HP of old times - ad at 60s Scientific American Magazine


Found this ad at a 60s Scientific American. The photo shows HP engineers rolling a timekeeping equipment on a airplane ramp. Sorry - i have no scanner at home.. Here is how it begins:



between 21 global timekeeping stations...

we lost a microsecond.

Last year, Hewlett-Packard engineers traveled with two "flying clocks" to 21 different timekeeping facilities in 12 nations, correlating their time standards to within tenths of millionths of a second. During this 31-day journey around the world, these portable clocks, without adjustment of any kind, kept to within one microsecond of each other and of the Hewlett-Packard frequency standard in Palo Alto, California. This is an accuracy equivalent to one second in 88,000 years, an accuracy that could guide an object from earth to the sun with a potential error of only a few inches.


HP cesium clocks have been used to compare the standard clocks of the different nations that paticipate in generating the Coordinated Universal Time since the program started. The basic model is 5061A. I bid on a service manual for it on Ebay but lost, I just wanted to read about the insides! With "high performance beam tube" and batteries for portability, the unit cost about $40,000 in the 1986 HP catalog. It is better than the national clocks because some countries' standards organizations (including the US) think they can build a better clock (best laid plans!)

I toured the US National Bureau of Standards facility in Boulder, Colorado where the US clock is kept. They told us that the US engineers have designed a clock with a cavity twice as long as other clocks which should theoretically work better. They tune it up and put it in operation as the standard clock but after a while it proves to have poor long-term reliability so they put an older clock back in its place. Then they work on the double-length machine for a while and the process repeats. (It was in the late 1980's that I learned this - they might have worked the bugs out by now.)

As I understand it, the way they accomplish the "coordinated" part of Coordinated Universal Time is by flying a bank of 8 HP clocks to all the national sites, comparing each clock to the HP clocks, then calculating a correction for each national clock to make them all agree. It is a continuous process.

This might be old information, but however they do it now, I'll bet some HP or Agilent clocks are involved!


Carly should smash all the tooling for the HP 5061A atomic clock. And burn up the schematic diagrams. And throw out the file cabinets where the engineers worked.

That way, the only way for a country to get another HP 5061A is a used one from eBay.

Besides, nobody needs atomic clocks anymore. All U need is an HP personal computer, running Microsoft Windows XP, so that you can trade e-mail and play videogames.

The software people can write an atomic clock simulator for it, so problem solved.


I wonder if they take Dr. Einstein's theories into account when they do the comparison?

Seriously, there very well may be some relativistic effects from flying the clocks around. Time should slow down on the plane relative to a "stationary" point on the Earth. These clocks may very well be accurate enough for that to matter.


Patrick posted:

"I wonder if they take Dr. Einstein's theories into account when they do the comparison? Seriously, there very well may be some relativistic effects from flying the clocks around. Time should slow down on the plane relative to a "stationary" point on the Earth. These clocks may very well be accurate enough for that to matter."

Correct. Have a look at this most interesting PDF document:

Around the World in Fifty Hours: Transport of Atomic Clocks

Best regards from V.


Thanks for this fantastic link! Really interesting and clear description.


One thing they have to do with the GPS satellite signals is compensate for the relatavistic effects of the signal falling down the gravity well onto a spinning planet. Subtle but important. As Bunky Hunt once almost said... a nanosecond ain't what it used to be.

I once worked on a seismic project that required time sync across the planet on the order of 10 milliseconds. This was almost impossible to achieve. Now with GPS, 10 nanosecond time sync can be had for a c-note and 1 nanosecond for a grand.



It's just the gravity part that GPS worries about (as well as time dilation due to their speed). They offset the satellite oscillator so that the received frequency is "correct." There is a big article about "Relativity and the Global Positioning System" in the May 2002 issue of Physics Today.

Were you doing location of seismic events?

Yeah, GPS has really made precise timing trivial. We used to hope for microsecond time from LORAN (after separating skywave and groundwave) for our Long Baseline Interferometry - and usually were close enough (meaning that it might take only several tries at correlating the data until you "found" the fringes). Nowadays, you plug in the clock offsets (we prefer to let our hydrogen masers do their own thing and measure time offsets against GPS) for all the sites and begin processing.


The project that we had the most problems with had stations in Egypt, New Zealand, Greenland, etc. Loran was not available. We had to use WWV, etc. which was REALLY grim at those distances.

At one time we built a portable clock that was moved to each of the stations for calibration. It was probably one of the most accurate non-atomic clocks ever built... into a 50 cal ammunition can no less. Try bringing one of those on an airplane today.

A much improved later version used the Navy TRANSIT satellites... but just send money for the receivers...


Current model for cesium frequency standard is 5071 and is a Agilent product. Please take a look at Agilent site, and read about 5071. In my opinion, Agilent looks very much like the old HP.

Why don´t we give up badmouthing current HP and its executives, and try to get Agilent to produce professional calculators ? They have the brains for doing it much better than HP, and Agilent customers are the target market for scientific HP calcs.


Does this not beg the question: Why didn't the calculators go with Agilent in the first place?

Maybe Agilent isn't any more interested in calculators than HP is.

However, I did find some pages on the Agilent website a while back with information about porting HP Series 80 programs to their current Windows-based Basic language VXI instrumentation systems. That was refreshing!


How about a petition

that we send to the board of directors of Agilent,

asking them to buy out the calculator topics from HP.

Everything I personally have noted thus far, in visiting this chat board the last 3 months, suggests that calculators are academic tools of intelligent scientific, engineering, and professional people. Such people are still represented at Agilent, makers of exceptionally sophisticated electronic instruments (impedance analyzers, oscilloscopes, frequency generators, etc etc etc).

Meanwhile, HP ding-dong board of executives is thinking about how to rip people off on the next hula hoop that they sell 20 million units of. Maybe they want to sign a joint merchandising agreement with "incredible hulk" to sell a computer that is painted green with a bottle of green slime in each packing carton.

HP management are idiots with no comprehension of test instruments, technical professionals, engineers, physicists, and other parts of the University (Academic) communities.

They should turn it over to Agilent and quit fooling around with something they know nothing about. Imagine the current crop of HP idiots holding the car-keys to the network analyzer products and infrastructure. They would go 'derrr how do you work it, derrr, lets discontinue it'.
They are too dumb to even know how to plug it in the wall, so thats why such instruments are at Agilent.

We should have a petition as such, and send it to both board of directors. No, I didn't offer to do all the work.
But I can clearly state that this is what we should do (rather than grouse about how Carly discontinues all the products..... of course she does.... she doesn't understand them, her brain is too tiny, understands only greed, and counting of money).


Hi, Norm;

put my name on the list, please.

Best regards.

Luiz (Brazil)

[quote](...)her brain (Carly's) is too tiny, understands only greed, and counting of money.[quote] Touchè!


I strongly support the idea of Agilent taking over the HP Calculator business. Another idea I had was that HP could sell its entire calculator business intact to another company that would be HP Calculator. MICRONPC was part of Micron Electronics Corp. until a few years ago. Their PCs got rave reviews, but Micron was not doing financially well with their PC division. Micron Electronics website www.micron.com sold their PC division (marketting, sales, manufacturing, etc.) to Gores Technology Group which called the division MICRON PC website www.micronpc.com. Micron PCs still got rave reviews. Recently when I got on the website www.micronpc.com I was redirected to www.buympc.com. If HP does not want to continue making quality calculators, they might considering selling their calculator division to another company.


Thanks for nod of approval Frank.

Although this idea has gotten very little replies, deep down, I think any of us on this chat board can see its true.

I didn't volunteer to do all the work...... I suppose its got to be Mr. David Hicks anyway because its about gathering of data online ......

But the essential detail is that "HP" is now a hula-hoop company with no appreciation of scientific instruments or the scientific community. They want to sell wireless internet cell-phones at Starbucks, and that is their mentality. They could be sitting on a cure for cancer and they would throw it in the dumpster so they could concentrate on their hula hoops.

The types of calculators the scientific community appreciates is entirely beyond the understanding of HP,
but Agilent would do very well with it, and probably create the models we would be satisfied with.

BTW isn't it humorous that the engineering/scientific community was able to create financial calculator design(s) that are immensely valued by the MBA/business types.

HOWEVER, the converse is not true... MBA/business types are not capable of creating (merely maintaining or selling even) a decent engineering/scientific calculator. I suppose there's no great surprise in that logic...... U wouldn't want to take a ride on a space shuttle designed by MBA/business types either.

C'mon.... volunteers....... approval...... petition...... lets change the world, let's excuse the diabolical beast (Carly) from a responsibility she does not want..... everybody will get happier.

- Norm

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