Carly Fiorina meets Bill Hewlett


Fiorina did her best. "It's a great honor to meet you," she told Hewlett. She walked around the table, close to his wheelchair, and crouched down so he could hear her better. "I've been seeing all these pictures of you," she said. "And I want you to know, you were a hell of good-looking guy!" Hewlett just stared. Fiorina thought she saw a flicker of amusement in his eyes, but that was all. She promised to keep HP strong as a technical leader in its fields and to maintain the highest regard for what she called the company's "shining soul." She mentioned that she had been to the garage where the company started. She hoped that at least a little of her message was getting through. And then Hewlett muttered something. The visitors strained to comprehend. They picked up only one word: "Here." Hewlett spoke again. This time his male nurse translated. "Bill said, 'Get me out of here!' " the nurse explained.

[Passage is from page 72 of the book 'Perfect Enough: Carly Fiorina and the Reinvention of Hewlett-Packard' by George Anders.]


I think Carly should be sentenced to being responsible to rebuild Iraq ... where she must reside for teh rest of her life!!!! Maybe she and Baghdad looters deserve each other!


no text


I hopped over to a major online seller's website and looked at the reviews of this book. These excerpts from comments by an HP employee (who came from Compaq in the merger) reveal the "bad" side of the "New HP" culture ...

"Well, Bill and Dave brought an absolutely staggering amount of over-design into the company, and while that may have worked in the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, it gets in the way in today's marketplace more often than not."

"They did many wonderful things - but Bill and Dave's time has passed."

I guess this guy would call the 35, 67, 41, or 15 examples of staggering over-design.

Sigh .....


Yeah, I'll agree... sigh.

To me, it's a(nother) case of attitudinal poisoning... from passive absorption of some professors' or mentors' or managers' or writers' skewed philosophies on how a "modern" era is supposed to function.

There are old moral and ethical basics which are being ignored by our current culture on all levels and this is disguised as progress, or worse, profits. The change in HP calculators (as compared to the classic ones) is simply a small though irritating symptom of the entire world oriented in the direction of some famous place while sitting in a handbasket.


That comment from the new HP employee is indicative of the modern techie culture, where hardware is expected to crash and everyone knows that software is sold buggy and will need to be updated to even function. The old (HP) way, that "gets in the way in today's marketplace more often than not" was based on the now outmoded idea that somebody might just expect the dam thing to work.

The reason we saw our favorite pieces of consumer electronics used to navigate for blue water sailors, commercial airliners, military transports, and spacecraft is that they function, often in spite of how we treat them. That they still work twenty and more years after they were built is a testament to the culture that fostered them. HP was not the only company that made good quality RPN scientifics but until the mid eighties they made nothing but that. Several times they even redefined the idea of "the best possible".

I have used one particular example of "staggering over-design" every day of college and in my miserable excuse for a career since 1983. That's in the heat, in the cold, in rain and dust, in the Nevada desert and the upper Amazon. Lets see if Mr. Compaq/HP makes anything that even comes half way close to that. But lets not hold our breath while we wait.


"HP products fill real needs. And provide lasting service." So ended a little paragraph on the back of the cover of HP manuals, after proudly stating that HP products were ussed by "the most discrning customers in the world [...] including astronauts, alpinist, Nobel laurates and scientists..."

One day the paragraph disappeared from manuals and HP became the company we know today. What ever happened to that´philosophy is anybody´s guess.


Ah, db, as you alluded to, the problem is not whether they can or will produce items of the same quality; it's that they don't want to, because that's the way the "new math" teaches them to operate.


Partly, it our own fault.
We, as a customers, want to buy everything as cheap as possible. And maybe, we forgot, that some things can be made either cheap or reliable.

If I remember correctly, HP-41C was introduced almost 25 years ago and its cost was approx. 300 USD.
I do not know exactly, how much USD in 2003 equivalent of 300 USD in 1979, but I suppose that it can be something like 600 USD.
Can you imagine, that some normal customer will spend today 600 USD for a calculator ?

And also, there is also a second problem. In the 80's, almost everyone who had a programmable calculator or small computer (Spectrum, Commodore, TRS-80 etc.) was supposed to how to program it.
So, it was possible to have simpler, well designed hardware and small, bug free firmware, because the users/customers was able to make their own programs.
Today, waste majority of computer/calculator users does not have the knowledge how to formulate a problem which should be solved and how to write a program for solving it.

And not only regular users lacks this ability.
The young guys, who call themselves "programmers" lacks those basic abilities too. When they need to multiply the integer number by 2, they write something like "foo=2 x foo" and the compiler (also written by a bunch of young guys, who called themselves "programmers") will compile it as a call to int->fp conversion, fp multiplication, fp->int conversion.
And those young guys, writing the "programs" probably never heard about shift left operation.
But they must finish the program till Sunday, because Monday morning, there is a meeting of the top management and the project manager must have a nice presentation on color slides and the marketing manager convinced the top management, that the product must be on the market till the end of the month.


Yes, it is partly our fault. Admittedly the old classic HP calcs were darned expensive. Don't think as a proud owner of an original HP-34C I didn't rather have a 41CV or CX (especially the latter). It was all I could do to scrape up the $124 (what a deal! List price was tens of dollars higher) for the 34C.

But even the old HP marked up their products a bit (more than other companies). As an old lab rat, I can tell you that sometimes, we went with a competitor's model just because it could fit into our budget (but the people who got the HP equipment were usually very happy with it). Instead of $300 for the 41C, maybe $250 (this IS a big difference, especially if you're only a student). I know that to produce even a Spice-quality calculator would be expensive. But electronic components don't cost so much these days, either.

As for the quality of the end user, or the attitudes of contemporary management, no argument. Maybe the situation we have now is because they deserve each other... or THEY ARE each other. Where, though does this leave the rest of us?

I can see your point here, when they don't even bother to put together a truly good manual (and I don't mean content so much as correct grammar and usage or correct examples, etc.), and when they do, it is an "accessory" for "advanced users". You know, I knew how to program my 34C. I can program my 32SII. I am learning my 48G+ and 49G+ (and my son's 39G... he's still little; I have to teach him the basics of basic programming), but I have never and do not now consider myself a "programmer". When being one of the old "less expert" users makes one now "highly proficient" without actual change in ability is frightening.


As a 'young programmer', I assure you that 95% of programmers know binary math. And compilers are much smarter then you give them credit for. I have looked at the output from Intel's compiler - it is simply amazing.


I bought a new HP-35 for $295 in 1973. According to my handy CPI calculator, that is about $1220 in 2002 dollars. Ouch. That was after HP cut the price by $100. I think we have become spoiled by the glut of cheap electronic gadgets. I saw a display rack full of solar powered four-bangers in a local store, only $1 each.


Well, it is interesting to note that some people seem to be spending approximately $500 for little windows CE or Palm devices--like the Tungsten W. So maybe there is room for a $300 high quality device.

So yes, you might ask, "who would spend 300 bucks on a calculator" and the answer is "quite a few people" if you expand the category to "multipurpose digital electronic (computing) device".

On the other hand:

One of the other reasons that quality is now suffering, is the massive deflationary environment of the digital device. Obsolecence of devices is almost immediate--and this has been a problem for some years (decades!). The products are victims of their own success--inasmuch as manufacturing has continually evolved to produce a given product at a lower price, parallel with the ability to improve speed or other for a given price.

Or in other words, inventory is far more expensive--if it is digital devices--than it is for commodities such as cotton, wool, iron ore, ASTM A-53 GR B pipe, etc. So make it now, make it FAST, and keep moving.

But there is a market, and always will be, for devices where reliability comes first---but these are not produced by "big names" in mass-production. Yes, sometimes the proverbial $3,000 toilet seat is worth the money.

Perhaps there could be / is already a company producing devices--or even RPN calculators---at a price--which would be built for durability and reliability--at a price. And they would be made in USA---NOT China---- (or they would be made in Europe--not China). But not cheap. Most of us are not willing to make that jump. Yet. But one more broken $10 chinese POS______(fill in the blank: lamp, table, toaster, etc) that lasts 2 weeks and must be replaced, and I might just be happy with paying 10 times more for a high quality domestic product. Oh, but I forgot, we don't have any domestic manufacturing anymore (DEAD and GONE!) what!

Interesting to note that I could roll the clock back 40 years and say "Hong Kong KRAP" or 30 years ago and say "Japanese JUNK". So the trend continues, even as we now acknowledge that Japanese products are SUPERIOR (I drive a Toyota and dont Ever want another euro car (they cost too much and always break down) or GM (they cost too little and nickel/dime you to death).

-Bill Platt

Edited: 27 Oct 2003, 10:22 a.m.


Holy Cow,

is that book quotation for real?

You aren't just making this stuff up for our entertainment?

Got any further details? What year did it happen?

What was Bill Hewlett's underlying viewpoint ?

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