RealTime IT News

HP Labs Spurred by Past Innovations

You might think a visit to HP Labs would be an immersion in the latest technology. There's some of that, but the visit doesn't start with anything even near the 21st century.

A reporter is immediately whisked to the perfectly preserved adjoining offices of founders Bill Hewlett and David Packard.

When Hewlett or Packard emerged from their offices, where the door was rarely closed, they could look out on a sea of open cubicles and readily chat with any of the employees. That seemingly standard office layout was a radical idea when HP first put it in place in the 1940s.

There is a mini-museum full of past and current HP triumphs. The oldest is HP's first product, an HP 200C audio oscillator, an electronic instrument to test sound equipment. The company sold it to Disney Studios to produce "Fantasia," a pioneering feature-length animated film.

And there's the HP-35. Introduced in 1972, it was the first scientific handheld calculator and a clear signal to investors it was time to sell their slide ruler company stocks.

Moving up to 1984 is HP's ThinkJet printer, a precursor to its popular DeskJet and subsequent family of inkjet and multifunction printers. In 1984, the LaserJet debuts and goes on to become the most successful product line in HP's history.

Numerous other HP breakthroughs are noted if not on display, including the HP-65, the first programmable pocket calculator introduced in 1974.

In 1986, HP lays claim to being the first major computer company to introduce a computer system based on RISC (Reduced Instruction Set Computing) architecture.

In 1994, HP begins a collaboration with Intel to develop a 64-bit microprocessor architecture. The result was the Itanium processor introduced in 2001, which Intel has since taken over sole development of.

Much more recently, HP researchers announced they had proven that a technology they had invented, the molecular crossbar latch, could replace the transistor and lead to a new way to construct vastly more powerful computers in the future.