SLAC Colloquium Series

SLAC Colloquium Series


Colloquium Detail

Taking Measure: Evolution of a Tools Maker

Date: 2/8/2010

Chuck House
Stanford University

Hewlett-Packard, or HP, emerged from the Stanford Electrical Engineering labs as a tools maker for engineers and technicians involved with AM radio in the late 1930s. This "measurement" bent served them well, through an amazing evolution-to FM, VHF, TV and microwave communications, and then to tools for chemists, biologists, physicists and doctors, not to mention key tools for oceanography, astronomy and civil engineering. It was almost a byproduct that led them into computing, printing and imaging-and divesting the "old HP" into a new company named Agilent. This odyssey had lots of twists and turns, in fact, it was wildly improbable for both the path and the impact.

Astonishingly, there has been little written about this evolution, or the people who did it and why they did so. Chuck House worked at HP for thirty years, and with his co-author Ray Price, conducted several hundred in-depth interviews to compile a comprehensive strategic history of the company. The book, recently published by Stanford University Press, has enjoyed solid reviews, and House brings an entertaining speaking style to our event.

House, a Research Scholar in Stanford's H-STAR Advanced Research Institute, is the Executive Director of Media X at Wallenberg Hall, now in his fourth year. He spent many years in industry, including executive roles at Intel, Dialogic, Veritas Software and Informix Software, following his lengthy HP career. He is an IEEE and ACM Fellow, one of America's "200 Wizards of Computing"(Smithsonian), and named one of the Top Fifty Contributors in Electronics for the 20th century by a national vote conducted by Electronic Design magazine in 2002 for his innovation leadership with logic analyzers for computer designers. HP named an annual award after him-the Chuck House Productivity Award. He was the first recipient in 1990. A Medal of Defiance preceded, given to him by David Packard in 1982-the only such award in HP history. House holds a BS in Physics from Caltech, an MSEE from Stanford, a History of Science MA from the University of Colorado and an MBA in Strategic Studies from UC San Diego.

Last update: October 03, 2013