Time Travel: 15 Scenes From The HP Garage

Humble Beginnings

The HP Garage in Palo Alto, Calif., often referred to as the "Birthplace Of Silicon Valley," is an unassuming place at first glimpse. But in 1939, inside this 12 x 18-foot shack, Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard started the research and development work on early HP products such as the Model 200A audio oscillator.

Walking around this renovated private museum, located on a quiet, tree-lined street near Stanford University, affords the visitor a fascinating glimpse into a past where big ideas were hatched in small, seemingly unspectacular places.

The HP Garage isn't open to the public, but CRN recently had a chance to visit. Here we present 15 scenes that best capture its spirit.

Where It All Began

In 1938, Hewlett and Packard decided to put their plans for the company into action. They chose the house at 367 Addison Avenue specifically for the garage in back that became their workshop, which served as their R&D lab and manufacturing facility. The house was built in 1905 for Dr. John Spencer, a local doctor who was later elected mayor of Palo Alto.

Breath Of Life

During the renovation of the house in 2005, workers uncovered a number of items from the past, including this device, the "Breath Of Life" Lung Invigorator, which is believed to have been used by Dr. Spencer in his medical practice.

Birthplace Of Silicon Valley

A plaque in front of the house notes that the property has been listed in the National Register Of Historic Places by the U.S. Department of the Interior. It was granted this status in 2007, and the house is also California Registered Historical Landmark No. 976.

Where The Magic Happened

The HP Garage includes artifacts from the late 1930s, including tools, instruments and even coffee cans. Despite being remodeled in 2005, the location retains its rustic feel. Hewlett and Packard started their work in the garage with $538 in working capital, which includes the value of Packard's used Craftsman drill press.

Signs Of Activity

A cluttered workbench inside the HP Garage includes some old-fashioned tools and audio oscillator parts that probably would have seemed quite futuristic at the time.

Replacement Parts

Hewlett and Packard built and tested their first audio oscillator in the HP Garage, and this bin of leftover parts serves as a lasting reminder of their efforts.

Caffeinated Inspiration

A Schilling & Company coffee can in the HP Garage suggests that caffeine was just as vital to creativity and R&D in the late 1930s as it is today.

Cozy Comfort

The HP Garage isn't the only building in the backyard of 367 Addison: This 8 x 18-foot shed was where Hewlett spent the night during the early days of the company. Packard and his wife, Lucile, stayed in a three-bedroom ground-floor flat, and the three split the monthly $45 rent.

The First Product

Hewlett and Packard developed many products, but their first to come from the garage R&D work was the Model 200A audio oscillator.

Down To Business

This desk in Hewlett's shed, complete with blueprints and slide rules, makes it abundantly clear that an engineer once lived and worked here.

Tea For Two

Detail at 367 Addison includes this period kitchen table setup and a seemingly ancient wall telephone.

According to legend, Lucile Packard allowed her Wedgewood stove to be used for baking the paint onto the panels of the audio oscillators, though she later said the food cooked in the oven never tasted the same.

Engine Of Innovation

Projects in various states of completion are scattered around the HP Garage, as if to illustrate the lively engine of innovation that once cranked steadily away within these walls.

First HP Boardroom

The dining room of the house served as HP's first unofficial boardroom. It was here in 1939 that Hewlett and Packard entered their partnership with Norm Neely, HP's first salesperson, a relationship that would last 45 years.

Model 200A Audio Oscillator

HP's first product, the Model 200A audio oscillator, was used in the design and production of telephones, stereos, radios and other audio equipment. The product began as the subject of Hewlett's master's thesis at Stanford University in the late 1930s.

Garage Dedication

As this plaque commemorates, the HP Garage is dedicated to Greg Winter (1971-2004), an HP employee, archivist and historian.

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