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
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)
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
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.