DAVID PACKARD, IN MEMORIAN
MARCH 27, 1996
Michael Miller of PC magazine looks back at the life of computer industry pionneer and mogul David Packard. The co-founder of Hewlett-Packard died yesterday. Margaret Warner conducts the interview.
MS. WARNER: David Packard, who died yesterday at the age of 83, was one of the nation's pioneers of technology. He was the co-founder of Hewlett-Packard, an electronics and computer company that grew into a multibillion dollar enterprise from its founding in a garage in Palo Alto, California, 57 years ago. With his long-time partner, Bill Hewlett, Packard created a business style and formula for success that became the prototype for Silicon Valley, the great technological area of California. Packard took a break from the computer business in 1969 to become Deputy Secretary of Defense in the Nixon administration and later served in other policy posts. Here to tell us more about Mr. Packard and his impact on the industry is Michael Miller, editor-in-chief of "PC Magazine," a computer and technology publication based in New York. Welcome, Mr. Miller. What was it about David Packard that made him so spectacularly successful?
MICHAEL MILLER, PC Magazine: (New York) Well, what really makes Hewlett-Packard so successful and why David Packard will be remembered is that it was the first of the great Silicon Valley technology companies. When HP was founded in 1939, I guess it was, Silicon Valley was mostly just orchards and things, and David Packard and Bill Hewlett were Stanford students who had graduated, and they started with very little money, $538, and built a company that last year had sales of more than $31 billion, employed 105,000 people, and really was a major force in technology, not only in the US but across the world.
MS. WARNER: Well, now for 60 years in a business that changes all the time, HP remains successful. Many other companies fall by the wayside. How did it--how did the company manage that?
MR. MILLER: Well, part of what makes HP so successful is its approach to management. It has not as hierarchical of a management as traditional. It's the things like today you would call it management by walking around, or what HP calls the HP way, and part of that is to decentralize decision making and yet still foster a sense of quality, of quality control. So they've always made very good products. One example of how things work is they have a division that makes laser printers that was very successful in the 80's. I mean, they came out of nowhere to become, you know, one of the largest PC vendors, mostly on the strength of their laser printer sales. Well, later on in the 80's, they came up with another product called the Ink Jet Printer, which has, in fact, now in sales eclipsed that of laser printers. And, yes, some companies would have held back because these were competing products, but they decided to compete with themselves, rather than to let somebody else into the game.
MS. WARNER: And today they control a great deal of the printer market.
MR. MILLER: Yes. Something like six out of every ten printers sold is an HP printer.
MS. WARNER: Now, was it this HP way that David Packard was most proud of?
MR. MILLER: Well--
MS. WARNER: And did that reflect his personality? Tell us a little about him.
MR. MILLER: Well, I'm afraid I never knew him. I know the company and a lot of people. And clearly, though, that's the major contribution to Silicon Valley culture or the computer culture. Many of the companies that we talk about today in the computer business were, in fact, founded by people who grew up in HP and who knew David Packard and knew the way that he worked. And we're talking about companies as diverse as Software Publishing Company or 3Com or Apple. One of the great stories is that Steve Wosniak was an Apple employee who actually offered the Apple--was an HP employee who actually offered the Apple I to HP, which really didn't see what it would do with it, and then he went off and founded Apple Computer with Steve Jobs.
MS. WARNER: So if you had to say what is lasting, what David Packard's lasting legacy was for Silicon Valley, what would it be?
MR. MILLER: Well, basically it was taking Silicon Valley, which was--
MS. WARNER: Nothing then.
MR. MILLER: --an orchard, and creating an environment where people saw that you could start a small company, where entrepreneurs could get together, raise some money, and create large companies, and then in teaching people how to manage these companies. I mean, today, you know, Silicon Valley is synonymous with computers. At PC Labs we're testing like 100 machines right now. Over a third of them are from companies in Silicon Valley. And that's because all of these companies grew up with this entrepreneurial spirit. And that's really what David Packard stood for, and what HP has stood for.
MS. WARNER: And then I--it seems a great tribute to him that even after he'd retired from actively managing the company, they brought him back just five years ago when he was in his late 80's. Why did they do that?
MR. MILLER: Well, he came back into the company a few years ago mostly as a symbol of what HP has stood for. For 60 years, HP really has had certain core competencies, certain things that they have done. They've changed their products from oscilloscopes to test equipment, to mini computers, to laser printers, to PC's over that time. But they've always tried to do a high quality product, and they've always tried to have a culture that's, you know, fairly open and fairly, you know, looking for new ideas. And that's really what they brought him back for. He's the embodiment of that culture. And as such, he meant a lot to a lot of people inside HP and to a lot of people in Silicon Valley.
MS. WARNER: Well, Mr. Miller, thanks very much.
MR. MILLER: Thank you.
MS. WARNER: Thanks for being with us.