Friday, April 4, 2008

Start-ups -- always nervous for the leaders?

Notes from Lucile Packard's scrapbook, on display at the Los Altos Museum 'Dave and Lucile" exhibit Jan-Jun 2008:

Letter to her mother in August 1937 (after Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard have mused with two others about starting a company for four years): “I’m afraid most of these serious discussions are just a lot of playing around. Maybe I’m wrong, and someday the world will beat a pathway to our door, to see that great engineer who did this or that with this or that.”

Letter to her mother in May 1938, after Hewlett has implored Packard to leave General Electric and come back West with a memorable note that “there will never be a better time, and I feel that we must act”.[i] “Dave won’t get out of bed. Sometimes he gets to the edge of the bed and sits there in deep contemplation of the floor or his feet for ten minutes, but eventually he will get up…”

Engineers don't start out thinking like, or looking like, business folk. Lucile's letter to her mother, from New York, dated 'Monday' (~ July 1938) : “I’ve decided that he really is good-looking – that is, when he combs his hair, and washes his face and hands.”

Letter from his father Sperry Packard in Pueblo, Colorado, from whom he was mostly estranged, who sent him $100 for Xmas 1938, saying “to help you work out your problems” but admonishing him to buy a suit because “it is possible for someone brilliant to be careless about appearance, … but you cannot do that any longer. Your fine loyal wife is sticking with you and helping you work out your problems.”

[i] David Woodley Packard reported this letter at Hewlett’s funeral service. Many in the audience were surprised to learn that Hewlett provided the goad that launched the company. Both were careful, studious, and conservative; Hewlett frequently got there first and urged the more cautious Packard to act.


Anonymous said...

What a wonderful start to a compelling story...

I can't wait for more chapters!


yardi said...

What a cool story! I'm starting work at HP Labs in May (guess I'm a "newbie") and can't wait to check out this exhibit.
Would love to hear more anecdotes from other people who worked at HP back in the day!

chuck said...

The History Museum in Los Altos has a great exhibit on Dave and Lucile through mid-June. It includes a simulated workbench from the garage, courtesy of "Mister Microwave" Art Fong among others. It has "Lucile's Scrapbook" which is some great letters home when she first eloped. One that is priceless, says "maybe we can rent a place in Palo Alto for 50 cents"