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William Hewlett Dead 171

scratch writes: "Computing pioneer and all 'round good guy Bill Hewlett has died. NYT obit is here ." Hewlett-Packard: responsible for confusing generations of calculator users.
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William Hewlett Dead

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  • I know, right? HP is a great big company now, but the close ties brought on by Hewlett's managerial style live on. I work for the first HP spinoff, (AMT), separated in 1992, and we in turn do some work for the most recent (and recognizable) HP spinoff, Agilent, and the remnants of HP culture are still here, quite strongly... Hewlett and Packard are two who did American Business the right way -- and in a way that many geeks can appreciate, because it wasn't begun as a money grubbing venture by capitalists, but as a chance to do something technically great by some great engineering minds..

    &nbsp &nbsp S*it like this makes me lose even more respect for slashdot's submission editors... I'm afraid the only thing keeping them alive is the lack of a real successor, so all the readers are going down with the ship so to speak..

  • by ezesch ( 70007 ) on Friday January 12, 2001 @05:35PM (#510300)
    I remember my first programmable calculator, an HP-67, programmable, card reader for storage! Maybe its in my genes, but RPN seemed very natural to me. Last time I tried to use it I found that the card drive wheel had turned to gunk. I just found the HP Museum site with repair info.
    I may get that thing running again.
    By the way, /. needs a script to filter out posts with screens of empty lines in them. Some jerks can be so annoying.
  • Long, long ago in a college CS lab far, far away I was involved in a heavy geek argument about whether infix or postfix (algebraic or RPN) was the One True calculator interface. I argued that RPN was quicker and easier while the other side argued that the whole point of a calculator was to reduce mental effort, and RPN caused additional brain work as compared with the "natural" notation.

    This discussion had elevated to red-faced, vein-popping religiosity when someone suggested that we perform an experiment. The suggester wrote down a half dozen complex calculations in standard algebraic form and then asked the proponents of each side to go up to the whiteboards and write down the series of keystrokes that would be required on their favorite calculator.

    I should mention here that I was a lab rat wannabe at this point in time. I had just barely graduated to the level of acceptance that would permit me to stay in the lab after formal closing time, but I was still far from the stature required to get someone to actually open the door and let me back in if I happened to wander out to the bathroom or to get a coke. I was still aspiring to the day when I could ask a question of the real lab rats and get more than an affirmative or negative grunt. My opponents in the dispute were uber hackers and lab gods. I mean, these guys had keys to the lab, by Knuth, and... bow your head in reverence when you read this... and these guys even had root. Not on just a machine or two, either. All of them. I was tangling with the undisputed masters of the domain, men with the power to bind and loose in all things labbish. I could not back down and I could not fail; the loss of face would be unbearable. Not to mention that I'm generally incapable of backing down in any argument. I'd argue the nature of Catholicism with the Pope if given a chance.

    So, when our volunteer proctor shouted "Go!" I started to write fast and furious, cranking as hard and as fast as I could. My nose almost smeared my work, so intent was I, so focused, so determined. But then this was a matter not of petty life or mere death, but of Lab Access.

    When I added the last '/' to the long list of operators that completed my solution to the sixth and final problem I looked up to get an idea of whether or not my assertion that RPN requires fewer keystroke was going to make me or break me in the pecking order of the lab. To my immense surprise, the lab gods were arguing over the placement of a parenthesis in the *fourth* problem! I knew then that my gamble had paid off. And truly, from that day forward when I asked a question I got both a grunt *and* a pointer to the appropriate man page.

    Seriously, that test and a few others showed that for complex calculations RPN required approximately 25% fewer keystrokes and 40% less time. But the real kicker was that when we actually ran the keystroke sequences through real calculators we discovered that the non-RPM dudes tended to make many more errors. In fact in that first test, they had only gotten one of the calculations correct, and I had only gotten one wrong. Their mistakes were due to misplacements of parentheses in deeply nested constructs. My one problem was due to the fact that my venerable HP 11C only had a four-level stack and I dropped a value off the bottom.

    So, in case anyone needed to know, RPN is the One True Way of Calculators. I never did like FORTH, though :-)

  • And people are supposed to find the sine of an angle *how*?

    Log trig tables?

    TI-30 type calcs are available for 10 to 15 bux these days. You're telling me that the university has figured out that some people can't afford a calc with basic trig and stat functions?

    That regulation at your uni is just _stupid_.

    A calculator is a tool, just like a hammer or a screwdriver. Out in the real world, people don't care if your toolbox is full or empty, just that you can do the job. A good calculator is _essential_ these days if your job revolves around any kind of math. Requiring only 4 function calcs for work done at your university is a sign that they suffer from the worst of "ivory tower syndrome" and have no clue as to what's going on in the real world.

    You should be learning how to use the latest and greatest tools, because that's what you'll be using once you graduate. If someone told me I'd have to do all my shit in a 4 function calc, I'd whack that person repeatedly over the head with my HP manual until he or she becomes enlightened.
  • He disn't "invent" the variable frequency audio oscillator, but instead his first commercial product was an audio VFO... for use as a piece of electronics test equipment. His first customer for that audio oscillator was none other than Walt Disney, for use in calibrating audio recorders used in film production.
  • You might be surprised. My fraternity [] is known as the computer science house, though that's not totally factual in reality. When our friends need computer help, they come to us. Last year we graduated the 2000 class valedictorian.


  • I agree. It was pretty tactless. If it had been Linus, instead of a business maven, I'd expect the reaction to be different.

    -Be a man. Insult me without using an AC.

  • *prefix* notation makes much more sense than either postfix or infix. Consider: "multiply two and four" vs. "two multiply four" and "two four multiply". Which sounds more natural?
  • While I don't have a 67, I have had luck making up rechargable battery packs (which is what I assume the 67 has) by buying cordless phone battery packs, cutting them open, and soldering the batteries together to make a new battery pack with the right number of cells.

    Take apart the old pack, and take it with you so you can match the length and diameter of the cells to what is available in the store.

  • One of the things about many of the Slachdot readers is the fact that we tend to like things that are a little different when compared to "the norm." We like to use operating systems that many people find "hard to use" because we can manipulate it far more than other OSes. Even our social lives are a little different from others, in that we chat online more than we call people on the phone. RPN should be a natural proggression for most people here.

    But let's not forget something that really matters here. There's one thing that really stuck out to me that should make us all stand up and recognize Mr. Hewlett and Mr. Packard and that is their management style and attitude towards running a technology company.

    Hewlett and Packard shared basic beliefs about managing a company: disdain of strict hierarchy and formality, admiration for individual creativity and initiative, and trust in employees. Packard wrote down the company credo, which became known as the "HP Way."

    Now what Slashdot user can disagree with that? This RPN or no RPN discussion has taken focus away from some of the greatest things about HP. I'm not a huge media fan, but their comercials, as of late, are rather good in their portrayal of a company who's major goal is "Inovation." I thank every person alive and passed on that has helped change the face of business today because of their willingness to discard appearance and structure and focus on making things better.

    My hat goes off to you Mr. Hewlett. Your life has been an inspiration to all and we thank you for your wonderful contributions.


  • I agree. H-P is definatley one of the best(meaning least evil and market driven) of the big corporations(microsoft, Dell, compaq, etc). Their computers were always miles ahead of compaq's (which isn't hard to do), but what i admire so much from them is their quality peripherals. I have friends that have hp printers that are old as hell and they can still get cartrigaes for them and they still WORK. Their CD-writers are by far the best after Yamaha(my experience is that the HP writers produce less coasters, though). I've always likes HP-UX over solaris, except for the fact that there isn't as much support for it.

    They've also been one of the best places to work for. Employees were always treated like people. I just hope with the two founders out of the picture and PC sales slowing that HP doesn't resort to some of the tactics that others have had to use.

  • It seems you limit people with PCs into three groups: user and hobbyist. well there is a thrid, career.

    Apple brought computers to the public and made them flourish. The hobbyist could never do that, becuase the hobbyist is only concerned with the neat little things he can do with the machine rather than discovering how he can bring his passion to the public.

    There's a rule when dealing with people K.I.S.S.: Keep It Simple Stupid. Apple did just that. Perhaps it wasn't the best machine that you could get, it was the easiest and it introduced people to the world of computers. There are many more computer hobbyists today because of the Apple and there is an industry thriving today that hobbyists can make some money in because of the Apple.

    You are a bitter little nerd, you are whining because your little club isn't so little and special anymore. Well wake up and face reality. Technology only advances when society WANTS it to advance. If it wasn't for Apple putting the want for PCs into society we would still be sitting with altairs playing with soldering irons and hoping instead of the spectacular achievements we have sitting on our desks today.

  • look for an app called RPN Calc,
    it has a really well thought out interface
  • >Of course now I've dated myself Not really half of the schools i'm appling to for next year have there intro or second year computer science course in scheme which,like lisp is prefix. In all honesty the only problem i have is that in a period of 2 weeks i was working scheme c++ and forth, and so my thought process kept ketting entangled. Muerl
  • by costas ( 38724 ) on Friday January 12, 2001 @08:50PM (#510313) Homepage
    Packard and Hewlett were two great gentlemen. I was at Stanford when Packard died in 1996; only then, reading the man's obituary did I realize that the two of them and their families had given tens (if not hundreds) of millions to the school they dropped out from.

    And the reason I hadn't realized that was that most of the buildings they funded had the names of others (on their request), most notably Dr. Terman's, their EE prof who pushed them to form a company and helped them out when HP was still two guys out of a garage.

    That's class people...

  • Standard calacuators work on a bizrar versiion of prefix, for log, Sqrt, ext, postfix, for Sqrd or Cubed, and infix, for * + / - and ^. Similar to c++. the HP simplifies all this because everything is postfix similar to Forth. Muerl
  • I'm not aware of how you learned to add, but traditionally one writes down 1 and then writes down 2 below it, a plus sign next to the 2 and then draws a line and adds the two numbers. This is exactly how it is in RPN.
  • ...will print only black ink in mourning.
    They did make a damn fine line of printers.
  • by dsginter ( 104154 ) on Friday January 12, 2001 @05:35PM (#510317)
    Hewlett-Packard: responsible for confusing generations of calculator users.

    So these generations of users were confusing? What does this have to do with HP?
  • My engineering undergraduate career was made easier once I learned RPN and stopped making calculation errors.

    My HP 42 and 32s calculators are also tough enough to last me into my career and many on site construction jobs (civil engineering stuff.)

    Also HP mass spectrometers are great all well, although not sutable for consumer use.
  • The pioneers of this generation of computing will do their job: they'll build a platform on which future things are build later.

    Physics doesn't need another Isaac Newton -- it needs a Stephen Hawking. Computer Science doesn't need another Babbage -- it needs a Donald Knuth.

    We'll always need innovators, but the nature of the innovation will change at each logical generation.

  • by Orp ( 6583 ) on Friday January 12, 2001 @05:42PM (#510320) Homepage
    Hewlett-Packard: responsible for confusing generations of calculator users.

    Are you kidding? Reverse Polish Notation is a wonderful thing. Who needs parentheses (a la TI) anyway... just pop the stack. I fondly remember my 1st HP calculator... an 11C I think... and still use my 41 CX (with Math/Stat plugin doodad) when doing problem solving.

    I think the 15 C could do arrays operations, such as solve determinants and systems of equations etc. When I was in college my 41 CX saved me a few points on an exam; I was solving an integral by hand and missed a sign and that became apparent after approximating the integral solution with the calculator.

    In fact, now that I think back, the 41CX was my high school graduation present. Such fond memories. Rest in peace Mr. Hewlett!

    Leigh Orf
  • Dont forget that Palo Alto has its own power plant and is not effected by PG&E
  • Everyone knows that RPN is the best way to use a calculator! :-)
  • Saw some plan somewere once to augment the stack using a SDRAM chip somewere, though you would have to be good with a sodering iron. Muerl
  • Does anyone know of an avable RPN "$10" calculator? Some math competions require that aq calculator not be able to do symbolic manipulation, and all HP products that i have found are of this variety. Muerl
  • >To top it off, HP calculators tend to be so much more durable than the offerings of TI, Casio, and Sharp and the keyboards can't be beat for feel and durability.
    True, I have friends who have bought 3 Ti 83 in 5 years. I have bout 2 HPs in 7 years but that was only because I wanted a GX. The only thing that hurt my hps was when a "friend" spill shampoo onto the screan when i was away for a few days, I needed to get the LCD replaced, and that was it. Quite Durable.
  • Heh heh heh. My high school mostly used TIs in the math classes, but I and a few other rebellious types went and bought 48Gs. Fostered a good sense of cameraderie, and yes, I too was amused by the priceless looks of the RPN-uninitiated who tried to borrow my calculator. I don't think any other calculator company has such a devoted following.
  • I appreciate your sentiment for Mr. Hewlett. For most test equipment HP couldn't be beat. Agilent makes good stuff now, they are just a pain to deal with. That said, HP scopes have always sucked. The 545xx series digital scopes sucked, and their newer models haven't gotten much better. If TEK has lost scope market share, they've lost it to Fluke with it's line of scopemeters, not HP.

    Still it's amazing how far one company has gone from having the 200CD oscillator as thier only product. It was a sad day when the spun the test and measurement division off into Agilent. Kinda like the company has forgotten where it came from.


  • It's Hewlett, not Packard, who passed away.
  • Hey, RPN is just a dream come true... All you C++ wusses don't appreciate Forth
  • On the HP48 press the single quote button ' then enter your expression in "normal" math notation (infix) and finally press eval. Don't have to deal with that "confusing" Reverse Polish Notation (sarcasm)

    RPN is much faster and easier once you get used to it. The best part about RPN is that when someone borrows your calculator, they stare at it for a few mins, then hand it back ;-)

  • I know exactly what you mean. The research lab I worked in had a LJII that had been cranking away since it was new, and when I left there (7 years ago), the page count was 350,000.

    When I have my HP-48SX at the office, I can reach for my now 22-year old HP-41C, that still works great, and if that isn't easy to find, I grab the HP-34C (23 years old) that's always in the drawer. The buttons on both of them still click like new. Amazing products. Too bad I don't plan on having kids, these would make great family heirlooms.

    WWJD -- What Would Jimi Do?

  • William Hewlitt graduated from my high school (Lowell High School) in San Francisco.... Over the years, he gave lots of money to the school. He paid for both of our computer labs (stocked with HP computers of course) Hewlitt was a great man, and his company still makes great products (my HP 935c is one of the best printers I've ever used). Rest in Peace, William Hewlitt.
  • The first electronic hand held calculator was the HP35. I saw it advertised in SciAm in 1972 and decided I had to have one. After working at minimum wage as a garbage man with ex convicts all summer getting maggots dropped down my back and drinking too much beer, I was able to get one for $495.

    Then the price dropped in half and the programmable HP45 came out.

    I learned my lesson about buying things on the bleeding edge very early on, except that the HP35 became a collectors item. :-)

    There probably won't be any more engineering cultures like the one built by Hewlett and Packard again until after the holocaust. I was fortunate to grow up when that culture was still alive and kicking.

  • I grew up right next to the HP corporate headquarters in Palo Alto, and HP has a very significant presence in the area. I think, however, that Hewlett and Packard ultimately had as much impact as philanthropists than as founders of a corporation. Evidence of their generosity is easy to see, and I hope that today's corporate leaders will continue in their tradition of community service and involvement. In this age of prima donna CEOs and often poor corporate citizenship, H & P are worth looking up to.

    And btw, I've been using RPN calculators since I was a little kid... it is entirely faster and more fluid than infix.
  • RPN is wonderful! After using my HP48 for years, it's very difficult to use any other calculator?

    Max V.
  • You need to just start browsing at 2. You won't see them anymore. Unfortunately you'll miss some decent posts by normal users that post at 1 as well though mixed in with the troll accounts. Moderators should take note to always browse at -1 though to make sure they're not missing anything good.
  • Me - "wossamatta, never seen a real calculator before?"

    Non HPer - "Man, that's fucked up. Why don't you use a _normal calculator_?"

    Hehe. I get similar responses when someone asks to borrow my HP48GX. After they fiddle with it for a few seconds they tend to just ask someone else with a lame TI graphing calculator. Those TI's seem to "high schoolish" for me. OK kids, get out your $10 Crapio calculator.. we're going to work on some algebra today.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    It's respectful and conservational.
  • By the way, /. needs a script to filter out posts with screens of empty lines in them. Some jerks can be so annoying.
    Do yourself a favor and browse with a hard threshold of 1. I started a few months ago, rather hesitantly because of the occasional worthy AC post. I haven't seen any lame trolls since, and every once in a while I crank it down to -1 to see why I did it in the first place.

    The only time I have to see that sh*t anymore is when I mod or metamod.

  • almost lost my dinner on that one, so I guess you can feel proud.
  • I must agree, the calculator is not confusing, rather, Michael is...

  • There is an incredible amount of desirepect shown in these posts for a brilliant and thoughtful. He deserves a holiday and a moment of silence. Much more than an obit and a two or three line article in Slashdot. Read your history......

  • That's great that you guys love Bill Hewlett and HP, but it was still a tasteless comment from Michael.

    Posting an obit is just not something you want to post a joke with... Period, the end.
  • The guy dies and all you can do is bitch about RPN. What a flaming jerk you can be!!!
    *Condense fact from the vapor of nuance*
    25: ten.knilrevlis@wkcuhc
  • by cjsnell ( 5825 ) on Friday January 12, 2001 @09:53PM (#510346) Journal
    In addition to being a notable geek, William Hewlett was also a member of theKappa Sigma Fraternity []. And I'll bet you thought that all fraternity guys were dumb geeks who couldn't turn on a computer to save their asses. :-)
  • A pretty detailed and interesting bio on Mr. Hewlett from the company: tm []

  • Mega-tasteless.. The moment I read it, it pissed me off. If someone said something like this to my face, and Mr. Hewlett was my father, I'd smash their head in for them.
  • HP products do run forever.

    The first calculator I ever used my my dad's HP-21 [], which he bought when he was in college. The calcualator is older than I am and still works fine, I have it sitting on my desk right now.

    Of course since I learned RPN first I can't stand to use a brain dead 'normal' calcuator.

  • What's so annoying about empty lines? Are you browsing with your HP-67 calculator?
  • by djocyko ( 214429 ) on Friday January 12, 2001 @06:15PM (#510358)
    Hey, I think it's a great compliment to him and tribute to his work to take note that he had a huge impact on the world (and despite that managed to get me to refuse to use one of his caclulators.) Anyway, like a nother guy here said, chill. If we can joke about him without guilt, we know we respect him.
  • by Shagg ( 99693 ) on Friday January 12, 2001 @06:15PM (#510359)
    Rest Peace In
  • Hewlett-Packard: responsible for confusing generations of calculator users.

    Well, if you say so ... I remember using an HP-27 back in '74 that was like giving water to a duck. (Hint: I was a freshman engineering major then). As a result of that experience, I shortly thereafter, spent the then princely sum of $450.00 for an HP-45. When the -45 died, I spent another $450.00 for the mighty HP-67 (magnetic cards, Oh JOY!).

    Whatever. As anyone here with an IQ > 40 will tell you, RPN if far superior to infix notation. Besides, it's pretty rude to make snide comments like that when linking to an obituary.

    Well, on that point, my mama always told me not to argue religious issues in public.

    It is kind of sad though. I have tremendous respect for anybody who can build the kind of company HP has become.

    I'm not all that sure about the company ... they've made some pretty serious faux pax over the past few years, but, that's the nature of the technology business. You pays your money and you takes your risks.

    All that aside, Bill Hewlett is one of those who took the techno-bull by the horns and made the world what it is today. Today we lost something that will be hard to replace. We lost a contributor.


  • It's the difference between expression oriented and operation oriented. Some of us can work with both. I do believe if I hadn't had that HP-35 (and stole my dad's HP-45 when mine died) I wouldn't have done quite as well with computers as I did. OTOH, maybe this is why I sucked at calculus :-)

    And I saw the HP-45 in storage a few months ago. Now if I could just find functional batteries for it.
  • I feel the same about my 48SX graphing scientific calculator. Interestingly, it seemed to devolve in its current incarnation, the 48GX. They added a bunch of pop-up menus, which fortunately can be disabled by setting a couple flags, and changed the classic brown blue, and orange HP color scheme to purple, green and blue, which looks terrible.

    Fortunately, my 12 year old 48SX is built to last. I've dropped it around a dozen times and had a tendency to really pound the keys during tests in college, but it's still got a lot of life left. It's not only the pinnacle of scientific calculators, but there's nothing being produced today that equals it.
  • Shit, yeah, it's on an HP-25 I learned to program more than 25 years ago...


  • I hope God gives him Heaven's garage to tinker in.

    Naah, that'll be for Woz...


  • Yahoo's coverage [] of the whole thing. And it's not even smut! ;)

    Damn I love my HP-48G. Once you use the beauty of RPN, you never want to go back!.

  • by BigBlockMopar ( 191202 ) on Friday January 12, 2001 @07:06PM (#510381) Homepage

    Hewlett-Packard: responsible for confusing generations of calculator users.

    At least you can be sure that once you've figured out how to use the damned calculator, you won't need to replace it for a *long* time.

    Hewlett-Packard: responsible for building indestructible test equipment and laser printers.

    At the office, we have a ten year old LaserJet IIID. It's had a fuser in it because our receptionist caught a label in it and scratched the teflon off it by trying to scrape the sheet out with scissors. Aside from that, a toner/drum cartridge every two weeks. Yes, a toner cartridge every two weeks. We do print that much, and the thing has never missed a beat.

    Estimating conservatively 3,000 pages per cartridge (probably more because we do lots of long documents) and 50 weeks in a year (actually 52, but that's okay):

    10 years x 50 = 500 weeks.

    New toner every 2 weeks = 250 toner cartridges.

    3,000 pages per toner x 250 = 750,000 pages.

    And to think that the office supply company told us to buy an offset press. Ha!

    More stuff should be built like that. It goes without saying that when the engineering department needed a printer of their own, we bought another LaserJet.

    Now, if only I could get that damned 25-year-old HP dual-trace oscilloscope to die so I can buy a new HP Digital Storage scope. Or the friggin' 35-year-old HP Microwave Power Meter that uses a bank of 12AX7s which require a few seconds to warm up but 20 minutes to stabilize before I can take a good reading.

    Damn you, Bill Hewlett. <grin> Sometimes excessive quality is a liability. And it's really cool to be able to complain about this.

  • by bmo ( 77928 ) on Friday January 12, 2001 @07:11PM (#510382)
    Is that really needed here?

    There's a reson why professionals such as surveyors, engineers, and toolmakers (like me) use HP calculators:

    They're not brain damaged. Brain damage is a calculator that does "algebraic" data entry, but does postfix notation when using the trig functions (Hello, TI and Casio). Consistency across the user interface, on top of RPN, makes for an extremely powerful and useful machine.

    Seriously, once one gets used to RPN (it takes about a week, or a day if you're really pounding the keys), there's no going back to infix math. Everything else just seems *inferior*. It's like the hackers' disdain for "strong typing".

    If there's anything confusing about calculators, it's trying to remember how deep the parentheses are nested in that nasty equation. RPN dispenses with parentheses entirely and gives the user a stack to push and pop numbers to and from. Algebraic calculators typically only limit the user to 6 layers of parentheses, but the HP stack is limited only by available memory.

    To top it off, HP calculators tend to be so much more durable than the offerings of TI, Casio, and Sharp and the keyboards can't be beat for feel and durability. HP calculators also tend to be logically laid out on the keyboard, and important functions on the graphical calcs are NOT buried under menus (my last Casio graphing calc put the most common trig functions in a menu. Really.), or if they must be menued, are only 2 keypresses away.

    I have also heard that Hewlett Packard calcs are "too expensive". I thought this too, until I bought one. HP is competitive with TI in this area. Hewlett Packard's calcs tend to be a bit *less* expensive than the corresponding offerings from TI on the high end (HP49G vs TI-92).

    In my not-so-humble opinion, there is no substitute for a good tool, and a Hewlett-Packard calculator is a Good Tool.

    Typical non-hp user vs Me.

    Non HP user - "Hey, can I borrow your calculator for a sec?"

    Me - "Sure" *hands calc*

    Non HPer - "WTF!?"

    Me - "wossamatta, never seen a real calculator before?"

    Non HPer - "Man, that's fucked up. Why don't you use a _normal calculator_?"

    Me - "I'm far from normal" *gives evil eye and a mad-scientist chuckle*

    Mr. Hewlett, we will miss you dearly.
  • Its not that RPN is confusing, it is that once you learn RPN, you can never go back. Now that my last HP calculator is dead and I really can't justify the price of another RPN model, I have to use the unix "dc" command to do all my math because I just can't reliably use an infix calculator anymore.

    All my engineering buddies who bought RPN calcs have exactly the same disability now too.
  • by s390 ( 33540 ) on Friday January 12, 2001 @07:23PM (#510390) Homepage
    When someone passes away in a community, those who knew them or knew of them will gather to raise a glass and remember their life; it's called a wake.

    I've got a glass of Chivas, and MP3s playing on the CD-R in my Thinkpad's DVD drive, so here's a story - just my small contribution to William Hewlett's online Slashdot wake.

    Tektronix started out building oscilliscopes. They built excellent and increasingly complicated oscilliscopes (in the 60's, I believe Tek was the largest private employer in Oregon). And they believed in hardware - hardcore EE: circuits, transistors, PC boards, ICs. They had all the big customers - US military, IBM, etc., all locked in. So Tektronix didn't notice much when HP started building oscilliscopes, too. Nor did they pay attention when HP started using _software_ to drive its new oscilliscopes. Tek's company culture was hardware, period. Big mistake.

    Over the following 10-15 years, HP took a big chunk of the oscilliscope market from Tektronix by using _software_ to build less expensive yet more versatile instruments. By the mid-80s (when I worked there for a couple years), Tek was visibly stagnating and losing its core customers. (At it's peak, they employed something like 20,000 people at several plants in the area).

    [Tek had an IBM 3090-200 at its headquarters campus, and two IBM 4381s at each of five satellite plants. I remember being impressed that I could logon to one system, submit a job to be run on a second system 20 miles away, and direct the printout to a third system 30 miles from it (that's called JES2 NJE, and it _still_ works like that... across oceans and continents, now).]

    Now Tektronix is a small fraction of that size, having sold off its printer business to Xerox and downsized steadily. The largest private employer in Oregon is now Intel, if I'm not mistaken.

    Who pulled the marketshare out from under Tek? Hewlett-Packard! HP used software to drive test & measurement devices... including oscilliscopes. Tektronix didn't get it, not in time.

    HP only started on computers much later, as an incidental line of business. Now, HP is a computer company, having spun off the test & measurement (plus medical) business into Agilent.

    Hewlett-Packard was smart enough to see the future and get there early. They've evolved the company and I take my virtual hat off to the memory of William Hewlett, a smart gentleman.

    I hope God gives him Heaven's garage to tinker in.

  • I understand California is experiencing a shortage in electricy supply.

    Given the shit [] HP sell today, attaching a pair of generators to Messrs. Hewlett & Packard ought to solve that problem.

    (Current owner of HP45, HP97, HP9815, HP31E, HP34C, HP41CV, HP16C, HP28S, HP38, and two HP48G calculators, HP9845B, HP85, and HP45711B computers, HP1707B oscilloscope, and HP1615A logic analyzer.)

  • by Jon Palmer ( 12614 ) on Friday January 12, 2001 @11:37PM (#510393)
    H-P's first product was an audio sine-wave oscillator based on Hewlett's MSEE thesis at Stanford. He has described how he baked the paint on the front panels in the home oven while his wife was gone, and how Walt Disney Studios gave them their first order for 8 oscillators, which financed them to make more. But nobody here has yet mentioned the cleverness of the design, which is something /. readers might appreciate, so let me briefly describe it.

    There are many ways to incorporate a tuned circuit in the feedback path of an amplifier to cause it to oscillate. All were well known in the late 40's. The tricky part is to control the amplification: too little, and the sine waves get smaller and disappear; too much, and they get bigger and distorted and finally clip and come out as square waves, or lock up the amplifier altogether. A stable, low-distortion oscillator requires close level control of the feedback, which determines the amplification.

    Hewlett found a beautifully simple way to accomplish this within the feedback network itself, without a separate circuit. By applying the output to a resistor with a positive temperature coefficient, when the output level increased, the resistor would heat up, increasing its resistance. A decreasing level would let the resistor cool off, reducing its resistance. Such a resistor in the the right place in the feedback network would provide automatic self-adjustment of the amplification, and thus the possibility of low distortion and constant output level, all without the need to constantly adjust the oscillator.

    So where do you get the necessary resistor? It must have sluggish response so it didn't appreciably change over the course of a cycle of oscillation, which would cause distortion. Hewlett's solution was to use the PILOT LIGHT as the gain-control device! He designed the rest of the circuit around the light bulb on the front panel, and achieved a clean, stable sine wave oscillator that required far fewer parts (and fewer precision parts) than previous designs, but performed much better.

    When the light bulb lit up over this inventor's head, he took it literally, and the rest is history.

  • I don't know about that. HP has never, to my knowledge, been a threat to Tek's oscilloscope business... not in the 60s, not in the 80s, and not now. Would be curious if you have any concrete market share figures that suggest otherwise.

    OTOH, for everything but scopes, HP pretty much owned.
  • Hewlett was a giant in the field of electronics. HP created more than just RPN calculators, they also created some of the most advanced medical electronics at a price that most hospitals could afford. Their test and measurment divisions crafted some amazing machines which no self-respecting lab would be without. They rode the wave of "computing devices" to even greater profits, without ever getting lost trying to compete in the highly volatile commodity market. Because of their foresight integrating computing into other machines, they led the way towards making embedded processing power ubiquitous in the world.

    With Hewlett's understanding of engineering needs, their test and measurment engineering groups were always ahead of many important inventions. After Digital, Intel and Xerox started work on a little technology called ethernet, HP built the first programmable ethernet tester. Even though it cost around $120,000, they sold hundreds of units faster than anyone could imagine. Repeat that scenario for dozens of other technologies, and you have the recipe for HP's success.

    As most of the threads attest, the RPN of HP's calculators was designed by mathematicians and programmers for geeks. It allowed an elegant way of calculating which geeks appreciate. Clearly HP was scratching an itch many geeks had, a credo dear to the hearts of free software programmers who frequent /.

    Hewlett and Packard were geek's geeks. They will both be sorely missed. Let's all hoist a drink in their honour tonight.

    the AC
  • Well, there is a company that keeps alive the legacy of Bill and Dave, it just doesn't happen to be the branch that kept their names. Agilent now has all of the parts of the business that were near and dear to the founders (i.e. scientific and technical instruments, rather than computers and peripherals) and is keeping closer to their principles. It also looks as though it's not going to go into the tank in the near future. Maybe when the company currently calling itself HP goes bankrupt Agilent will be able to buy their rightful name back on the cheap.

  • Good to see HP honouring one of their founders, even though he hasn't been active in HP since 1987: -- Check out the HP Press Release [] ... it is, of course, linked to prominently on their front page.

    He's an inspiring man.


  • by BigBlockMopar ( 191202 ) on Friday January 12, 2001 @07:27PM (#510409) Homepage

    Ok, this is kinda offtopic, but man, chill. Everyone always gets all uppity when someone dies and takes things way to serious. I mean hell, obviously the guys at slashdot thing highly enough of Bill Hewlett to post about his death, which is a tribute to him in and of itself.

    Exactly. I'm an HP fan. I use a lot of their test equipment in my work. And put a lot of miles on their printer. Hewlett-Packard makes fine products, and it takes a fine man with vision and concern for his customers to enforce that.

    And with no disrespect for him - Bill Hewlett and David Packard are two people whom I admire tremendously - I will take his name in vain next time I fire up that damned 25 year old HP oscilloscope that I've been trying to get my boss to replace. I know that I'm not going to get the new 'scope I want until that thing dies. I also know that thing is not going to die on its own. And it's too much of a work of art to pull a Kevorkian on it by dropping a quarter into one of its ventilation slots.

    From everything I've heard about him, that little tale would make William Hewlett smile.

    Rock on, Bill. The world needs more people like you.

  • by Oshuma.Shiroki ( 232199 ) on Friday January 12, 2001 @07:36PM (#510414) Homepage Journal
    I work for HP and here's a clip of our newsletter:


    NEWSGRAM: news for HP people Friday, January 12, 2001


    Bill Hewlett, revered Hewlett-Packard co-founder and one of the world's foremost business leaders, technologists and philanthropists, died at home in his sleep at 8 a.m. PST today of natural causes. He was 87 years old.

    The venture that Hewlett and his long-time partner and good friend Dave Packard founded in a Palo Alto, California, garage in 1939 has grown into two companies: Hewlett-Packard and Agilent Technologies. HP had total revenue of $48.8 billion (U.S.) in its FY00 fiscal year and has more than 88,500 employees worldwide. Agilent had net revenue of more than $10.8 billion for FY00 and has more than 47,000 employees. Packard died March 26, 1996, at the age of 83.

    During his lifetime, Hewlett received dozens of high professional honors. He was a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was co-founder of the American Electronics Association; a member of the National Academy of Engineering, which gave him its Founders' Award in 1993; a life fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers; and an honorary lifetime member of the Instrument Society of America.

    Funeral arrangements for Hewlett are pending.

  • Show a little fucking respect. He was an ingenious engineer and an far more amazing person that Bill Gates

    Well, there's a backhanded compliment, if ever there was one. There are only two ways that they're even remotely comparable: They're both on Pacific time, and they're both named Bill.

  • by adavidw ( 31941 ) on Friday January 12, 2001 @05:12PM (#510421)
    CNN obit is here []
  • The "lameness filter" got me. It disagreed with some of my first line and the subject. Oh well. In reference to those calculators, they are the most damned anoying things in the world (1+2=1[enter]2+). Doesn't that just make you insane?

    As for William, despite his passing it looks like his company will live on. To innovative and impossible calculators and profits from software not named after glass! Three cheers!

    My karma's bigger than yours!

  • ...I bought one of the very first HP11C's for the princely sum of $135 back in 1981...

    my 11c died one day crushed in my bag after a days survey field exercise.
    damn lcd got smashed.
    still worked but the screen was stuffed.
    never have liked lcd screens for this reason.

  • Posting an obit is just not something you want to post a joke with... Period, the end.

    I want my funeral to be a happy celebration of my life.

    I want people to have fun as they remember crazy things I've done; the Chevette with the 3.8L Buick V6 engine, the displaced Chevette 1.6L engine installed on the old Ariens snowblower, the TI-99/4A playing Flight of the Bumblebees in three part harmony with its floppy disk drives. The secret project that I'm working on right now...

    Like I say, when I die, I want a party. I wanna have a kegger in my name. And the eulogy? As long as it's respectful, it can call me certifiable as many times as its writer wants.

  • I know exactly what you mean. The research lab I worked in had a LJII that had been cranking away since it was new, and when I left there (7 years ago), the page count was 350,000.


    I used to work for a small office equipment company many years ago - 1995/1996. We had a bunch of service techs who would fix photocopiers and laser printers; I was one of the computer techs.

    We had one customer who had a LaserJet II, and they were with a publishing house. Their authors used to frequently submit manuscripts on diskette or via e-mail, and then the editors would print them out, read them, and make notes - you know, the sort of thing that you can really only do on paper (no matter how sophisticated M$ tries to make Office).

    I don't remember how to do it now, but I was horrified when I printed out the test page and saw a count of over 1.5 million pages.

    Granted, that machine was *worn out* - all the motor bushings, separator pads, even the buttons on the front panel, were worn loose or polished smoothly.

    And yet, the damned thing kept on going.

    There are only a few things that will survive a nuclear war: cockroaches, McDonalds uniforms, Dodge Darts and Hewlett-Packard printers.

    Amazing products. Too bad I don't plan on having kids, these would make great family heirlooms.

    Indeed! The family tree stops here, too. I still need to figure out who (50 years from now, I expect) will get my antique radio and TV collection. (Oh, and my TI-99/4As.)

    (Smash amp, burn guitar, take home the groupies)

    That man must have gone through a lot of Marshalls. Jimi was kewl.

    Spagthorpe Motorcycles? [sigh] You almost got me with the Nicola Tesla in the people page - one could argue that he helped to refine magneto ignition. Then I read the article... :)

  • users calculator generation of responsible confusing for ?

    disagree I must!

    Postfix awesome usefull work doing for is!

    No, I'm not braindead or high. Think about it.

    • Hewlett-Packard: responsible for confusing generations of calculator users.

    This is kinda tasteless, don't you think? A pioneer just died and all you can think to say is that the calculators his company made confused people who couldn't handle RPN?


  • Hewlett-Packard: responsible for confusing generations of calculator users.

    Whatever. As anyone here with an IQ > 40 will tell you, RPN if far superior to infix notation. Besides, it's pretty rude to make snide comments like that when linking to an obituary.

    It is kind of sad though. I have tremendous respect for anybody who can build the kind of company HP has become.

  • by astrashe ( 7452 ) on Friday January 12, 2001 @06:50PM (#510435) Journal
    I don't know if Hewitt had much or anything to do with the HP-12C financial calculator, but if he did, he accomplished something extraordinary.

    The 12C, alone out of all of the electronic devices that I can think of, is "finished". It hasn't been changed for more than a decade. Even the documentation is the same. But even so, it's still the overwhelming first choice for financial professionals.

    My point is that it's complete, changing it would make it worse. The interface, the functionality that's built in, the functionality that's left out. The size, shape and weight of the device. According to the market, no one has been able to top it. The design is perfect.

    What other electronic product can make any of those claims? The idea that a tool -- like a word processor -- could be "finished" is totally alien to the way we think about our tools. Most geeks would say that "finishing" is impossible. But the 12C shows that's not true.

    Hewitt's company has done a lot of great things, and people will write about most of them over the next few days. I hope the 12C doesn't get lost in the shuffle.
  • Looking over the various comments ...

    Here we have a man who did good in the world, and who is responsible for many of the good things that technologists look forward to and enjoy today.

    That his inheritance and legacy might be not as skillfully managed as could be desired is lamentable, but understandable. Not everyone is particularly gifted.

    So now is a time to honor the good he did, not to puke on his grave because his successors are not as skilled.

    Hind-sight is 20-20. How many of us got out of the dotcom bubble before it burst? Should we pick on you because you didn't? Probably not.

    We would probably do well to try and figure out what we would or could have done different given a particular engineering problem. It would probably be a good educational execercise.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 12, 2001 @07:44PM (#510439)
    Yes, Woz used to work for HP, and speaks highly of the company.

    Woz had designed TWO computers. The first was a slick Dual Z-80 machine with intergrated monitor that ran CPM (CPM was the most popular OS in those pre-MSDOS days). The second Z-80 cpu was used as a Video Co-processor! That computer later became the HP-125 and sold for $3500. And HP sold several of them. I own a later version, the HP-120 (same machine as the HP-125, much smaller case).

    The second computer was a cheap 6502 based machine with a rom based OS. The OS had not even been developed yet. It was so cheap, you had to use a TV for a monitor. HP was not interested in building that one. But if Woz was interested, he could build it himself. And if it didn't work out, HP still had a job if he wanted one.

    The Apple 1 was designed at HP, and sold for $666. And everybody owned the later version, the Apple II.

    Given the above choice, most companies would chose to build the $3500 slick machine. What HP did that was significant was to let Woz *HAVE* the other design. Even though it was designed on company time.

    And this wasn't an isolated event. Dozens of Sillicon Vally companies started inside HP. Tandom's original computer was basically a HP-3000 Series 2 with a dual CPU.

    This is part of the HP Way.

    And this is how Bill and Dave started Silicon Vally.

    Enjoy your rest, Gentlemen. You Deserve It.

    And Much Thanks.

  • You don't enter mathematical expressions on calculators (yeah, now there are graphing calcs but back then..). You enter numbers and operations. Even on an "algebraic" calculator, you have the notion of an accumulator. So you can enter 5*5=*5= for example, which Miss Brown never wrote on the board in my first grade classroom. It's really just a difference in user interface. There are pros and cons to both methods.
  • Does there yet exist a Palm calculator program which can hold a light to the HP48 series calculators?
  • I bought one of the very first HP11C's for the princely sum of $135 back in 1981. Still have it, and only in the last year has it died. Being as this is Louisiana, I probably need to take it apart and clean the keyboard. The batteries may also be dead. But what a convenient little machine -- it actually fits in a shirt pocket. Of course, I could always buy another one -- I think they're down to about $35.

    When I bought this cutie the alternative was a TI-35. Had one of those, too. I recall vividly how it failed the "twist test" -- grab each ends, attempt to rotate in different directions. The TI would twist a good 10 or 15 degrees; the 11C not at all, that one could detect visually. And of course the 11C had good ol' RPN, inherently theft- and borrow- proof, as well as faster and more efficient than the () keys on the TI.

    Of course, HP did many other things. The very first computer I ever used was a HP2100A minicomputer. This was back in '74 or so when I was just a wee snip of a programmer-to-be and my Dad had to show me how to use the Model 22 teletype machine that was its user interface. Imagine, for only $40,000 you could get a massive 4Kx16bit nonvolatile RAM (hand-threaded magnetic donuts), and an impressive array of pushbuttons with which to set and retrieve memory contents. And nothing else. The high-speed optical tape reader (inch-wide, 8 holes across) came later, as did the optical Hollerith card reader.

    I was writing software, pidgin as it was, and I had never heard of Intel. Imagine that.

  • It's not the tech fetish I dislike... I suffer the same addictions gladly. I'm glad you like your calculator... I'm ecstatic that you have the best one in the world, and honestly, I'd love to hear about it, be shown how it works, and listen as you tell me precisely what makes it so great. But handing it to someone and snickering because you're so much more advanced than they are in the realm of calculator technology just strikes me as arrogant and obnoxious. Not to mention pathetic, as they're unlikely to give a damn.

    My point, simply put, is that such competition is absurd and misplaced. If you have a group of friends who are all into calculators, and wanna rag each other about them, fine. But don't piss on everyone else just because you think you've found higher ground.
  • by sparcv9 ( 253182 ) on Friday January 12, 2001 @05:16PM (#510449)
    Hewlett-Packard: responsible for confusing generations of calculator users.
    Confusing? What's so confusing about having a stack and using reverse-postfix notation? In high school, I went from a TI-45 (or something like that -- the 8x and 9x series had yet to be birthed into existance) to an HP-46G. I never went back to a standard calculator. The HP calcs made sense, and you weren't limited to a linear string of calculations like you were with other calulators on the market at the time. Hewlett-Packard was far, far ahead of the other pocket calculator manufacturers back in the day.

    It's sad to see that one of the men responsible for all of this in no longer with us.
  • The company Woz worked for before he and Jobs founded Apple. the company that didn't think Woz's inventions had any future and allowed him to do whatever he wanted with the thing. If Hewlett was responsible for the short sightedness in Hewlett-Packard, the let's hope he brought it in his grave. (that wasn't maent to sound mean).
  • > The best part about RPN is that when someone borrows your calculator, they stare at it for a few mins, then hand it back ;-)

    Reminds me about that guy from INT that I found sitting at my desk after getting back from a meeting. The converstation went roughly as follows:

    • Hi, I'm from INT, and I'm here to take inventory of your computer.
    • Sure, just go ahead.
    • Hmm, I'm having some problems with your desktop. Could you leave some applications, to make it somewhat less cluttered?
    • Sure. [and I proceed to close my various windows one by one, and just leave the desktop]
    • Thanks. [In a low voice, to himself] Oh, that toolbar looks odd... Err... Where's the explorer... Ah, I understand. This "house" icon means home directory... Oh gee, indeed a browser window opens up... But where is the network neighborhood? And where is the control Panel? [To me] Errm, sorry, I'm having some trouble with your toolbar, where can I find the network neighborhood? Or, could you simply tell me your IP address?
    • Sure. mumble.mumble.37.143
    • That doesn't look like one of ours. It should be mumble.mumble.95.something . Btw, are you on the company network at all?
    • Well, actually in engineering, we have our own network. Oh, and btw, all offices in this part of the building are the same...
    • Err... Thanks... I'm only responsible for surveying machines connected to the INT network. [flees the office in a hurry]
    • [re-starts my konsoles, konqueror and other KDE applications and get back to work]
  • I love the stories! I have the same feeling. Back when I was an undergraduate, I was working in an atmospheric chemistry lab and using an HP gas chromatograph. The guy I was working for was a temporary hire so we got the hand me downs. The GC was over 15 years old and used analog controls while all the other labs around us had nice new ones with digital readouts and such. We modified that GC to work for us and the damn thing never ever broke (I wanted a new one)! That was 10 years ago and as far as I know that GC is still in use...

    On the other hand I'm very thankful for the durability of HP products. I've been using an HP 15C for almost 20 years. My dad worked at HP and got one for me for a birthday gift. I've actually had 3 of them - the first one was stolen in high school when my locker mate left the damn locker open! The second one I got was destroyed when some person who was clearly upset with me, snuck into my office when I was in graduate school and stabbed it with a knife! I managed to find another one for $50 somehow almost 5 years past the last time they were made. Now I worry about what will happen if this one dies! I don't like the 48 series - too big! As someone else said about the 12C, the 15C for me was the end all of the scientific calculator. It could integrate, do complex numbers and matrices, was programmable, and yet was compact enough to carry around in a shirt pocket. If I can't find batteries, I've contemplated buying a 12C (since they're still in production) and stealing its batteries! :-) I sure can't use a non-RPN calculator!

    I remember a friend of mine had a 12C and it has a cool function where you can input 2 dates into it and it will tell you how many days there were between them. I remember being taunted into showing that the same thing could be done on the 15C (which didn't have that built in). It was the first program I ever wrote.

    I still have my HP IIP printer that is over 10 years old - still works great. Our department ONLY uses HP printers.

    Goodbye Bill - we'll miss you.

    (and my dad met both Hewlett and Packard when he worked at HP)
  • Maybe Pacific Gas & Electric will start their rolling blackouts there. Naw, too many rich folks.
  • by slickwillie ( 34689 ) on Friday January 12, 2001 @08:24PM (#510456)
    I'll tell you what's confusing. My first calculator was an HP-25. I was perfectly comfortable learning and using RPN. Now I have trouble using my Casio, what with all those parentheses and other damn fool things.

    HP-25 program for Fibonacci series (I might have forgotten the exact syntax - it's been 25 years):

    First push 1 then 0 to the stack

    00 - push
    01 - push
    02 - pop
    03 - pop
    04 - +
    05 - pause
    06 - goto 00
  • I mean hell, obviously the guys at slashdot thing highly enough of Bill Hewlett to post about his death, which is a tribute to him in and of itself.

    The wroooong part here is that I don't think Slashdot makes a gesture by paying atention to its death. Slashdot should feel obliged to make a gesture, for instance by posting a decent and humble comment about a man for which most of its readers own something.

    Maybe HP had more employees than readers than Slashdot readers that will read this article, have you thought about that?

  • is the feeling of superiority that comes over owners of RPN calculators. I mean really, what the hell?

    I know shell CLI is more efficient than any GUI for almost any task, but I don't run around hoping someone will ask to borrow my shell so I can mock them with my shell-scripting buddies. Nor do I sniff at anyone using a GUI and remark that they should be using a "real" interface.

    You have the More Efficient Calculator, and you Know How To Use It. Freaking great. It's a damn calculator. Get over yourselves.

    (Yeah, I know that burned some karma.)
  • ...and inevitable :)
  • by _N0EL ( 245472 ) on Friday January 12, 2001 @05:33PM (#510468) Homepage
    Hewlett-Packard: responsible for confusing generations of calculator users.

    How many of you have over the years thoroughly enjoyed handing your HP to someone asking to borrow your calculator, only to see the look of horror and disbelief on their face seconds later? Better yet, how many friends have you made when the borrower knew how to use RPN?

    When I was at Rose-Hulman Institute of Tech (before it was coed) we'd get together and have calculator races with our HPs (yes, on Saturday night). I was so disappointed when the carrying case of my most recent HP48G didn't have a belt loop! What have we become???

  • by EZLN ( 130985 ) on Friday January 12, 2001 @05:34PM (#510469)
    Ok, this is kinda offtopic, but man, chill. Everyone always gets all uppity when someone dies and takes things way to serious. I mean hell, obviously the guys at slashdot thing highly enough of Bill Hewlett to post about his death, which is a tribute to him in and of itself.

    I think they also handled it right by not getting all uptight about it, that's not the way to celebrate someones death, it's to be happy and rejoice in the life they had, i mean hell, if you can be happy and laugh ever once in a while then what the hell is the purpose of life.


Honesty is for the most part less profitable than dishonesty. -- Plato