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William Hewlett Dead

michael posted more than 13 years ago | from the lovely-plumage dept.

News 171

scratch writes: "Computing pioneer and all 'round good guy Bill Hewlett has died. NYT obit is here ." Hewlett-Packard: responsible for confusing generations of calculator users.

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Re:No class. (2)

Keck (7446) | more than 13 years ago | (#510299)

I know, right? HP is a great big company now, but the close ties brought on by Hewlett's managerial style live on. I work for the first HP spinoff, (AMT), separated in 1992, and we in turn do some work for the most recent (and recognizable) HP spinoff, Agilent, and the remnants of HP culture are still here, quite strongly... Hewlett and Packard are two who did American Business the right way -- and in a way that many geeks can appreciate, because it wasn't begun as a money grubbing venture by capitalists, but as a chance to do something technically great by some great engineering minds..

&nbsp &nbsp S*it like this makes me lose even more respect for slashdot's submission editors... I'm afraid the only thing keeping them alive is the lack of a real successor, so all the readers are going down with the ship so to speak..

Wm. Hewlett (4)

ezesch (70007) | more than 13 years ago | (#510300)

I remember my first programmable calculator, an HP-67, programmable, card reader for storage! Maybe its in my genes, but RPN seemed very natural to me. Last time I tried to use it I found that the card drive wheel had turned to gunk. I just found the HP Museum site with repair info.
I may get that thing running again.
By the way, /. needs a script to filter out posts with screens of empty lines in them. Some jerks can be so annoying.

Re:No class. (1)

Fervent (178271) | more than 13 years ago | (#510305)

I agree. It was pretty tactless. If it had been Linus, instead of a business maven, I'd expect the reaction to be different.

-Be a man. Insult me without using an AC.

Re:RPN is a bad thing (1)

dead_penguin (31325) | more than 13 years ago | (#510306)

*prefix* notation makes much more sense than either postfix or infix. Consider: "multiply two and four" vs. "two multiply four" and "two four multiply". Which sounds more natural?

Re:Taking Bill Hewlett's Name in Vain (2)

Tuzanor (125152) | more than 13 years ago | (#510309)

I agree. H-P is definatley one of the best(meaning least evil and market driven) of the big corporations(microsoft, Dell, compaq, etc). Their computers were always miles ahead of compaq's (which isn't hard to do), but what i admire so much from them is their quality peripherals. I have friends that have hp printers that are old as hell and they can still get cartrigaes for them and they still WORK. Their CD-writers are by far the best after Yamaha(my experience is that the HP writers produce less coasters, though). I've always likes HP-UX over solaris, except for the fact that there isn't as much support for it.

They've also been one of the best places to work for. Employees were always treated like people. I just hope with the two founders out of the picture and PC sales slowing that HP doesn't resort to some of the tactics that others have had to use.

Re:Does there yet exist... (1)

caliban (15401) | more than 13 years ago | (#510311)

look for an app called RPN Calc,
it has a really well thought out interface

Damn... (4)

costas (38724) | more than 13 years ago | (#510313)

Packard and Hewlett were two great gentlemen. I was at Stanford when Packard died in 1996; only then, reading the man's obituary did I realize that the two of them and their families had given tens (if not hundreds) of millions to the school they dropped out from.

And the reason I hadn't realized that was that most of the buildings they funded had the names of others (on their request), most notably Dr. Terman's, their EE prof who pushed them to form a company and helped them out when HP was still two guys out of a garage.

That's class people...

Re:Would you believe? (1)

lispbliss (146952) | more than 13 years ago | (#510315)

I'm not aware of how you learned to add, but traditionally one writes down 1 and then writes down 2 below it, a plus sign next to the 2 and then draws a line and adds the two numbers. This is exactly how it is in RPN.

My HP Printer (1)

FreeMath (230584) | more than 13 years ago | (#510316)

...will print only black ink in mourning.
They did make a damn fine line of printers.

Confusing generations? (3)

dsginter (104154) | more than 13 years ago | (#510317)

Hewlett-Packard: responsible for confusing generations of calculator users.

So these generations of users were confusing? What does this have to do with HP?

Re:RPN great thing/ As are HP calcs/ Mass spectrg. (1)

acomj (20611) | more than 13 years ago | (#510318)

My engineering undergraduate career was made easier once I learned RPN and stopped making calculation errors.

My HP 42 and 32s calculators are also tough enough to last me into my career and many on site construction jobs (civil engineering stuff.)

Also HP mass spectrometers are great all well, although not sutable for consumer use.

Re:So who's going to be the Hewlett or the Packard (1)

Pish Tosh (266555) | more than 13 years ago | (#510319)

The pioneers of this generation of computing will do their job: they'll build a platform on which future things are build later.

Physics doesn't need another Isaac Newton -- it needs a Stephen Hawking. Computer Science doesn't need another Babbage -- it needs a Donald Knuth.

We'll always need innovators, but the nature of the innovation will change at each logical generation.

HP calculators are great (3)

Orp (6583) | more than 13 years ago | (#510320)

Hewlett-Packard: responsible for confusing generations of calculator users.

Are you kidding? Reverse Polish Notation is a wonderful thing. Who needs parentheses (a la TI) anyway... just pop the stack. I fondly remember my 1st HP calculator... an 11C I think... and still use my 41 CX (with Math/Stat plugin doodad) when doing problem solving.

I think the 15 C could do arrays operations, such as solve determinants and systems of equations etc. When I was in college my 41 CX saved me a few points on an exam; I was solving an integral by hand and missed a sign and that became apparent after approximating the integral solution with the calculator.

In fact, now that I think back, the 41CX was my high school graduation present. Such fond memories. Rest in peace Mr. Hewlett!

Leigh Orf

Re:Would have expected a better RPN comment from / (1)

juno (70153) | more than 13 years ago | (#510327)

Heh heh heh. My high school mostly used TIs in the math classes, but I and a few other rebellious types went and bought 48Gs. Fostered a good sense of cameraderie, and yes, I too was amused by the priceless looks of the RPN-uninitiated who tried to borrow my calculator. I don't think any other calculator company has such a devoted following.

Frist Psotto (1)

rblum (211213) | more than 13 years ago | (#510330)

Hey, RPN is just a dream come true... All you C++ wusses don't appreciate Forth

HP48 supports BOTH rpn and infix notation ! (2)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | more than 13 years ago | (#510331)

On the HP48 press the single quote button ' then enter your expression in "normal" math notation (infix) and finally press eval. Don't have to deal with that "confusing" Reverse Polish Notation (sarcasm)

RPN is much faster and easier once you get used to it. The best part about RPN is that when someone borrows your calculator, they stare at it for a few mins, then hand it back ;-)

Re:Thanks, Bill. We'll Miss You. (2)

spagthorpe (111133) | more than 13 years ago | (#510332)

I know exactly what you mean. The research lab I worked in had a LJII that had been cranking away since it was new, and when I left there (7 years ago), the page count was 350,000.

When I have my HP-48SX at the office, I can reach for my now 22-year old HP-41C, that still works great, and if that isn't easy to find, I grab the HP-34C (23 years old) that's always in the drawer. The buttons on both of them still click like new. Amazing products. Too bad I don't plan on having kids, these would make great family heirlooms.

WWJD -- What Would Jimi Do?

HP35 (2)

Baldrson (78598) | more than 13 years ago | (#510334)

The first electronic hand held calculator was the HP35. I saw it advertised in SciAm in 1972 and decided I had to have one. After working at minimum wage as a garbage man with ex convicts all summer getting maggots dropped down my back and drinking too much beer, I was able to get one for $495.

Then the price dropped in half and the programmable HP45 came out.

I learned my lesson about buying things on the bleeding edge very early on, except that the HP35 became a collectors item. :-)

There probably won't be any more engineering cultures like the one built by Hewlett and Packard again until after the holocaust. I was fortunate to grow up when that culture was still alive and kicking.

Lost A Role Model (1)

juno (70153) | more than 13 years ago | (#510335)

I grew up right next to the HP corporate headquarters in Palo Alto, and HP has a very significant presence in the area. I think, however, that Hewlett and Packard ultimately had as much impact as philanthropists than as founders of a corporation. Evidence of their generosity is easy to see, and I hope that today's corporate leaders will continue in their tradition of community service and involvement. In this age of prima donna CEOs and often poor corporate citizenship, H & P are worth looking up to.

And btw, I've been using RPN calculators since I was a little kid... it is entirely faster and more fluid than infix.

Re:Frist Psotto (1)

MaxVlast (103795) | more than 13 years ago | (#510336)

RPN is wonderful! After using my HP48 for years, it's very difficult to use any other calculator?

Max V.

Re:These trolls make me sick... (1)

drsoran (979) | more than 13 years ago | (#510337)

You need to just start browsing at 2. You won't see them anymore. Unfortunately you'll miss some decent posts by normal users that post at 1 as well though mixed in with the troll accounts. Moderators should take note to always browse at -1 though to make sure they're not missing anything good.

Re:Ignorant RPN bashing. (1)

drsoran (979) | more than 13 years ago | (#510338)

Me - "wossamatta, never seen a real calculator before?"

Non HPer - "Man, that's fucked up. Why don't you use a _normal calculator_?"

Hehe. I get similar responses when someone asks to borrow my HP48GX. After they fiddle with it for a few seconds they tend to just ask someone else with a lame TI graphing calculator. Those TI's seem to "high schoolish" for me. OK kids, get out your $10 Crapio calculator.. we're going to work on some algebra today.

Dim the lights in Palo Alto (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#510339)

It's respectful and conservational.

Re:Wm. Hewlett (1)

rabidMacBigot() (33310) | more than 13 years ago | (#510340)

By the way, /. needs a script to filter out posts with screens of empty lines in them. Some jerks can be so annoying.
Do yourself a favor and browse with a hard threshold of 1. I started a few months ago, rather hesitantly because of the occasional worthy AC post. I haven't seen any lame trolls since, and every once in a while I crank it down to -1 to see why I did it in the first place.

The only time I have to see that sh*t anymore is when I mod or metamod.

Filth link ... BEWARE! (1)

Stan Chesnutt (2253) | more than 13 years ago | (#510341)

almost lost my dinner on that one, so I guess you can feel proud.

Re:Frist Psotto (1)

NullPointer (6898) | more than 13 years ago | (#510342)

I must agree, the calculator is not confusing, rather, Michael is...

Geek and Fraternity Brother, too! (3)

cjsnell (5825) | more than 13 years ago | (#510346)

In addition to being a notable geek, William Hewlett was also a member of theKappa Sigma Fraternity [] . And I'll bet you thought that all fraternity guys were dumb geeks who couldn't turn on a computer to save their asses. :-)

Re:No class. (1)

Defiler (1693) | more than 13 years ago | (#510348)

Mega-tasteless.. The moment I read it, it pissed me off. If someone said something like this to my face, and Mr. Hewlett was my father, I'd smash their head in for them.

Re:Frist Psotto (1)

IronDragon (74186) | more than 13 years ago | (#510350)

It was hard growing up with an HP48 in a TI school. People would ask to borrow my calculator, and I'd have to ask them if they knew how to use it. This resulted in an indignant reply.. followed by 5 minutes of punching random buttons on my HP 48-GX. stupids :)

Another disturbing thing.. the math teacher (calculus) would draw up a problem on the board - tell the class to enter it into their TI-85's, and hit 'poly solv'

We dont need no steeenkin polysolv!

I had to learn differentiation on my own.. sheesh. whats these schools coming to. :)

Re:I resent the calculator remark :) (1)

ScottBob (244972) | more than 13 years ago | (#510351)

See my url. Pretty good reason NOT to get @home in Sacramento, CA.

So is it an @home problem that puts up a "Connection refused" message when I try to access it?

Re:HP's an evolutionary company. (1)

Cyno (85911) | more than 13 years ago | (#510354)

In addition to the damage HP caused to Tek, look at Xerox these days. Earlier today I was talking with some co-workers about how much better HP copiers and printers are than Xerox. HP is a truely evolutionary company and its sad to see Mr. Packard leave us. But more importantly let's celebrate his legacy.

wasnt it hewlett who helped steve jobs? (1)

rebelcool (247749) | more than 13 years ago | (#510355)

when he was a kid, either hewlett or packard helped jobs build little electronic things...which would have led to the apple, to the birth of the personal computer industry and the rest is history. I could be wrong..

Re:Wm. Hewlett (2)

neuneu (232546) | more than 13 years ago | (#510356)

What's so annoying about empty lines? Are you browsing with your HP-67 calculator?

These trolls make me sick... (1)

Scoria (264473) | more than 13 years ago | (#510357)

Do you trolls EVER stop? I mean, this thread is about a computing pioneer that just died who contributed a lot to the industry. Show some respect for once, you lame trolls.

(Sorry everyone else, mod it down if you want, but this needed to be said.)

Re:No class. (3)

djocyko (214429) | more than 13 years ago | (#510358)

Hey, I think it's a great compliment to him and tribute to his work to take note that he had a huge impact on the world (and despite that managed to get me to refuse to use one of his caclulators.) Anyway, like a nother guy here said, chill. If we can joke about him without guilt, we know we respect him.

RPI (4)

Shagg (99693) | more than 13 years ago | (#510359)

Rest Peace In

Re:Rude? (2)

ninewands (105734) | more than 13 years ago | (#510360)

Hewlett-Packard: responsible for confusing generations of calculator users.

Well, if you say so ... I remember using an HP-27 back in '74 that was like giving water to a duck. (Hint: I was a freshman engineering major then). As a result of that experience, I shortly thereafter, spent the then princely sum of $450.00 for an HP-45. When the -45 died, I spent another $450.00 for the mighty HP-67 (magnetic cards, Oh JOY!).

Whatever. As anyone here with an IQ > 40 will tell you, RPN if far superior to infix notation. Besides, it's pretty rude to make snide comments like that when linking to an obituary.

Well, on that point, my mama always told me not to argue religious issues in public.

It is kind of sad though. I have tremendous respect for anybody who can build the kind of company HP has become.

I'm not all that sure about the company ... they've made some pretty serious faux pax over the past few years, but, that's the nature of the technology business. You pays your money and you takes your risks.

All that aside, Bill Hewlett is one of those who took the techno-bull by the horns and made the world what it is today. Today we lost something that will be hard to replace. We lost a contributor.



Re:HP calculators are great (1)

sik puppy (136743) | more than 13 years ago | (#510361)

Not only did the 15C do arrays, it would do complex matricies (4x4 i think, and 8x8 normal). Programmable as well - I loved that thing in college. Even better than the 42s. To this day, every deck officer I know still has, and most use the 41cx with the navigation pack. Maybe there wasn't one on the Valdez or the Cadiz - it would explain a lot.

I still have an old hp o'scope - quad trace, weights like 150 pounds - GE was the original owner and paid $2200 in 1961 for the thing - more than a loaded new T-bird. I still use their old tube voltmeters, the best ever made.

The world has lost a genius. Rest in peace...

Re:something I've always wondered at... (1)

wduffee (192668) | more than 13 years ago | (#510363)

One could just as easily change the following quote, "You have the More Efficient Calculator, and you Know How To Use It. Freaking great. It's a damn calculator. Get over yourselves. " into - "You have the More Efficient Operating System, and you Know How To Use It. Freaking great. It's a damn calculator. Get over yourselves. " by looking at /. posts, it's easily seen that the 2nd quote is quite applicable for most linux users. who feel no worries about slandering the rest of the OS world because of their supposed superiority about using linux. now i admit, there is a difference btween an OS and a mathematical notation, but still....the concept is there. it's just one of those things that someone possibly doesn't understand until they've been there (i.e., used Linux, done math with RPN). and even then, the ego thing might not make sense. just a comment.

Re:The 12C is a unique tech achievement (2)

Hollins (83264) | more than 13 years ago | (#510365)

I feel the same about my 48SX graphing scientific calculator. Interestingly, it seemed to devolve in its current incarnation, the 48GX. They added a bunch of pop-up menus, which fortunately can be disabled by setting a couple flags, and changed the classic brown blue, and orange HP color scheme to purple, green and blue, which looks terrible.

Fortunately, my 12 year old 48SX is built to last. I've dropped it around a dozen times and had a tendency to really pound the keys during tests in college, but it's still got a lot of life left. It's not only the pinnacle of scientific calculators, but there's nothing being produced today that equals it.

Just use these (1)

Amomynous Coward (256120) | more than 13 years ago | (#510377)

log: slashdot2000
pass: slashdot2000

For those who hate the NY Times.. (2)

cmowire (254489) | more than 13 years ago | (#510378)

Yahoo's coverage [] of the whole thing. And it's not even smut! ;)

Damn I love my HP-48G. Once you use the beauty of RPN, you never want to go back!.

HP Way (1)

kjynx (304661) | more than 13 years ago | (#510379)

Do you realize that Bill Packard not only was an inventor of great technoligal advances, but a great management style, coined the "HP Way". HP was the first company in the US to offer flextime to its employees. So for all of you working a relaxed schedule, thank him. Also, the "HP Way" is an excellent management style which I am sure those of you who work for dot coms are privy to. It took away all of the yes sir, nor sir crap. We can now be respected as subordinates. Who cares about the damn calculator

Thanks, Bill. We'll Miss You. (4)

BigBlockMopar (191202) | more than 13 years ago | (#510381)

Hewlett-Packard: responsible for confusing generations of calculator users.

At least you can be sure that once you've figured out how to use the damned calculator, you won't need to replace it for a *long* time.

Hewlett-Packard: responsible for building indestructible test equipment and laser printers.

At the office, we have a ten year old LaserJet IIID. It's had a fuser in it because our receptionist caught a label in it and scratched the teflon off it by trying to scrape the sheet out with scissors. Aside from that, a toner/drum cartridge every two weeks. Yes, a toner cartridge every two weeks. We do print that much, and the thing has never missed a beat.

Estimating conservatively 3,000 pages per cartridge (probably more because we do lots of long documents) and 50 weeks in a year (actually 52, but that's okay):

10 years x 50 = 500 weeks.

New toner every 2 weeks = 250 toner cartridges.

3,000 pages per toner x 250 = 750,000 pages.

And to think that the office supply company told us to buy an offset press. Ha!

More stuff should be built like that. It goes without saying that when the engineering department needed a printer of their own, we bought another LaserJet.

Now, if only I could get that damned 25-year-old HP dual-trace oscilloscope to die so I can buy a new HP Digital Storage scope. Or the friggin' 35-year-old HP Microwave Power Meter that uses a bank of 12AX7s which require a few seconds to warm up but 20 minutes to stabilize before I can take a good reading.

Damn you, Bill Hewlett. <grin> Sometimes excessive quality is a liability. And it's really cool to be able to complain about this.

Ignorant RPN bashing. (3)

bmo (77928) | more than 13 years ago | (#510382)

Is that really needed here?

There's a reson why professionals such as surveyors, engineers, and toolmakers (like me) use HP calculators:

They're not brain damaged. Brain damage is a calculator that does "algebraic" data entry, but does postfix notation when using the trig functions (Hello, TI and Casio). Consistency across the user interface, on top of RPN, makes for an extremely powerful and useful machine.

Seriously, once one gets used to RPN (it takes about a week, or a day if you're really pounding the keys), there's no going back to infix math. Everything else just seems *inferior*. It's like the hackers' disdain for "strong typing".

If there's anything confusing about calculators, it's trying to remember how deep the parentheses are nested in that nasty equation. RPN dispenses with parentheses entirely and gives the user a stack to push and pop numbers to and from. Algebraic calculators typically only limit the user to 6 layers of parentheses, but the HP stack is limited only by available memory.

To top it off, HP calculators tend to be so much more durable than the offerings of TI, Casio, and Sharp and the keyboards can't be beat for feel and durability. HP calculators also tend to be logically laid out on the keyboard, and important functions on the graphical calcs are NOT buried under menus (my last Casio graphing calc put the most common trig functions in a menu. Really.), or if they must be menued, are only 2 keypresses away.

I have also heard that Hewlett Packard calcs are "too expensive". I thought this too, until I bought one. HP is competitive with TI in this area. Hewlett Packard's calcs tend to be a bit *less* expensive than the corresponding offerings from TI on the high end (HP49G vs TI-92).

In my not-so-humble opinion, there is no substitute for a good tool, and a Hewlett-Packard calculator is a Good Tool.

Typical non-hp user vs Me.

Non HP user - "Hey, can I borrow your calculator for a sec?"

Me - "Sure" *hands calc*

Non HPer - "WTF!?"

Me - "wossamatta, never seen a real calculator before?"

Non HPer - "Man, that's fucked up. Why don't you use a _normal calculator_?"

Me - "I'm far from normal" *gives evil eye and a mad-scientist chuckle*

Mr. Hewlett, we will miss you dearly.

Redundant flamage (1)

slakhead (75639) | more than 13 years ago | (#510383)

I know it has been said but it must be said again for the record: the final comment by Michael was in very bad taste considering the topic of the post. I would think that someone so devoted to diversity in the marketplace would appreciate the competition HP has offered against Texas Instruments.

If it were not for HP (and, to a lesser extent, Casio), TI would have a monopoly on the calculator market. I dont think I need to spell out the hypocrisy anymore than I have.

Re:Here is... (1)

Cobain (104632) | more than 13 years ago | (#510384)

Well it was there a bit ago, dunno what happened to it.

Re:Redundant flamage (1)

Digitalia (127982) | more than 13 years ago | (#510385)

Yes, but TI has a functional monopoly on the market as a whole due to the niche-nature that HP calculators enjoy. I prefer my TI-89 over the HP because I had difficulty using RPN. The learning curve for an HP was too steep for myself. It may not be so for others, but the less nerdy are more inclined to use TI calculators. I won't even consider speaking the truth about Casio calculators, as I am sure you are aware of how horrid the little beasts are.

Finally, I don't think it is in bad taste to make jokes about death. Some people are not so foolishly afraid of death as to get hostile when it is made light of. It happens. Anyone who is strong in their religious path, be it the path of Wicca, or the path of Agnosticism/Atheism, or even the path of Christianity, must recognize that death is not this great, sad taboo, but is just another point in the cycle of life. He may rot in the ground, get reincarnated, or spend eternity in heaven, but he will not be forgotten. This is death.

Re:Would have expected a better RPN comment from / (1)

axioun (119341) | more than 13 years ago | (#510386)

Here at my high school we have competitions for UIL Math. One of them is a calculator test that is timed. Needless to say, we use HP's. More specifically we use 32S II's. I don't think any of the HP RPN scientific and business calculators have changed at all over the past decade. As a company they have been extremely successful in creating high quality products that last. God bless you Wm. Hewlett.

That's funny... (1)

telstar (236404) | more than 13 years ago | (#510387)

My HP died a long time ago...

Re:RPN is a good thing (1)

mazur (99215) | more than 13 years ago | (#510388)

I agree. The single most important feature of my professional life was, that my father bought a HP-45, which lead to my buying a HP-67 at about 16, and a ZX Spectrum later on. Which led me to become a Systems Programmer. And I still will hold, and defend, that Reverse Polish Notation is more logical than bracket stuff. It may be I'm wired wrong, but with RPN is have no trouble, but balancing brackets is very difficult if you do not know in advance what you're precisely calculating. With RPN it doesn't matter, the numbers are just there. And if later on , there's another addition to perform, just enter both numbers, and do the addition, and the next computation.

It taught me the importance of registers, and the fact, that they are not infinite in capacity or number. That you should cut doen tasks to the equipment you have, and that there is much fun to be had with limited resources.

At the moment, my HP 67 lives a graveyard live, since its battery gave out long ago, but I still dream about finding a replacement battery and fireing it up again, and see of these old magnetic strips have survived as well.

I hail this most influential man on my life, and mourn his death, for he has undoubtably been of notable influence on our life, and I like to think, to the benefit.

It takes a lot of brains to enjoy satire, humor and wit-

Re:RPN is a good thing (2)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 13 years ago | (#510389)

Its not that RPN is confusing, it is that once you learn RPN, you can never go back. Now that my last HP calculator is dead and I really can't justify the price of another RPN model, I have to use the unix "dc" command to do all my math because I just can't reliably use an infix calculator anymore.

All my engineering buddies who bought RPN calcs have exactly the same disability now too.

HP's an evolutionary company. (5)

s390 (33540) | more than 13 years ago | (#510390)

When someone passes away in a community, those who knew them or knew of them will gather to raise a glass and remember their life; it's called a wake.

I've got a glass of Chivas, and MP3s playing on the CD-R in my Thinkpad's DVD drive, so here's a story - just my small contribution to William Hewlett's online Slashdot wake.

Tektronix started out building oscilliscopes. They built excellent and increasingly complicated oscilliscopes (in the 60's, I believe Tek was the largest private employer in Oregon). And they believed in hardware - hardcore EE: circuits, transistors, PC boards, ICs. They had all the big customers - US military, IBM, etc., all locked in. So Tektronix didn't notice much when HP started building oscilliscopes, too. Nor did they pay attention when HP started using _software_ to drive its new oscilliscopes. Tek's company culture was hardware, period. Big mistake.

Over the following 10-15 years, HP took a big chunk of the oscilliscope market from Tektronix by using _software_ to build less expensive yet more versatile instruments. By the mid-80s (when I worked there for a couple years), Tek was visibly stagnating and losing its core customers. (At it's peak, they employed something like 20,000 people at several plants in the area).

[Tek had an IBM 3090-200 at its headquarters campus, and two IBM 4381s at each of five satellite plants. I remember being impressed that I could logon to one system, submit a job to be run on a second system 20 miles away, and direct the printout to a third system 30 miles from it (that's called JES2 NJE, and it _still_ works like that... across oceans and continents, now).]

Now Tektronix is a small fraction of that size, having sold off its printer business to Xerox and downsized steadily. The largest private employer in Oregon is now Intel, if I'm not mistaken.

Who pulled the marketshare out from under Tek? Hewlett-Packard! HP used software to drive test & measurement devices... including oscilliscopes. Tektronix didn't get it, not in time.

HP only started on computers much later, as an incidental line of business. Now, HP is a computer company, having spun off the test & measurement (plus medical) business into Agilent.

Hewlett-Packard was smart enough to see the future and get there early. They've evolved the company and I take my virtual hat off to the memory of William Hewlett, a smart gentleman.

I hope God gives him Heaven's garage to tinker in.

Re:Would have expected a better RPN comment from / (1)

Ismilar (222791) | more than 13 years ago | (#510404)

RPN rules!
I can't believe some people in my engineering class still use old standard calculators (even though they all have an HP48G, as they are required in some courses).
The HP48Gers always finish Physics labs first because we get the calculations done faster and more efficiently. And then we play games on them while waiting on everyone else.

Re:Better than living to see Carly kill HP (2)

rgmoore (133276) | more than 13 years ago | (#510405)

Well, there is a company that keeps alive the legacy of Bill and Dave, it just doesn't happen to be the branch that kept their names. Agilent now has all of the parts of the business that were near and dear to the founders (i.e. scientific and technical instruments, rather than computers and peripherals) and is keeping closer to their principles. It also looks as though it's not going to go into the tank in the near future. Maybe when the company currently calling itself HP goes bankrupt Agilent will be able to buy their rightful name back on the cheap.

HP Press release (2)

CarrotLord (161788) | more than 13 years ago | (#510406)

Good to see HP honouring one of their founders, even though he hasn't been active in HP since 1987: -- Check out the HP Press Release [] ... it is, of course, linked to prominently on their front page.

He's an inspiring man.


Re:RPN is a good thing (1)

mizhi (186984) | more than 13 years ago | (#510407)

RPN was probably about the best thing to happen to the calculator. I love it, in fact, I find it painful to go back to regular old calculators now...

Re:No class. (1)

CarrotLord (161788) | more than 13 years ago | (#510408)

Bad choice of sig, dude. rr

Taking Bill Hewlett's Name in Vain (5)

BigBlockMopar (191202) | more than 13 years ago | (#510409)

Ok, this is kinda offtopic, but man, chill. Everyone always gets all uppity when someone dies and takes things way to serious. I mean hell, obviously the guys at slashdot thing highly enough of Bill Hewlett to post about his death, which is a tribute to him in and of itself.

Exactly. I'm an HP fan. I use a lot of their test equipment in my work. And put a lot of miles on their printer. Hewlett-Packard makes fine products, and it takes a fine man with vision and concern for his customers to enforce that.

And with no disrespect for him - Bill Hewlett and David Packard are two people whom I admire tremendously - I will take his name in vain next time I fire up that damned 25 year old HP oscilloscope that I've been trying to get my boss to replace. I know that I'm not going to get the new 'scope I want until that thing dies. I also know that thing is not going to die on its own. And it's too much of a work of art to pull a Kevorkian on it by dropping a quarter into one of its ventilation slots.

From everything I've heard about him, that little tale would make William Hewlett smile.

Rock on, Bill. The world needs more people like you.

Re:RPN is a bad thing (1)

jrcamp (150032) | more than 13 years ago | (#510410)

It doesn't take that long to get used to it. I did in the 8th grade, and never will I go back to anything else.

Re:Ignorant RPN bashing. (1)

triticale (227516) | more than 13 years ago | (#510411)

To top it off, HP calculators tend to be so much more durable than the offerings of TI, Casio, and Sharp and the keyboards can't be beat for feel and durability. ...snip... I have also heard that Hewlett Packard calcs are "too expensive".

I worked for a structural designer who had paid something like $600 for an HP67 wwhen they first came out. As of 1996 he still had it on his desk, because he had programs on magcard which could give him his answer in less time than it took to load a spreadsheet on his PC. The durability certainly outweight the "expense" here.

At that job, a TI30 was enough calculator for what I did, but I wore out the keyboard on 3 of them, and each time the keyboard layout got a bit worse.

Hewllet the inventor (1)

thmitch (24244) | more than 13 years ago | (#510412)

Many people do seem to know that Bill Hewllett inveneted the variable audio oscillator. The was the product that started Hewlett-Packard.

God Bless Him (1)

codewolf (239827) | more than 13 years ago | (#510413)

Even if you don't believe in God, I hope that all take a moment to consider his contributions and take a moment to realize what this man has done for the computing community and understand that we have lost a person that helped to shape the future before it was the future when he had a vision.

HP newsletter (3)

Oshuma.Shiroki (232199) | more than 13 years ago | (#510414)

I work for HP and here's a clip of our newsletter:


NEWSGRAM: news for HP people Friday, January 12, 2001


Bill Hewlett, revered Hewlett-Packard co-founder and one of the world's foremost business leaders, technologists and philanthropists, died at home in his sleep at 8 a.m. PST today of natural causes. He was 87 years old.

The venture that Hewlett and his long-time partner and good friend Dave Packard founded in a Palo Alto, California, garage in 1939 has grown into two companies: Hewlett-Packard and Agilent Technologies. HP had total revenue of $48.8 billion (U.S.) in its FY00 fiscal year and has more than 88,500 employees worldwide. Agilent had net revenue of more than $10.8 billion for FY00 and has more than 47,000 employees. Packard died March 26, 1996, at the age of 83.

During his lifetime, Hewlett received dozens of high professional honors. He was a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was co-founder of the American Electronics Association; a member of the National Academy of Engineering, which gave him its Founders' Award in 1993; a life fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers; and an honorary lifetime member of the Instrument Society of America.

Funeral arrangements for Hewlett are pending.

Re:What the fuck (2)

BigBlockMopar (191202) | more than 13 years ago | (#510415)

Show a little fucking respect. He was an ingenious engineer and an far more amazing person that Bill Gates

Well, there's a backhanded compliment, if ever there was one. There are only two ways that they're even remotely comparable: They're both on Pacific time, and they're both named Bill.

Re:Insolent and Disrespectful (1)

NNKK (218503) | more than 13 years ago | (#510416)

umm, you really need to get a sense of humor

no one was being disrespectful, if they'd said this while he was alive you'd just laugh along with everyone else, but apparently because he's dead, you can't see that something is funny

when a close friend you had many good times with dies, what do you do? if you act all solem and depressed and shit you'll never get on with life,
but if you talk about the fun times and make jokes about funny things they may have done, it eases the pain and you can get on with life

So who's going to be the Hewlett or the Packard... (1)

2nd Post! (213333) | more than 13 years ago | (#510418)

of the world in 100 years?

Will it be Steve Jobs? I hear he has personality issues...

Bill Gates? His corporation seems to heavy handed, for my tastes...

Linus Torvalds? Steve Wozniak? ESR?

Geek dating! []

CNN obit for those who don't like to log in to NYT (5)

adavidw (31941) | more than 13 years ago | (#510421)

CNN obit is here []

Would you believe? (2)

autocracy (192714) | more than 13 years ago | (#510422)

The "lameness filter" got me. It disagreed with some of my first line and the subject. Oh well. In reference to those calculators, they are the most damned anoying things in the world (1+2=1[enter]2+). Doesn't that just make you insane?

As for William, despite his passing it looks like his company will live on. To innovative and impossible calculators and profits from software not named after glass! Three cheers!

My karma's bigger than yours!

No class. (2)

JordanH (75307) | more than 13 years ago | (#510428)

  • Hewlett-Packard: responsible for confusing generations of calculator users.

This is kinda tasteless, don't you think? A pioneer just died and all you can think to say is that the calculators his company made confused people who couldn't handle RPN?


Rude? (2)

cooldev (204270) | more than 13 years ago | (#510430)

Hewlett-Packard: responsible for confusing generations of calculator users.

Whatever. As anyone here with an IQ > 40 will tell you, RPN if far superior to infix notation. Besides, it's pretty rude to make snide comments like that when linking to an obituary.

It is kind of sad though. I have tremendous respect for anybody who can build the kind of company HP has become.

The 12C is a unique tech achievement (4)

astrashe (7452) | more than 13 years ago | (#510435)

I don't know if Hewitt had much or anything to do with the HP-12C financial calculator, but if he did, he accomplished something extraordinary.

The 12C, alone out of all of the electronic devices that I can think of, is "finished". It hasn't been changed for more than a decade. Even the documentation is the same. But even so, it's still the overwhelming first choice for financial professionals.

My point is that it's complete, changing it would make it worse. The interface, the functionality that's built in, the functionality that's left out. The size, shape and weight of the device. According to the market, no one has been able to top it. The design is perfect.

What other electronic product can make any of those claims? The idea that a tool -- like a word processor -- could be "finished" is totally alien to the way we think about our tools. Most geeks would say that "finishing" is impossible. But the 12C shows that's not true.

Hewitt's company has done a lot of great things, and people will write about most of them over the next few days. I hope the 12C doesn't get lost in the shuffle.

A man who did good in the world (2)

Alien54 (180860) | more than 13 years ago | (#510436)

Looking over the various comments ...

Here we have a man who did good in the world, and who is responsible for many of the good things that technologists look forward to and enjoy today.

That his inheritance and legacy might be not as skillfully managed as could be desired is lamentable, but understandable. Not everyone is particularly gifted.

So now is a time to honor the good he did, not to puke on his grave because his successors are not as skilled.

Hind-sight is 20-20. How many of us got out of the dotcom bubble before it burst? Should we pick on you because you didn't? Probably not.

We would probably do well to try and figure out what we would or could have done different given a particular engineering problem. It would probably be a good educational execercise.

Go Forth! (1)

Uberminky (122220) | more than 13 years ago | (#510437)

Try it [] , it's fun!

Is it called "polish notation" cuz it's backwards? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#510438)

C'mon! That caaaaan't just be a coincidence? Polish jokes are as old as the hills!

Re:Hewlett Packard (3)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#510439)

Yes, Woz used to work for HP, and speaks highly of the company.

Woz had designed TWO computers. The first was a slick Dual Z-80 machine with intergrated monitor that ran CPM (CPM was the most popular OS in those pre-MSDOS days). The second Z-80 cpu was used as a Video Co-processor! That computer later became the HP-125 and sold for $3500. And HP sold several of them. I own a later version, the HP-120 (same machine as the HP-125, much smaller case).

The second computer was a cheap 6502 based machine with a rom based OS. The OS had not even been developed yet. It was so cheap, you had to use a TV for a monitor. HP was not interested in building that one. But if Woz was interested, he could build it himself. And if it didn't work out, HP still had a job if he wanted one.

The Apple 1 was designed at HP, and sold for $666. And everybody owned the later version, the Apple II.

Given the above choice, most companies would chose to build the $3500 slick machine. What HP did that was significant was to let Woz *HAVE* the other design. Even though it was designed on company time.

And this wasn't an isolated event. Dozens of Sillicon Vally companies started inside HP. Tandom's original computer was basically a HP-3000 Series 2 with a dual CPU.

This is part of the HP Way.

And this is how Bill and Dave started Silicon Vally.

Enjoy your rest, Gentlemen. You Deserve It.

And Much Thanks.

Re:RPN is a bad thing (2)

eric17 (53263) | more than 13 years ago | (#510440)

You don't enter mathematical expressions on calculators (yeah, now there are graphing calcs but back then..). You enter numbers and operations. Even on an "algebraic" calculator, you have the notion of an accumulator. So you can enter 5*5=*5= for example, which Miss Brown never wrote on the board in my first grade classroom. It's really just a difference in user interface. There are pros and cons to both methods.

Does there yet exist... (2)

Snowfox (34467) | more than 13 years ago | (#510441)

Does there yet exist a Palm calculator program which can hold a light to the HP48 series calculators?

Applies to all the 1xC devices (2)

localroger (258128) | more than 13 years ago | (#510442)

I bought one of the very first HP11C's for the princely sum of $135 back in 1981. Still have it, and only in the last year has it died. Being as this is Louisiana, I probably need to take it apart and clean the keyboard. The batteries may also be dead. But what a convenient little machine -- it actually fits in a shirt pocket. Of course, I could always buy another one -- I think they're down to about $35.

When I bought this cutie the alternative was a TI-35. Had one of those, too. I recall vividly how it failed the "twist test" -- grab each ends, attempt to rotate in different directions. The TI would twist a good 10 or 15 degrees; the 11C not at all, that one could detect visually. And of course the 11C had good ol' RPN, inherently theft- and borrow- proof, as well as faster and more efficient than the () keys on the TI.

Of course, HP did many other things. The very first computer I ever used was a HP2100A minicomputer. This was back in '74 or so when I was just a wee snip of a programmer-to-be and my Dad had to show me how to use the Model 22 teletype machine that was its user interface. Imagine, for only $40,000 you could get a massive 4Kx16bit nonvolatile RAM (hand-threaded magnetic donuts), and an impressive array of pushbuttons with which to set and retrieve memory contents. And nothing else. The high-speed optical tape reader (inch-wide, 8 holes across) came later, as did the optical Hollerith card reader.

I was writing software, pidgin as it was, and I had never heard of Intel. Imagine that.

Long live innovation! (1)

ca1v1n (135902) | more than 13 years ago | (#510443)

Say what you will about HP's printer drivers (come on, any business will have its quirks) but this man was an innovator. A legend has died. I'm extremely curious who will step up to fill the ranks. Rest in peace, Bill Hewlett. Long live innovation!

I resent the calculator remark :) (1)

jkc120 (104731) | more than 13 years ago | (#510444)

For those of us who have actually used an HP 48G or GX or any HP calculator for that matter, we know they rule! I can calculate things more quickly on an HP 48G than any bozo with a TI 85 or 92.

Better than living to see Carly kill HP (1)

Ars-Fartsica (166957) | more than 13 years ago | (#510446)

At least he went out while HP is still at least a shadow of its former self.

Things are looking good for the valley dinosaur known as HP. Carly is quickly running it into the ground. Cheap Taiwanese printers are $39 at the grocery store (and don't bring up the "lose on the printer to sell them the cartridges" crap - you can't support a company like HP on ink cartridges, which coincidentally are also dropping in price nearly as fast as printers). Superdome is a dud. HPUX is on its way out. HP's gambit on Itanium was disastrous (as it was for Intel). The PWC debacle as well as the earnings miss have ravaged the stock.

This is a company in serious trouble. Thankfully the founders did not live to see it end up like SGI.

RPN is a good thing (5)

sparcv9 (253182) | more than 13 years ago | (#510449)

Hewlett-Packard: responsible for confusing generations of calculator users.
Confusing? What's so confusing about having a stack and using reverse-postfix notation? In high school, I went from a TI-45 (or something like that -- the 8x and 9x series had yet to be birthed into existance) to an HP-46G. I never went back to a standard calculator. The HP calcs made sense, and you weren't limited to a linear string of calculations like you were with other calulators on the market at the time. Hewlett-Packard was far, far ahead of the other pocket calculator manufacturers back in the day.

It's sad to see that one of the men responsible for all of this in no longer with us.

Tasteless... (1)

z-axis (195410) | more than 13 years ago | (#510450)

...especially considering that the HP calculators' postfix notation is in fact quite a bit more efficient, and I would personally say easier to use (once you learn it), than infix. That calculator remark, aside from being tactless, seems to be an awfully silly thing to say on Slashdot where we're supposed to be all about old-school geek sorts of things like that.

Hewlett Packard (2)

bartok (111886) | more than 13 years ago | (#510451)

The company Woz worked for before he and Jobs founded Apple. the company that didn't think Woz's inventions had any future and allowed him to do whatever he wanted with the thing. If Hewlett was responsible for the short sightedness in Hewlett-Packard, the let's hope he brought it in his grave. (that wasn't maent to sound mean).

Re:Dim the lights in Palo Alto (2)

slickwillie (34689) | more than 13 years ago | (#510454)

Maybe Pacific Gas & Electric will start their rolling blackouts there. Naw, too many rich folks.

Re:No class. (1)

Rew190 (138940) | more than 13 years ago | (#510455)

Why does noone EVER consider that if the guy who the joke is "on" were still alive, he'd get a laugh out of it as well? Jeez. It's not desecrating the man, it's lightening up an otherwise depressing or morbid post. Calm yourself.

Re:RPN (3)

slickwillie (34689) | more than 13 years ago | (#510456)

I'll tell you what's confusing. My first calculator was an HP-25. I was perfectly comfortable learning and using RPN. Now I have trouble using my Casio, what with all those parentheses and other damn fool things.

HP-25 program for Fibonacci series (I might have forgotten the exact syntax - it's been 25 years):

First push 1 then 0 to the stack

00 - push
01 - push
02 - pop
03 - pop
04 - +
05 - pause
06 - goto 00

In honor of one of the true technology pioneers... (1)

Fervent (178271) | more than 13 years ago | (#510458)

Both in business and in invention, I salute you.

-Be a man. Insult me without using an AC.

Yes, it's lack of class. (2)

beri-beri (256875) | more than 13 years ago | (#510459)

I mean hell, obviously the guys at slashdot thing highly enough of Bill Hewlett to post about his death, which is a tribute to him in and of itself.

The wroooong part here is that I don't think Slashdot makes a gesture by paying atention to its death. Slashdot should feel obliged to make a gesture, for instance by posting a decent and humble comment about a man for which most of its readers own something.

Maybe HP had more employees than readers than Slashdot readers that will read this article, have you thought about that?

Re:The 12C is a unique tech achievement (1)

Rew190 (138940) | more than 13 years ago | (#510462)

Well I wouldn't say ABSOLUTELY finished. I'm sure that every person who uses a financial calculator says to themselves on a daily basis...

"This is damn good. But I wonder what a Beowulf Cluster of these baddies would be like..?"

something I've always wondered at... (2)

dangermouse (2242) | more than 13 years ago | (#510463)

is the feeling of superiority that comes over owners of RPN calculators. I mean really, what the hell?

I know shell CLI is more efficient than any GUI for almost any task, but I don't run around hoping someone will ask to borrow my shell so I can mock them with my shell-scripting buddies. Nor do I sniff at anyone using a GUI and remark that they should be using a "real" interface.

You have the More Efficient Calculator, and you Know How To Use It. Freaking great. It's a damn calculator. Get over yourselves.

(Yeah, I know that burned some karma.)

faster input, but... (1)

esoteric0 (105786) | more than 13 years ago | (#510464)

it's a good thing that RPN is so much faster, because the hp48xx (and even the 49g i believe) are only using a 4 MHz processor. i really don't understand that. they really had a chance to improve with the 49g, but instead they are still slow, and the calculator case is even tackier. give me a TI-92+ any day. it has a 12 MHz processor and much finer resolution on the screen (bigger too, heh).

Re:Dim the lights in Palo Alto (2)

levendis (67993) | more than 13 years ago | (#510465)

...and inevitable :)

Insolent and Disrespectful (1)

tiny69 (34486) | more than 13 years ago | (#510466)

Hewlett-Packard: responsible for confusing generations of calculator users.

Someone like William Hewlett dies and all you can say is this?

You need to be taken out back and beaten senseless with a LART.

Co-creator of Silicon Valley. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#510467)

Just remember when you're queueing up with the rest of the poseurs at Buck's or Il Fornaio that it was Hewlett and Packard that made the Valley the place to be.

Would have expected a better RPN comment from /. (4)

_N0EL (245472) | more than 13 years ago | (#510468)

Hewlett-Packard: responsible for confusing generations of calculator users.

How many of you have over the years thoroughly enjoyed handing your HP to someone asking to borrow your calculator, only to see the look of horror and disbelief on their face seconds later? Better yet, how many friends have you made when the borrower knew how to use RPN?

When I was at Rose-Hulman Institute of Tech (before it was coed) we'd get together and have calculator races with our HPs (yes, on Saturday night). I was so disappointed when the carrying case of my most recent HP48G didn't have a belt loop! What have we become???

Re:No class. (5)

EZLN (130985) | more than 13 years ago | (#510469)

Ok, this is kinda offtopic, but man, chill. Everyone always gets all uppity when someone dies and takes things way to serious. I mean hell, obviously the guys at slashdot thing highly enough of Bill Hewlett to post about his death, which is a tribute to him in and of itself.

I think they also handled it right by not getting all uptight about it, that's not the way to celebrate someones death, it's to be happy and rejoice in the life they had, i mean hell, if you can be happy and laugh ever once in a while then what the hell is the purpose of life.

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