1985 – Hewlett Speeches

Box 3, Folder 46 – General Speeches


March 18, 1985 – Symposium on Economics and Technology, Stanford, CA


3/18/85, Typewritten text of Hewlett’s comments


Hewlett says “Someone upstairs must be chuckling over the fact that he is involved in a seminar on Engineering Economics”  – since a course on that very subject was the only course he failed while at Stanford.”


Hewlett says he senses there is “a gap between the grass-root technical innovation and the very large corporations who are users of technical innovation. How do we move from the individual entrepreneur…to very large technically innovative companies…?”


He goes back some 25 years to the ‘$10 Million Syndrome.’ “This reference.” he says, “was based on the observation that many technically oriented companies reaching about that size ran into serious problems. These problems were sufficiently severe that management could not cope with them, and the company either went out of business or was acquired by a larger organization.”


Hewlett describes three problems which tended to cause such a crises. The first related to management itself. “Typically, such organizations were started by engineers or scientists whose primary skills were in technical fields. They took the attitude that management will take care of itself. Unfortunately, it doesn’t and suddenly they would wake up to the fact that the organization they had created was not capable of meeting the challenges of the future.”


“The second problem concerned financing the growth. “The financial problems of a small company are very different from that of a large one. Initial capital is often available from the individuals themselves or from associates or friends, and certainly in small amounts from banks. However, these funds are quickly swallowed up in the basic working capital needs of a growing company. It is therefore essential that stress be put on the principle of financing growth from earnings.”


And the third problem concerns product line depth. “A new innovative product has a logical life. A company having demonstrated the viability of such a new concept soon meets competition from other companies attempting to exploit such ideas, or as it often happens, newer technologies invalidate earlier inventions. It is essential, then, that if a company is to survive, its product line must be expanded and strengthened. This speaks to continuing research and development efforts which, again, needs to be financed.”


Hewlett feels the only difference 25 years has made is a matter of size – the problems remain today. He sees all of these problems as a matter of economics – “for technically innovative companies, large and small, are affected equally by the economic climate in which they exist. A rudimentary knowledge of economics is really essential to direct the program of a modern corporation”



Box 3, Folder 47 – General Speeches


April 11-12, 1985, – “My Discussions with the Computer,” HP Conference on User Interfaces, San Francisco, CA


4/11-12/85, Copy of typewritten text of talk


In this talk Hewlett quite frankly admits that he is a novice in working directly with computers, and he tells of his frustrations in trying to follow user instruction manuals. One paragraph in particular tells it all:


“It was not until we began to make general purpose computers that my frustration reached a boiling point. I used a new generation of computer whose name I shall not use to protect the guilty. I spent two full days having to learn how to load programs by reading the instruction book from cover to cover several times. In the end I simply threw in the sponge and called for help. The only stipulation was that each step in the process was to be identified by a paragraph number in the instruction book. I can assure you that this turned out to be impossible.”


Hewlett understandably concludes  that “Proper instructions on how to use a computer is just as important as the design of the computer. And I can assure you, that the team that designs a computer is not the team that should write the instruction book. The writing of a good instruction manual is and should be a highly professional matter. To turn it over to the designer can be a disaster, for he simply cannot put himself on the same level as the average user. He inherently assumes a higher level of knowledge than the customer is apt to have. Skills for writing instruction manuals are related to such professional fields as communications, education or psychology, all having something to contribute. In fact, instruction manual writing should really be a field by itself.”


6/2/86, Memo from Brian Egan of HP to Hewlett asking if he could get a copy of the speech made by Hewlett at the User Interface Conference in San Francisco in 1985.

6/30/86, Note from Mollie Yoshizumi, Hewlett’s Secretary, to Brian Egan, sending the requested copy.

7/3/86, Note from Egan to Mollie Yoshizumi thanking her for the copy.



Box 3, Folder 48 – General Speeches


November 16, 1985 – Commencement Exercises, Rand Graduate Institute, Santa Monica, CA


11/16/85, Copy of Hewlett’s comments as printed in a booklet containing other speeches

These are some brief comments made by Hewlett on receiving the honorary degree of Doctor of Public Policy.


Hewlett makes a very brief statement. He says he is not sure what he has contributed to Rand, but he is sure Rand has contributed a lot to him. “…it introduced me to many other operations I would never have gotten into except for my experience here at Rand…. I’m very, very  much indebted to my experience here at Rand. I consider it a great honor to receive this degree. Thank you very much.”