The HP Way is not only a historic document, but also a blueprint of Silicon Valley culture. Bill Hewlett and David Packard were like the old testament prophets who brought down the values from the top of a mountain. Despite the fact they didn’t get into semiconductors until pretty late in their enterprise they set the tone for the technology sector for the likes of Intel. Their ethos, egalitarian way of working and organisation culture is part of the Bay Area’s DNA. Their business is woven into the very fabric of the myths that make Silicon Valley.
Young geeks interested in homebrew computing used to dumpster dive HP trash for parts they could use in their own projects. The bench in the garage of a hardware engineer where he would be building the prototype of a world-changing widget would feature at least some HP test equipment. Steve Wozniak took the Apple I to his employer HP before Steve Jobs and him set up Apple.
Apple’s laser focus on product design, quality and customer service is mirrored in the writings of Packard decades earlier.
Packard tells his and Bill Hewlett’s story in a matter of fact way. It is honest and informal like a blog post, though it is obvious that he had at least one eye on how history would judge both him and Hewlett. Returning to The HP Way after having first read it in the early 1990s, I was struck by how progressive it was. At the time HP must have had more testosterone running round it than the average episode of Mad Men; yet managed to produce a thoroughly modern organisation.