and report
to each other on current developments. This seminar was just well started
when a paper came out that looked interesting to me. It was by a man from
General Radio and dealt with a fixed-frequency audio oscillator in which
the frequency was controlled by a resistance-capacitance network, and was
changed by means of push-buttons. Oscillations were obtained by an
ingenious application of negative feedback."
"I was already interested in audio oscillators. This was the time of
the Great Depression and we didnít have money to buy apparatus. As a
result we had been building our own oscillators."
"In thinking about the device described by General Radio, my
reaction was that while this was an interesting idea, their spot-frequency
oscillator was very limited in its usefulness. However, it appeared that
one should be able to put in a variable broadcast tuning condenser in
place of the various fixed condensers that GR cut in and out of the
circuit to change frequency, and could thereby generate a frequency that
was continuously variable. I suggested to Hewlett: 'Hereís an idea.
Maybe you can develop it into something usefulí"
"It was just a raw idea, with plenty of things to be worked
out-such as a way to avoid generating a lot of distortion. And thatís
where Bill made his first invention-he introduced a small incandescent
lamp into the system, thereby providing a resistance that increased in
value with the amplitude of the oscillations, but without introducing any
page 18 & 19
"Bill worked out all the details, and then built a
nicely packaged prototype that he demonstrated at a convention here on the
Pacific Coast. He felt he had something that was both useful and
marketable. However, Packard was in the East starting a promising career
there, and had married Lucile only a few months before. Prospects of a
partnership did not look too bright." (2)
A new home for the innovators.
When Dave returned in the fall of 1938, Bill Hewlett found a house for
Dave and Lucile. One of the prime requirements of the new place of
residence was that it had a garage that could be used as a shop and also
another place where Bill Hewlett could live as well. Dave and Lucile lived
in the lower flat, Bill Hewlett lived in the cottage behind the house, and
their landlady had the upper flat. The start of the tooling supply for the
garage/shop was provided by Dave, who had collected a set of tools to use
in the basement in Schenectady. Dave and Lucile brought the drill press
and other assorted tools back out west in the trunk of their car.
Bill and Dave set up shop before school started, Ed Porter was working on
air conditioning jobs up in the Sacramento Valley. Ed arranged to work
with them to build control equipment for air conditioners, and they
scratched around trying to find jobs.
Open for business!
Or, the T.I. Moseley harmonica story!
Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard had a friend who was involved in a bowling
alley in San Mateo. Bill and Dave's first consulting job was to help with
a signaling device.
One other early customer was T.I. Moseley, who Bill Hewlett and Dave
Packard cite as one of the great promoters in early days.
To depict this scene from our story in better detail, we find in Jane
Morgan's book, Electronics in the West, some good background information
on the Dalmo Victor Company. This information is presented in condensed
Tomlinson I. Moseley attended Tamalpais High School in Mill Valley,
California where Moseley became the student foreman of the schoolís
excellently equipped machine shop. In 1921, when he was just 19, he
established the Dalmo Manufacturing Company in San Francisco. This was a
job shop where he built such things as permanent-wave machines,
thermostats, and electric dental equipment, even an electric toothbrush.
His customers found that the soft-spoken young machinist often had clever
suggestions to improve their designs. His business thrived. Soon he was
patenting and producing his own inventions.
During the years of World War II, Moseleyís company, now called the
Dalmo Victor Corporation, moved to Belmont, on the San Francisco
Dalmo Victor, developed the first, and became the leading manufacturer of
airborne radar antennas during the war. As of 1966, when this information
was current, Dalmo Victor was producing 90 percent of the nationís
submarine antennas and was preparing the communications antenna system for
the first U.S. spaceship to the moon.
T.I. Moseley approached Bill and Dave for help. T.I.ís theory was that
all harmonicas were made overseas so therefore there should be a great
opportunity for someone to have an American made harmonica. T.I.ís
question was, "How do you tune a harmonica?", and he came down
to ask Bill and Dave to help him work out a device to tune harmonicas.
What Bill and Dave determined was that the human ear is pretty sensitive
to tonal changes in music and they would not be able to devise a system
that would accomplish this tuning. Of course with today's technology the
project would be easier.
One of the early engineering projects that the two engineers took on was
the construction of a clock drive for the telescope at Lick Observatory
using Thyratron tubes. The circuitry using these tubes would control a DC
motor that tied into the clock to keep the telescope moving at the proper
rate. A clock system is necessary for all good telescopes. As the earth
rotates, the objects being viewed move from the telescope's field of view.
The clock drive synchronizes the movement of the telescope with the
movement of the earth's rotation, thus always keeping the viewed subject
in the sky visible through the telescope.
Another consultation Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard had with T.I. Moseley
was an electrical exercising device. The theory was that people should get
more exercise, but it would be much easier if they could do it
automatically. The idea was to find a frequency that would make your
muscles move without hurting you and they experimented with that using T.I.
Moseleyís wife as a subject!
Aside: I remember in about 1962, when in the fourth grade, my grandmother
had a device, similar to this T.I. Moseley machine. It was called a
Relaxisizor, and I wonder if this was an outgrowth of T.I.'s project. My
father would never let me play around with this device, I didnít really
want any exercise, I merely wanted to tear it apart to see how the device
worked and what was inside it! - Edward Sharpe.
The 200 A audio oscillator, This product was
Hewlett-Packard's first!. Photo courtesy HP Archives.
Dave remembers the first showing of the 200A at the 1938 IRE meeting in
Portland, Oregon. Bill took the first engineering version of the 200A to
the meeting and it generated a lot of interest with the engineers that
were in attendance. Bill came home convinced that this was something that
they needed to produce, so according to their recollections, they
undertook to put models together around Christmas time. They took pictures
of the oscillator in the living room sitting on the mantle by the
fireplace. They also put together a set of specifications and a little
sales pitch that Lucile typed out for them.
By today's standards, electronics in the 1930's was in a rather elementary
state. An important part of the Model 200A oscillator, for example, was a
light bulb used as an amplitude control device. Paint was baked onto early
instrument panels in the Packards' kitchen oven. Photo courtesy HP
Fred Terman, who by this point in their career was undoubtedly starting to
look like a guardian angel, furnished Bill and Dave with a list of
potential customers. Still in the Christmas time frame or perhaps early in
January, 1939, armed with the list Terman had given them, as well as some
other names they had collected, they sent letters out. They were rewarded
a few weeks later by receiving their first orders by return mail.
Dave remembers, "One order I remember had a check enclosed and I
think thatís what convinced us that this was going to go."
And now... the really hard questions!
Looking back on the start of any manufacturing company some of the hardest
decisions are, 'what do we name the company', 'what will the unit that has
been manufactured be called?', and the other question, 'what price shall
it be sold for?'
According to published Hewlett-Packard literature, the sequence of Hewlett
before Packard was decided by a coin toss. It is further cited that the
Model 200A was chosen as a model number, because a model number such as
100A or 1A might have denoted to the prospective buyer that this company
was just brand new.
Price of course was something that needed to be studied. A decision was
reached between Bill and Dave, perhaps not based on extensive market
studies as would take place today, but priced after the famous
expansionistís slogan of "54-40 or fight!" This slogan refers
to 54 Degrees Latitude by 40 Degrees North Longitude, and was the boundary
of the Oregon Territory. The Democratic Expansionists elected James K.
Polk in 1844, and this slogan of "54-40 or fight" was used
during his campaign for presidency. For further reading on this subject
refer to a book on American history, and read under the topic of ĎThe
The numbers used for the price ($54.40) were 'cute' but they found they
really hadnít really understood the economics very well and they raised
the price. Fortunately, they learned very quickly that they could raise
the price and since the 200A was a good value it sold. Even the slight
amount that they raised the price enabled them to obtain more capital that
made it possible for them to finance the company as they went along.
Bill Hewlett remembers a very important intermediate step. They received
orders for the 200A oscillator and they didnít really have any
production facility, so they went down to see Johnny Karr. He was buying
all their parts for them, and had been a classmate of theirs. Karr had a
little shop in Palo Alto, so they asked John Karr if he wouldnít like to
make the 200A for Hewlett and Packard on contract basis. After thinking
about it, Karr finally declined as he felt that he didnít think that was
a big enough business to fool around with! This put Hewlett and Packard
into the manufacturing business and they built it themselves.
Bill Purdy, who was the manufacturerís representative for Sprague, was
an imaginative guy and realized that here was someone he could sell parts
to. Instead of Bill and Dave getting 30% off from Karr, Purdy gave Hewlett
and Packard about 60% off! This was the first time Bill and Dave were
introduced to the existence of manufacturerís pricing on components.
Bill Hewlett cites Bill Purdy as one of the first parts vendors that they
had contact with. Dave Packard comments that it turned out, Bill Purdy was
very wise to offer them that discount because they ultimately became a
very good customer.
In addition, the fact that John Karr had turned them down for becoming
Hewlett and Packardís contract manufacturer, was to be helpful in the
long run. Packard admits that it might have steered them in the wrong
Their first partnership agreement had something in rough form signed about
that time. Billís father-in-law, Mr. Lamson, helped them figure it all
out, assisted by Dave Packardís newly acquired knowledge received from a
course in business law he had taken upon his return from work at General
Electric. Dave also took a course at the Business School at Stanford in
management accounting as well. He was glad he did, as both courses were
very useful in later life. They both date the start of this partnership to
be January 1, 1939.
Finances and patents.
The early days required everyone to work together as a team. Capital
outlay during this period was for tools and components needed for
manufacturing of the oscillator. Through this concept of teamwork, they
found that anything that they envisioned became a reality!
In early 1939, Harold Buttner, who was the Vice President for Research and
Development for ITT, helped Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard to acquire their
United States patent on the 200A oscillator. Harold was intrigued with the
oscillator and offered Hewlett and Packard $500 and his work on the U. S.
patent in exchange for the foreign patent rights. By making this
agreement, Hewlett-Packard doubled their capital and got the application
for their first patent. Harold Buttner took a lot of interest in the
company and subsequently was helpful in many other ways.
According to Dave Packard, they didnít have any very serious financial
problem that first year. As he recalls, their total sales in í39 were a
little over $5,000 and from the balance sheet at the end of the year, that
they had about $500 on hand in cash and in the bank- and no liabilities!
Aside: The philosophy of running the company on a 'pay-as-you-go' basis,
was the only logical method Hewlett and Packard saw to guarantee success.
Many times companies forget to follow this wise business practice, over
extend themselves, and thus face ruin as their liabilities vastly outweigh
the assets. In the various businesses I have owned, I have always operated
with the 'Pay-as-you-go' theory'. When the dip in the economics came, I
would not make a lot of money, but I didn't go under either! -Edward
Bell Hewlett said of these early times, "Well, considering we
werenít taking anything out... it wasnít surprising..."
Dave remembers that they we were able to keep things together on a
financial basis but, as he recalls, they were working on some additional
instruments, which consumed a certain amount of capital. They were also
still doing some air conditioning control work with Ed Porter. Dave went
to visit his folks in Colorado and left Bill the job of getting a control
system finished and delivered. The job was for the Hotel Stockton and Bill
stayed up all night to get the job finished and drove up the next day and
Hewlett Packard's ad from Electronics, November 1939.
A plan for nationwide distribution
and the Disney Studios Oscillator sale.
Dave Packard believes the first ad for the 200A appeared in Electronics
magazine. It was a small section that showed a picture of the 200A audio
oscillator, the important characteristics, and the price. This brought in
some inquiries from potential customers, including a man named Al Crossley.
Al wrote in from Chicago and said that he represented several other
instrument companies, and would they be interested in giving him sales
representation responsibility for the mid-west?
page 20 & 21
Jumping back to 1938-1939, we find that representatives
were to play a major part in the sale of 200B oscillators to Disney
Studios. This sale is recognized in Hewlett-Packard history as one of the
major landmark events. The person that seemed to tie everything together
was William V. Stancil, the recently deceased president of Stancil
William V. Stancil, as depicted on the left in a drawing done by his
granddaughter Julie from a 1930's photo, and on the right by a photo taken
before his unfortunate death on July 1, 1991. Drawing and photo: Courtsey
In a letter to Bill Hewlett, dated January 18, 1989, Stancil recounts the
"George Downs hurried to my house in Studio City to tell me about a
terrific oscillator he had seen the day before in San Francisco, I believe
it was during the 1938 IEEE Convention. George was a great admirer of Dr.
Terman and that connection brought him to you and the oscillator."
(Editors note - IEEE was called the IRE at this time)
"I had been working as a 'sound man' for M.G.M. and Goldwyn Studios
but had left the studio work to establish a little development lab at
home. In the early 30ís, George and I became close friends through Jim
Lansing for whom George was chief engineer. Anyway, George drew a
schematic of the oscillator and with his usual enthusiasm was ecstatic
about your design."
"He thought I should get together with Norm Neely (who at that time
was a factory rep for Lansing speakers). He also said Johnny Hawkins, a
mutual friend, had been discussing the problem of finding audio
oscillators to generate stable frequencies for the Disney film 'Fantasia'
- Johnny was a consultant to Disney."
"George felt your oscillator would meet the requirements and he was
certain if I could demonstrate to the Disney people there would be an
order for nine oscillators if you had them in production."
"Neely came out to the house and I made the deal to work for Norm and
he would be a rep for the new H.P. - I do not remember whether you and
Dave knew Neely yet or whether George got you together."
"As planned, I got the order from Hawkins and the rest is history - I
believe the nine were of your first production run."
"With my studio connections, I demonstrated and got some studio
orders as well as from Les Bowman, chief engineer for KNX Radio and other
radio stations. The only problem we had was the Gerard Hopkins capacitor.
I remember it was made in Oakland and I sent word to you I thought there
must be a more reliable 'condenser' at that time."
"I enjoyed working with Norman. He was a tireless worker, honest and
did a terrific job. I learned a lot from him."
"I decided, however, to leave him to continue my pursuit of recording
equipment as used in movie sound. I took out patents on synchronizing
cameras and projectors, particularly for 16 mm home movies."
"Doug Shearer of M.G.M. and especially my former boss, Olin Dupy,
helped me tremendously. Lin later retired from M.G.M. and came to my
fledging company. Johnny Hawkins also used to drop by my office every
month or so up through the 50ís. He was a great guy."
"... but I have always admired what you have done and how you have
handled yourself. I have had the nagging feeling I should write to you
some day and say so. Incidentally, too, the example you have set for
entrepreneurs is far more dramatic and forceful then any of the M.B.A.
classes and graduate studies offered in the classic schools of the
As noted in the above letter, George Downs was very intrigued with
Hewlettís oscillator and was a good friend of Norm Neely. Both Hewlett
and Packard remember that it was largely through Georgeís interest that
they got acquainted with Norm Neely. Looking back on the history of the
development of the company, Bill and Dave realize that their association
with both Al Crossley and Norm Neely were very helpful because they had
been in the electronics business and really knew marketing.
Norman Neely remembers the early days...
Norm Neely, on the 25th anniversary of Hewlett-Packard, sent a letter to
be published in this anniversary issue of Measure Magazine. Below,
reprinted is the text of this letter. From the its tone you will see that
Hewlett-Packard and Neely had a great relationship.
I first met Dave and Bill when they came down to close the oscillator deal
with Disney Studios. Iíd been in business about six years. Most of our
lines were instantaneous recording and other types of sound equipment, and
the movie studios and radio stations represented a major market.
Anyway, a mutual friend brought Dave and Bill by my office, and later over
dinner they asked me if I would be interested in being their first sales
representative. A popularly-priced audio oscillator was badly needed at
that time, and with their new circuitry I was sure we could make some
A few weeks later I drove up to Palo Alto and we officially closed the
deal over Dave and Luís dining room table. All our agreements were
verbal, sealed with a handshake.
Selling was pretty tough back in the early days, and I felt active
demonstrations were the answer. I remember staging what must have been the
first road show in the electronics industry. We invited local radio
station and movie studio sound engineers for a showing of the 210A
square-wave generator in the auditorium of a talent school next door for
our office on Hollywood Boulevard. Attendance was good and Dave and Bill
put on the demonstration in person. I can still remember Dave going with
me to a nearby Italian delicatessen for help select an interesting
assortment of cheeses, salami, and Italian breads to serve with the cold
beer we had stashed away in the office.
There are a great many episodes that stand out in my memory during these
25 very active and progressive years, but one, I believe, is particularly
indicative of why itís been so gratifying as well as productive to have
been associated with HP.
Shortly after starting to represent HP, I received a commission in the
mail for an oscillator sold to Stanford. Since I hadnít been near the
school for some time, I was puzzled. When I asked Dave about if he said
that actually he had supplied the instrument, but that their agreement
with me was to pay commissions on everything sold in my territory, and
that was the way HP intended to do business.
NORMAN B. NEELY President, Neely Sales Division
Bud Hawkins of Walt Disney Studios became interested in Hewlett and
Packardís oscillator and Dave believes it was largely because of Norm
Neely and George Downs, whoíd been good friends with Bud Hawkins and had
influenced him during an informal meeting of electronics people from
industry. Dave believes this was called the "Radio Engineers
Fred Terman cites, "With the oscillator, it was clear that they had
something that would fly. You see, they built those first HP oscillators
in Daveís garage, and sold them for $55, whereas competitive equipment
cost $200 to $600. Very soon their confidence was justified by a large
order. The sound engineer for Walt Disneyís movie, Fantasia, saw the
oscillator, recognized it as good, and bought eight of them at one crack.
This convinced the boys they were in business to stay!" (2)
Mickey gets an oscillator!
One landmark in Hewlett-Packardís history was the first sale of a quantity
of oscillators to Disney Studios. This sale helped spread the name
of Hewlett-Packard around the movie industry!
Bill remembers, "Yes, I think this was after we had met Neely... and
one of Neelyís good friends was a fellow by the name of Bud
J.A. Hawkins, an engineering graduate from Stanford, was the chief sound
engineer for Disney Studios. The movie Fantasia being made at Disney
planned to have eight sound tracks! In the flight of the bumblebee, Bill
remembers that Disney planned to have the sound of the Bumble Bee come
right out of the screen, go around the audience and go back in again. This
scene, set to the music of 'The Flight of the Bumble Bee' that Bill spoke
of was never implemented. Although this was an extremely expensive project
due to high quality animation, the multiple sound tracks, and the quality
of the sound, was something that had never been achieved prior to the
making of Fantasia.
J.A. Hawkins wanted the oscillators to fit into a standard eight-inch high
panel for a 19" rack mount, so for this job, the traditional cabinet
was discarded. Another requirement was, J. A. Hawkins wanted the
oscillator to go from 20 cycles to 20 Kc, whereas the 200A had gone from
35 cycles to 35 Kc. The original frequency range of the 200A was in the
higher range due to the size of the variable capacitor-it wasnít big
enough and Hewlett and Packard didnít want to use too large a
Components were changed and the oscillator met the specifications of what
Disney wanted. Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard had now two models of their
oscillator and the 200B was christened. Another specification that Hawkins
wanted changed was the numbering system on the frequency dial.
The work for Disney Studios would set a precedent, because the relay-rack
mount was to became one of the standards, and the range of the 200B, 20
cycles to 20 Kc, was considered to be the normal range of audio equipment.
But they continued to manufacture the 200A since there were still some
customers that wanted an oscillator higher in frequency than the 200B.
To better explain some of the movie
sound systems improvement history at Disney Studios, we are happy to
introduce Dave Smith at Disney archives who will tell us about the
pioneering advances made at Disney Studios, as well as the history of
stereo motion picture sound! Dave originally published this article under
the name "Disney First With Stereo Sound", and it appeared in
Disney Times Volume. 3, Sept. 1980 on page 2.
From the Archives by Dave Smith
Disney First With Stereo Sound
Walt Disney was responsible for many "firsts" during his movie
career, but one which is frequently overlooked is the first application of
stereophonic sound to motion pictures. "Moving sound has been added
to moving pictures," reported Popular Science shortly after the
release of FANTASIA in 1940. "Mr. Disney has made history,"
editorialized the New York Times. Now, 40 years after the release of the
Disney animated classic, it is possible to realize what an important
milestone that introduction of stereophonic sound was to the history of
Bell Laboratories had pioneered in the field of stereophonic sound by
producing the first known stereo recordings of orchestral music In 1931
and 1932. These recordings featured Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia
Orchestra. Stokowski was one of the few orchestra conductors to take the
trouble to learn about musical reproduction techniques. He knew that a
relatively small number of people actually were able to attend live
orchestral concerts, and he dreamed of techniques which could reproduce
that concert sound in the home and in the movie theater.
Several years after their first recordings. Bell Laboratories perfected a
system for recording sound in several tracks on a piece of film. It was
Stokowski who used RCA "multiple channel recording: "for the
first time in the 1937 Universal film ONE HUNDRED MEN AND A GIRL. Even
though there was added clarity, the sound still emerged from only a single
point behind the screen.
It was at this time that Stokowski and Walt Disney had discussions about
Stokowski conducting the music for the Disney animated version of
"The Sorcererís Apprentice." As production progressed,
enthusiasm grew to such an extent that the project evolved into an entire
"Concert Feature" consisting of eight separate animated segments
set to the music of great composers such as Bach, Beethoven, Stravinsky,
and Schubert. Because of Stokowskiís earlier stereo experiments, he
naturally wanted the Disney film to enable the audience to believe it was
actually at a live concert. "We knew," said Walt in an
interview, "that music emerging from one speaker behind the screen
sounds thin, tinkly, and strainy. We wanted to reproduce such beautiful
masterpieces ... so that audiences would feel they were standing on the
podium with Stokowski."
The name, Fantasound, was chosen for the new process. The recording,
except for the "Sorcererís Apprentice" which had been recorded
earlier, took place at the Philadelphia Academy of Music in April, 1939.
According to Sound Department head, Herb Taylor, "The recording was
done on eight channels. Six of them were arranged to get a well-separated
pickup of violins, celli, basses, violas, brass, woodwinds, and tympani. A
separate channel recorded a mix of the six channels and another channel
recorded the complete orchestra with a distant pickup. A ninth channel was
used to record a beat or metronome track to be used by the animators for
timing their animation." 33 separate microphones were placed
throughout the 110-member orchestra.
Back in California, the soundtracks were re-recorded onto three tracks
(left, right, and center), with a separate tone control track. To show the
film, a separate soundtrack film had to be run through a sound reproducing
machine simultaneously with the picture. The major aspect of Fantasound
was the use of loudspeakers around the auditorium. Thus in parts of the
presentation, bells could be heard pealing from the back of the theaters
and the "Ave Maria" pilgrims could be heard progressing from the
back of the theater to the front. The switching on the auditorium speakers
required extra diligence by the projectionist.
FANTASIA premiered at the Broadway Theater in New York, City on November
13, 1940. The theater had to be specially equipped for the presentation,
at a cost of $85,000 with new projectors, sound reproducing machines, and
loudspeakers. 36 speakers were installed behind the screen, with 54 others
placed throughout the orchestra and balcony. Only a few other theaters in
the country were similarly equipped before the scarcity of electronic
equipment caused by the beginning of World War II called a halt to such
installations. The inability of FANTASIA to be shown widely in its
Fantasound version was one of the reasons why the film originally lost
money and was cut drastically for its first general release.
Fantasound was certainly a pioneering process. It led, after more than a
decade, to later stereophonic techniques perfected most notably in
CinemaScope and Cinerama. The panoramic screens made a stereo system
almost a necessity because audiences could notice if an actor was speaking
at the far right of the screen and his voice was coming from the center.
Cinerama, utilized a separate Soundtrack film, as did FANTASIA, but THE
ROBE in CinemaScope (1953) was the first film in general release with
composite stereo sound and picture. The Disney CinemaScope releases of
this time, including 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA, and LADY AND THE TRAMP
utilized this composite magnetic stereophonic sound process.
When FANTASIA was re-released in 1956, the original soundtracks were
transferred to magnetic film with a fourth track added for the auditorium
speakers. Later re-releases were in a monaural version, until a new
stereophonic version was made in 1977. It opened to record breaking
The New York Sun commented in a 1940 review; "The recording is
superb. Although Mr. Disney sees to it that oneís attention is always
focussed on the screen, that this is not simply a recorded concert, this
sense of music swelling all around one, from every direction, an
inescapable force, is a sensation not to be forgotten." Scientific
American wondered whether Fantasound would create the same revolution in
the motion picture industry, as sound had a little over a decade earlier.
In 1941, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, recognizing the
achievement, presented Walt and his associates a special Technical Academy
Award for an "outstanding contribution to the advancement of the use
of sound in motion pictures."
FANTASIA has long been accepted as a classic. But, because stereophonic
sound is taken for granted today, few people who watch the film now
realize that it was the first to bring stereo to the movies, and that it
did so 40 years ago. -Dave Smith Archivist
page 22 & 23
A Disney employee speaks!
We were fortunate to make the acquaintance of Larry
Salisbury, who spent some time at the Disney Studios. The following text
is from a letter received by the museum.
Your editor Ed, asked me to remember an experience with HP equipment in
the late 1930ís. Of course that is a long way back and my memory chips
may not be as precise as they were then. During 1939 and the early
1940ís I worked as a multiplane camera operator for Walt Disney
Productions. Under the leadman Card Walker (later to become president of
the studio), I was able to attend an after work hours sound class
sponsored by the studio.
This class was taught by Bill Cummings of Frank Wiggons Trade School. Bill
being a"hands on guy" brought to class a bay of 8 oscillators.
These were 8 of the 10 which were purchased to be used in the sound
production of FANTASIA. They were beautifully handcrafted instruments. The
output had low noise, frequency stability, low harmonics, and level
stability making them perfect for their intended use.
I changed careers and lost touch with the studio. Perhaps a year passed
before I obtained tickets to the see FANTASIA in the Cartay Circle. This
was the only theater equipped to show Fantasia in southern California.
Attending was the thrill of a life time. The picture quality was suburb.
The sound was a historical first. Particularly impressive were the scenes
which started with music coming from the back of forest and then moved the
audience through the forest with the music flowing around the audience and
finally coming from the rear of the theater.
Disney, Hewlett and Packard were men of vision and their products touched
all of us enriching our jobs and lives. Gentlemen, thank you.
Signed, Larry Salisbury
But, how many oscillators?
There is some discrepancy as to the total number of 200B oscillators that
Disney owned. Larry Salisbury saw 8 oscillators in one rack, along with
two others. According to the archivist at Hewlett-Packard, the first sale
was for eight units. In a general letter from William Stancil about his
part in the oscillator sale, he cites the sale of 9 oscillators to Disney
Studios. Further study has uncovered the photograph shown below that shows
a rack with 2 oscillators that was used on the editing equipment. There
seems to be no two accounts that agree with each other, therefore research
is continuing in this area!
View of part of the editing equipment. Mr. Hawkins and
Mr. Garity are shown. Note the rack of two 200B oscillators! One of these
is probably shown in the modern rack with some of the other equipment
intact in a newer rack. Journal of the Society of Motion
Pictures Engineers Aug. 1941.
Aside: Near the completion of this article, on
9/28/91, I was fortunate to see the movie Fantasia. LeeAnn, knowing the
work I had been doing on this article, alerted me to the fact it was
showing here in town, and might not show again for the next ten years.
Before I went in to the theatre to view the movie, I imagined that I had
never heard stereo sound before. In this mind-set, I experienced Fantasia,
and was awe-struck! By putting myself in the shoes of the folks that had
viewed the movie when originally released in the larger theaters, I was
able to experience what they had felt.
At least one of the first 200B's purchased by Walt Disney for
"Fantasia" was still operating efficiently in the Hollywood
sound studio in the early 1970's, and is seen as the instrument second
from the top. "Fantasia" has seen revivals from time to time.
There is to be a release on video tape September 1, 1991. Note the added
meter in the front panel of the oscillator, this appears to be a
modification. Note that the oscillator and several pieces in this rack
have been taken from the rack in the old photo from the JSMPE. Photo
courtesy Hewlett-Packard Measure December 1979.
Other avenues to explore.
Bill Hewlett remembers that electronics was limited to just a few fields.
It was communications and entertainment, which really meant radio and
phonograph, the motion pictures and geophysical work. Almost all of that
industry in California during the early days existed in Los Angeles. Some
examples were; the movie people and Bill remembers meeting the key people
from Fox. Bill and Dave also went to United Geophysical which was run by
Herb Hoover, Jr., and Bill remembers a chance meeting with Lee de Forest
on that occasion, where de Forest had a laboratory in Los Angles.
In the introduction to the Terman Papers at Stanford Special Collections,
it is indicated that Herbert Hoover Jr. was a friend of Fred Terman, and
that the two young lads explored amateur radio together. The introduction
between Hewlett and Herbert Hoover Jr. most likely had been provided by
Dave Packard remembers that Al Crossley was the first to be interested in
their product. Crossley had a number of very important customers for them
and Chicago and Los Angeles were the main markets in those early days.
In those early days they also got involved with Bruce Burlingame on the
east coast. Bruce had been a colonel in the Signal Corps, which opened the
door to Ft. Monmouth, as well as some of the other government activities.
Bill Hewlett remembers another entertaining experience. He remembers after
going down to see Norm Neely, he attended a meeting of the Engineersí
Club. During the meeting a speaker got up and gave Bill a very flowery
introduction, saying heíd known Bill for years and then said,
"...now Iíd like to introduce his friend Bill Packard."
There are two or three things that happened during this period that
obviously had some effect on the future development of the company. Dave
Packard remembers, the first being their involvement in negative feedback
which was the basis of the majority of their early products. He considered
that put them out in front of some of the other companies that they
competed with at that time. He also recalls that they looked at General
Radio as a model. Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard were later on to get
acquainted with the General Radio people.
Incidents on Page Mill Road.
Things were picking up toward the end of 1939, and Hewlett and Packard had
to hire somebody to help make some of the oscillators. Harvey Zieber was
their first employee and they hired him before they moved out of the
garage at 367 Addison Avenue. In the early spring of 1940, they moved to
Tinker Bell shop on Page Mill Road, near El Camino. The facilities
consisted of parts of the building partitioned off with an office in front
and a shop in back. Helen Perry joined Hewlett-Packard as their first
secretary during their early days on Page Mill, thus lightening Lucile's
work load which had become overwhelming due to the success the company was
Dave likes to share their experiences with the Page Mill building. The
building was not well protected from the flood waters there. He remembers
when it rained, the water used to come down Page Mill Road and they had to
go out and put sand bags in front of the door to keep the water from
Bill, remembering the building says, "right... roll up our pants and
take off our shoes!" Another incident from the early Page Mill days
was that they started baking equipment panels in Lucileís oven. Of
course the reader can imagine how this stunk-up the house, as the paint
was drying under heat in an enclosed area.
Lucile Packard, who was by this time tired of the smell, prompted them to
get their own oven. An old refrigerator unit was purchased because it had
good insulation. What they did not realize though was that it was kapok
insulation. What a surprise they had when they heated the oven! It got so
hot one night that it caught fire, and fortunately someone driving down El
Camino saw the flames coming up in the back of the building, called the
fire department who came and extinguished the blaze. If this fire had not
been caught in time, they may have lost the entire shop. Fortunately, the
damage was minimal.
Aside: A common occurrence at the Southwest Museum
of Electricity and Communications in Phoenix, when restoring Black pay
telephones for display, was to bake them in Lee Ann Sharpeís oven at our
home thus causing the paint to bond tighter, and to dry faster! Due to the
smell it created, paint baking was forcibly discontinued per her order! -
Several other people joined the company at that time. Dick Arms was hired
from Karr Engineering and he was the first machinist at Hewlett-Packard.
Harold Hance was then hired on as their first engineer, he later went to
work for the Naval Research Laboratories and Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard
have not heard from him since then.
Ad from Electronics magazine, dated October 1940.
Landing planes in the fog...
Another project Dave remembers was a special signal generator for the ITT
instrument landing system. Bill believes it contained a door-knob tube and
it had seven separate crystal controlled frequencies.
Dave remembers that they ordered the crystals from General Electric and
according to his memory, they were in metal tube cans about an inch in
diameter and as long as a 6L6 tube. Something had happened and none of the
crystals would work. Dave thought that they were going to have to buy some
other crystals, but fortunately G.E. was able to replace them and they
worked out all right.
Harold Buttner, who had helped Bill and Dave acquire their first patent
also was very helpful on the ITT project. It seems that General
page 24 & 25
had agreed to make the variable-frequency version of the equipment General Radio had quite some time doing it because it had FAA specifications and they wouldnít have any part of the fixed-frequency version of the thing so, but Hewlett and Packard didnít know any better, but took the job on.
This ITT job was the impetus to get Brunton Bauer on staff. They needed somebody to do that sort of engineering. Brunton Bauer had been working at Heintz and Kauffman and having FAA experience with similar type circuits, finished up the design that was needed for the ITT project.
Dave remembers that they delivered the finished job, but since the government has a billing process, they didnít get paid until later. Hewlett-Packard's bank balance was getting very low, so he called up Harold Buttner and said "We need some money to meet the payroll next week." Harold got a check out to them the next day. Harold was a good friend to them, and was indeed one of the people who helped Hewlett-Packard progress to the point it is now.
Bill Hewlett tests an audio oscillator. Photo courtesy of Hewlett-Packard Company.
Dave Packard tests an audio oscillator. Photo courtesy of Hewlett-Packard Company.
Another project that Hewlett-Packard became involved with at the Navel Laboratory at Point Magu was a simulator for the Navyís echo-sounding equipment, or, in other words underwater sound. This involved saw-tooth frequency variation versus time and as Dave remembers Bill did most of that work. Bill got a turn table and they wanted a delay so Bill made the delay by just putting another pickup that would move around the turn table, thus making it possible to simulate the distance on the sound recording.
Bill remembers that one of Norm Neelyís main accounts was Presto Line. Presto was a large maker of transcription record cutters that were used in broadcast stations across the nation, in much the same way a modern radio station would use a tape recorder for pre-recorded shows. The difference in the two techniques is the old fashioned method required the station to actually cut a record disk to be played back at a later time.
Bill acquired the Presto recorder from Neely. He remembers, that by that time Harold Hance had moved over to that Naval Research Laboratory. Two people, Vern Knudtsen from UCLA, an acoustic engineer, and Carl Van Dyke, one of the principal engineers in crystal work, assisted Hewlett-Packard on the Navy echo sounding project.
During this time period Dave remembers Hewlett-Packard receiving many requests to development a number of special instruments. The people working in the geophysical area always wanted equipment suited to a special frequency range, and caused the development of the lower-frequency version of the oscillator. Another new feature the geophysical people wanted sweep frequency, and as Dave describes it, "We made all kinds of mechanical monkey motions to turn the condenser with motors..." He continues on, "...Iím surprised they worked as well as they did but our customers seemed to be generally satisfied with them..."
Kenneth Cole, one of Hewlett-Packardís customers, needed a clickless switch for an audiometer. This was a device used for hearing tests, and the switch had to have a click at a much lower level than the tone otherwise it would be heard and the test would be invalid.
On the road again!
The first national showing of the Hewlett-Packard product line was in the Spring of 1941. Dave Packard went back to the IRE show. He took an oscillator, a wave analyzer-the 300A, a square wave generator and a vacuum-tube voltmeter. The entire display was in the ballroom of the Commodore Hotel and Dave sat at the Hewlett-Packard table that was about three feet by eight feet and accommodated all of the instruments in the lineup. Two important events of this trip were the customers Dave met at the show and the trip afterwards to Fort Monmouth with Bruce Burlingame. Dave was to meet many people there, including General Colton who was a friend of both Bruce Burlingame and Bill Hewlett.
Dave then detoured over to General Electric. He arranged to stay with friends during all of these visits so he wouldnít have any hotel bills to pay. He then continued on to Chicago, where he stayed with Bobby Wilson and visited some customers while he was there. That was Hewlett-Packardís first exhibition in what was then the IRE and became later the IEEE. Hewlett-Packard went back every year thereafter! As the product line continued to grow, it got to be a very large exhibit!
This page from a ledger book listing cash payments from 1938-41. You will note that Bill and Dave both drew modest salaries during 1940. Photo: courtesy HP Archives
In and out of the Army.
Bill, who held a reserve commission, was called to duty in the spring of 1941. Billís basic commission was in ordinance and had orders for McCord Field in Washington for Aviation Ordinance. It didnít really make much sense for Bill to be in ordinance, so Dave wrote to Colonel Colton who was the head of the Signal Corps Laboratories at that time. As a result of that letter, his assignment was changed from the Ordinance to the Signal Corps. In June or July, Bill proceeded to the Signal Corps Laboratories at Fort Monmouth.
Unfortunately, having Bill away put a strain on the company and efforts were made to get him back to back to work in Palo Alto! Bill comments, "If weíd been a normal corporation, the corporation could have put in and said that I was an essential employee" Bill continues, "...but because we were a partnership it simply amounted to I as an individual telling the government that I was essential" which of course caused the government to turn a deaf ear to the issue. Dave wrote a letter to Colonel Colton and in September Bill was released from duty. On his way back to California, Bill Hewlett traveled through Texas and visited people involved in geophysical work. This face-to-face contact was very productive as Bill was able to find out what they really wanted. The end result of this effort was the development of the 200D, a low frequency oscillator that went down to 7 cycles.
A meeting with the General Radio folks.
By 1940, the young company had outgrown the garage and moved into the building which once housed in the Tinker Bell fix-it shop. Photo courtesy HP Archives
In the summer or fall of 1940, Hewlett-Packard had already moved down to the Tinker Bell shop. Fred Terman introduced Bill and Dave to Melville Eastham from General Radio and he came down and spent the afternoon there. Dave remembers that they all sat on benches out in the shop and Melville Eastham was very helpful and gave them a lot of good advice on how to run a company. Bill and Dave and the General Radio people were to be good friends for a long time.
The only exception that Dave ever remembered in the good will with General Radio, was with Harold Scott who also had a patent on an oscillator. Hewlett-Packard took a hard line that they were not infringing on it. Mr. Richmond became chairman of General Radio and since he was a financial man, didnít think this argument made any sense. Hewlett-Packard and General Radio worked out a settlement that both parties could live with.
This close up shows the sign on the Tinker Bell building.
During this same time, Bill remembers, they had the little building behind what was Tinker Bell and they rapidly outgrew that building. Mr. Bell was doing their cabinet work, and built the cabinets for the Model 205 signal generator. Mr. Bell and his wife lived there, and since they didnít need much space, Hewlett and Packard took the front half of the building on El Camino in late 1940 or early 1941. The floor plan was: Hewlett-Packard had the back building, Bell was in the middle, and Hewlett-Packard had the front section which was their assembly area. Later on, during World War II, Mr. Bell and his wife moved out and Hewlett Packard occupied the entire building.
Bill Hewlett (standing) and Dave Packard at the workbench during oscillator manufacture. Photo courtesy of Hewlett-Packard Company.
page 26 &27
ASIDE: Hewlett-Packard was wise to use General Radio as an example. Both companies had a reputation for quality!
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