The Hewlett-Packard Company, commonly known as HP, is a very large, global company headquartered in Palo Alto, California, United States. Its products are concentrated in the fields of computing, printing, and digital imaging. It also sells software and services.
HP was founded in 1939 by Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard, who had both graduated from Stanford University in 1934, as a manufacturer of test and measurement instruments. Their first product was a precision audio oscillator, the Model 200A. Their innovation was the use of a light bulb as a temperature stabilized resistor in a critical portion of the circuit. This allowed them to sell the Model 200A for $54.40 when competitors were selling less stable oscillators for over US 200. One of their earliest customers was Disney, who bought eight Model 200B oscillators (at $71.50 each) for use in testing sound systems for the movie Fantasia.
HP is acknowledged byWired Magazine as the producer of the world's first personal computer, in 1968. HP called it a desktop calculator because, as Bill Hewlett said, "If we had called it a computer, it would have been rejected by our customers' computer gurus because it didn't look like an IBM. We therefore decided to call it a calculator, and all such nonsense disappeared".
The company earned global respect for a variety of products. They introduced the world's first handheld scientific electronic calculator in 1972 (the HP-35), the first handheld programmable in 1974 (the HP-65), and the first alphanumeric, programmable, expandable in 1979 (the HP-41C). Like their scientific and business calculators, their oscilloscopes, logic analyzers, and other measurement instruments have a reputation for sturdiness and usability (the latter products are now part of spin-off Agilent's product line). The company's design philosophy in this period was summarized as "design for the guy on the next bench".
HP is recognized as the symbolic founder of Silicon Valley, although it did not actively investigate semiconductor devices until a few years after the "Traitorous Eight" had abandoned William Shockley to create Fairchild Semiconductor in 1957. Hewlett-Packard's HP Associates division, established around 1960, developed semiconductor devices primarily for internal use. Instruments and calculators were some of the products using these devices.
In 1984, HP introduced both ink jet and laser printers for the desktop. Along with its scanner product line, these have later been developed into successful multifunction products, the most significant being single-unit printer/scanner/copier/fax machines. As of 2003, HP's major competitors in this growing part of the SoHo market are the companies/brands Brother, Canon, Epson and Lexmark.
In the 1990s, HP expanded their computer product line, which initially had been targeted at university, research, and business customers, to reach consumers. Following this strategy, in 2002 they bought out Compaq Computer Corp, a major player in both the stationary and portable PC clone markets since its founding in 1982 (and buyer of DEC, in 1998). The buyout made HP the world's largest manufacturer of personal computers.
In 1987, the Palo Alto garage where Hewlett and Packard started their business was designated as a California State historical landmark. However, Agilent Technologies, not HP, bears the legacy of the original instrument company founded by Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard in 1939. Agilent was spun off from HP in 1999.
Many long-time HP calculator users were surprised and disappointed when HP announced in March 2002 that the company would no longer manufacture financial and scientific calculators – a product line and, indeed, a market, that HP had started thirty years before. The decision was especially hard to fathom in light of the HP-48 graphing calculator range's success. However, despite its spring 2002 press release stating the opposite, the company nevertheless returned to the market during the fall of 2003 with several new models (flagship: HP-49g+) competing against similar offerings from competitor Texas Instruments.