Online Museum and Technical History of

Hewlett-Packard (now Agilent Technologies)

Electronic Test Equipment

revised Nov. 20, 2012

Note: This site is privately owned and operated by Kenneth A. Kuhn and is not affiliated with either the Hewlett-Packard Company or Agilent Technologies.

Copyright 2003 - 2009 by Kenneth A. Kuhn. The contents of this site may be freely used by all. All that is asked is that proper credit be cited for any material used from this site. Many thanks should go to the numerous fine vendors on eBay that sold me classic vintage test equipment and manuals. Their collective efforts made this web site possible.


A picture (taken in 2003) of me with Frisky (April, 1990 - Jan. 12, 2008 -- the seventh anniversary of Bill Hewlett's death) at my old shop table with an early vintage HP200B unit with rounded corners. I am wearing an HP shirt and the picture on the front is of the famous garage and you can barely make out the HP logo on the sleeve. Frisky was the official shop cat and oversaw all that went on.  His odd posture is because he did not want his picture taken but I did.  The record clearly shows that I won that contest.  As you can see, I also use HP equipment in my work.  These are not just museum pieces.


This is a picture of vintage HP oscillators, meters, and related equipment in my collection and is one of the pictures in the shop tour as described below.

Purpose of this web site

This web site is devoted to the history of test equipment produced by the Hewlett-Packard Company which is now known as Agilent Technologies. I own a huge collection of vintage Hewlett-Packard test equipment, catalogs, equipment manuals, and Hewlett-Packard Journals. I own such classics as the HP200A, HP200B, HP200C, HP200D, HP200H, HP201B, HP202D, HP410A, HP500A, and many more (a rough count indicated over 450 pieces of which about 100 are duplicates). I also own probably one of the few still existing HP210A square wave generators.

My goal is for this web site to be your primary source for historical information on the Hewlett-Packard Company and their vintage test equipment and calculators whether the information is direct from me or via links to many other fine web sites I have found.  Links to every major web site that I can find concerning the history of HP are also posted.  I am always searching for new sites and will update the collection of links as I find them.  Attention web masters of other HP related sites: I am always glad to add more links to this site so if your site is not listed then send me an email.  I think it is a good idea for all HP history related sites to be interlinked so that anyone finding one site has access to all of them.  Also, I welcome links to my site -- no need to ask permission -- just do it.

I believe there are a number of people who would like to know more about the history of the Hewlett-Packard Company if only this information were published somewhere. Years ago when I started this site I was amazed at how hard it was to find information about the Hewlett Packard Company.  Information is available but not in one place - it takes a lot of work to put it all together and that is what I am attempting to accomplish here. Now there are a growing number of HP related web sites each specializing in a different aspect of HP and its history.  A lot of information is now easily available through the collection of these web sites.  My goal is a detailed and accurate history. I have invested a lot of time into studying the history of the company - this has become a side hobby related to my main hobby of electronics. I consider myself to be an amateur historian of the technical history of the Hewlett-Packard Company. This web site is my way of sharing my knowledge with all who care to know.

The Hewlett-Packard Company began as a test and measurement equipment company in 1939. In the 1960s they started building small computers to augment their test equipment. Because of their high reliability, demand for these computers exceeded expectations as businesses other than test and measurement firms began placing orders for them to run businesses instead of scientific equipment. The computer side of the business grew such that by the 1980s the majority of the profit was from computer sales. What had begun as a side business became the dominant business. In 1999 the test equipment division was spun off as Agilent Technologies and the Hewlett-Packard Company of today is only a computer products company. So, throughout this web site, when the company name, Hewlett-Packard, is used in reference to test equipment it refers to the original Hewlett-Packard Company which is now called Agilent Technologies.


About me

In my early years I was very fortunate to have a lot of exposure to test equipment manufactured by the Hewlett-Packard Company, Tektronix, General Radio, Fluke, and others. I had a very high appreciation of this equipment and never dreamed that someday I would own many of the classic instruments I used early in my career. It fascinated me to know how these companies were able to achieve incredible feats of measurement and signal generation that were otherwise impossible with my basic knowledge of electronics. I studied manuals of this equipment and spent many hours reverse engineering the concepts. In the process I learned much about engineering that is not generally taught in engineering schools although I try to illustrate these concepts to electrical engineering students I teach. I learned that the key to achieving what seems impossible is thinking about the problem from the right perspective rather than the obvious simplistic perspective. Analog electronic circuit design is my specialty and these companies taught me how to design electronics. In many ways I feel as though I have served an apprenticeship under them having worked with and studied their products so closely. I feel close in spirit to all of them but my favorite is the Hewlett-Packard Company. In the early 1980s I almost sent them my resume in hopes of joining their team as I felt that I was their type of electrical engineer. But, I decided instead that Alabama was my home.  So my cats, HP collection, and I reside in what is known as the over the mountain community south of Birmingham, Alabama.


The following are numerous links to a wide variety of information

In the following, color is used to help with navigation: The groupings alternate in light gray and light blue backgrounds.  Group titles are in red, clickable links are in the usual blue with underscore on the left, links that are coming but are not yet ready are in violet, and descriptions are in black to the right. The intent is to make finding information easy.  There is a lot of information and it would take many hours to fully explore all the links.
Tour of Ken's HP Shop A pictorial tour of the present state of my shop and collection of hundreds of pieces of vintage HP test equipment. This tour has a lot of pictures so a high speed Internet connection is recommended.

History Presentations at HP


On June 4, 2007 two associates and I did presentations of our work on HP history to the HP Retired Employees Club at the HP corporate headquarters auditorium in Palo Alto, California. Here are the files of my presentation:

hprec_presentation.pdf             Full text including Power Point slides.  A big file -- over 20 Mbytes.
hprec_presentation_spk.pdf      Text only that I spoke from. A short file.
hprec_presentation.ppt             
Power Point slides of the presentation.  A big file -- over 20 Mbytes.

http://www.hparchive.com/video_HPREC_2007.htm  This is a link to my friend's site which has YouTube links of all of the presentations.  These are segmented so you can watch portions.  The total is over an hour.  This is well worth your time and there are a lot of interesting tidbits about the history of HP. You can also download complete segments in the link below.

http://www.ncast.com/hp-movies.html  This is a link to mpeg files of my presentation and also the presentations of my associates, Glenn Robb who operates hparchive.com and Marc Mislanghe who operates hpmemory.org .

Chuck House, the emcee of the presentations, and Ray Price have written a fantastic new book about the history of HP.  The book is The HP Phenomenon and is published by Stanford Press and hit the bookstores in October, 2009.  You can read Chuck's blog at http://hpphenom.blogspot.com/ .  You can listen to an interview by KQED with Chuck about his book at http://www.kqed.org/epArchive/R912041000 .


HP200D on Antiques Roadshow  This is a link to an Antiques Roadshow episode that aired on PBS on May 10, 2010 concerning the value of an HP200D oscillator that is purportedly signed by Bill and Dave.  Although there are some historical errors in the presentation the story is plausible but not yet confirmed.  The appraised value of $1,500+ is way too high.  A plain HP200D typically sells for $60 or less on eBay and if the signatures are in fact real then my guess is that an auction would bring several hundred dollars rather than the $9,000 figure quoted.
 

Other private collections and historical info

Various HP Collections This page has links to various HP calculator, computer, and other HP related sites.
Miscellaneous HP Related Sites This is a list of various sites that do not fit in the other categories.
Vintage Test Equipment Sites This is a link to a growing list of vintage non-HP test equipment sites that are of related interest. 
HP Persons of Interest This page has links to oral histories, articles, and general information about some important people in the history of HP.
Writings of John Minck

John Minck worked at HP for 37 years and has written much on the history of the company.  Here are links to three of his writings about the history of the Hewlett-Packard Company.

Agilent Technologies and Communications: Six Decades of Measurement Solutions This is an application note on the Agilent web site.  It is excellent reading. 

Garage Gives Birth to Measurement Giant by John L. Minck and Barry Manz.  (posted here under the "fair use" doctrine of U.S. Copyright law).  This is a great article describing the history of the Hewlett-Packard Company that was a cover story of the August, 2001 issue of Microwaves and RF.  There used to be an official link to this article but that has since vanished -- that is why I have posted it here -- otherwise you have no way to read it.  I am told that the article is available at http://emg.communications.agilent.com/news/MWAgilent8011.pdf but I am not able to access that -- it may be an internal only link at Agilent.

Inside HP: A Narrative History of Hewlett-Packard from 1939-1990  This is the most recent version, Nov. 2011, and definitive book for HP history and is excellent reading.  John conveys the story so well that after reading it I felt as though I lived it too, even though I have never worked for HP.   

HP_LaserJet_--_The_Early_History110512.pdf  By Jim Hall, edited by John Minck.  The following is John's description: If you're making a Top-10 list of inventions that changed history, you'd probably include the internal combustion engine, the atom bomb(?), the generic cell phone, the telephone, the PC, among others. But you'd be hard pressed NOT to add the HP LaserJet printer. Its production numbers surpassed 100 million in 2006.

Arguably, the Father of the LaserJet would have to be Jim Hall, of HP's Boise Division. Jim joined the 1972 Microwave Division from GE, Lynchburg, where he worked on microwave communications gear. After several years at MWD, he transferred to the Computer Group Boise Division as it embarked on computer printing products, and began a remarkable leadership quest for the ultimate in personal printing products.

Much has been written about the HP Laserjet success, but here is the story direct from the man and his team which made it happen. There were other contributors, including HP Labs, and of course, the Canon laser engine, but the Boise Division should get the kudos for persevering to an amazing and enduring product line. Invention, Indeed!

Southwest Museum of Engineering, Communications, and Computation

This site has all kinds of information concerning the history of technology.  There is a tremendous amount of material here concerning technology and the major personalities involved.  You can spend hours reviewing all the material.  It is a must visit site. The following articles form the basis of what could be a very good book on the history of HP.  They are presented below in what I think is the correct sequence for the chapters.  There is a lot of very interesting material and the total of it is just about a complete book.  Unfortunately, the many pictures referenced are missing.

Hewlett-Packard -- The Early Years
Hewlett-Packard -- The Start
Bill Hewlett: The Human Side of Management
Hewlett-Packard's First Product, the 200A
Robert McGauhey: My First H-P Oscillator
Historical Highlights of the Hewlett-Packard Company

Direct links to the web pages of the companies

HP main web site This is the main HP web site.
HP History Page This is direct link to the history page on the HP web site.
Agilent main web site This is the main Agilent Technologies web site.
Agilent History Page This is a direct link to the history page on the Agilent Technologies web site.
General Radio Page Link to information about the General Radio Company.  Not much there now but more is coming.

Various historical resources

Vintage HP Products This page has all the vintage HP model numbers listed in numerical order with dates of manufacture and a brief description. The page is still under construction so is not yet complete.  I add to it as I have time.
HP Catalogs This page has information about the first catalog in the early 1940s to the last one in 1999. Beginning with 2000 the name changed to Agilent Technologies. I have nearly all of these in my collection. 
HP Journals This is a link to my friend's site at hparchive.com.  Download the indexes to find a particular Journal or article you want and then go to the HP Labs link provided to download the issue.  You can search the indexes by issue#, author, topic, and model #.  This is a fantastic resource.  There is a wealth of information there and it is all free.  The entire set of HP Journals from 1949 to 1998 are in pdf. 
Dating Vintage Instruments This page provides clues and pictorial examples of the various manufacturing styles used in building the vintage instruments.  You can compare your instrument to these styles and determine an approximate date of manufacture. There is an article about the history of the vintage oscillators with details about garage oscillators.
Scans of various manuals and documents A variety of manuals and partial manuals and other stuff are located here. There are also links to a variety of FREE manual and document downloads -- HP Journals, HP Bench Briefs, and more.
References and related reading materials References and related reading materials.
Restoring your Vintage Instrument This is a new sub-page and presently only has information on the HP3580A but much more is coming as I have time.  This page provides information on how to restore a vintage HP instrument such as an oscillator.  Good ways of cleaning and how to remove stuck on labels and marks are discussed --never use a sharp tool to remove a label -- the paint will be scratched.  Electrical issues such as power cord replacement and failed capacitors will be discussed.  In many cases the vacuum tubes are fine and obtaining replacement tubes is remarkably easy if you know where to look.  Many of the mechanical controls may need cleaning and lubrication -- do not force these to turn.  With a little TLC an instrument that may be deemed a basket case can be restored to like new operating condition.
Technical History (coming soon) This page will feature detailed descriptions including close-up pictures of the various instruments and trace the advancement in technology of each instrument line over the years. This will be a lot of material and will be divided into many sub pages.

Miscellaneous items of interest

Huang Engineering Center at Stanford University

http://soe.stanford.edu/visit/huang_center/huang_exhibits.html
This is a link to a tour of the new Huang Engineering Center at Stanford University.  There is an exhibit replicating the HP garage and the 200B oscillator in that exhibit is a donation from my collection.  I restored that oscillator to original operating condition.  At the time of this posting that exhibit is not finished and Stanford plans to post pictures once it is.  If you watch the ABC 7 video clip (about two and a half minutes) you can briefly see part of that exhibit and part of the 200B oscillator on the left of the screen at about 1 minute into the video.  The second link takes to direct to the HP Garage page.  There is not much there now -- hopefully it will become more complete over time.
Secrets of HP Engineering (coming soon) This page will reveal what I have learned from my study of HP engineering over the years.  Actually, there is nothing secret about this -- it is just standard good engineering with lessons for all.  One of the things I preach when people are faced with an engineering challenge is to ask how would HP engineers have addressed this.  If you can figure that out then you know the right way to proceed.
FAQ Page (coming soon) This page will contain the answers to common questions I receive and I will expand the page as I notice new common questions.  Here is a quick hint if you are looking for information about a specific HP item such as HP141T.  Do several Google searches: (1) Search for the word, HP141T  (2) Search for the exact phrase, HP 141T (i.e. a space after HP)  (3) Search for the word, 141T and the exact phrase, hewlett packard.  You might be amazed at what you will find.  You will probably find so much that you will want to refine the search with additional words or words to exclude.
Typical Instrument Setups (coming soon) This page will demonstrate typical usage of the vintage instruments. Among the setups to be shown will be the use of an HP320A distortion analyzer and HP400A AC voltmeter to measure the distortion of an HP200A oscillator.  Another setup will show an HP803A VHF impedance bridge being used with an HP417A detector and HP608E generator to measure an impedance at several hundred MHz.  Another setup will demonstrate an HP805C slotted line used with an HP415A SWR indicator to measure the impedance of a GHz network.  This is just a brief list for now.
Personal HP Stories I have a number of interesting stories of my personal experiences with HP and their products that I share on this page.

For retirees or former employees of HP

HP Retirees Site This is a web site for retirees from HP or Agilent.  You have to be a member to view much of the site but there is general information available to everyone.  There are links to The Bay Area club which posts the bimonthly newsletter in pdf format.  It has a variety of information and each issue has some mention of HP history.  Past issues are also posted.  I highly recommend that you check these out.  I read every issue.
The Hewlett-Packard Alumni Association This association is for anyone who was ever employed by HP or Agilent, not just retirees. Most of the site is open to everyone and I recommend you pay a visit as there is a lot of well organized information there. This particular link is to a page that has great links to other web sites concerning the history of HP:  http://www.hpalumni.org/hp_history.htm

The foundation web sites

The following sites are examples of what phenomenal wealth can do. I do not necessarily agree with everything they do but a lot of good is accomplished. It is worthwhile to visit these sites to see the sort of things these two men believed in and left the bulk of their multi-billion dollar estates to.
The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation This is the foundation that Mr. Hewlett set up.
The David and Lucile Packard Foundation This is the foundation that Mr. Packard set up.

Pictorial tours of interesting locations related to HP
Each tour has several megabytes of pictures so a high-speed connection is needed

House and Garage This is an outside pictorial tour of the original HP house and garage and the surrounding neighborhood located at 367 Addison Avenue near the corner of Waverley Street in Palo Alto.
Early Locations This is a pictorial tour of early locations of HP on Page Mill Road in Palo Alto.
HP Headquarters This is a pictorial tour of the HP site along Page Mill Road in Palo Alto.
Bill Hewlett's Grave This is a guide to finding the grave site of Bill and Flora Hewlett and some pictures.
David Packard's Grave This is a guide to finding the grave site of David and Lucile Packard and some pictures.  The grave of Fred Terman, the father of Silicon Valley, is also in the same cemetary.
California Museum This is a tour of the David Packard exhibit that was on display as a part of the California Hall of Fame exhibit that ran from December, 2006 to October, 2007 in the California Museum in Sacramento.  You can see one of my HP200B units I loaned to the exhibit.
Tour of HP House This is an external link to a pictorial tour of the HP House and Garage. I do not know how long this link will be alive and I will remove it when I find it dead.  But in the meantime this is a rare view that few people get to see.  I have had an inside tour and have my own pictures although I was asked to not post inside pictures on my web site and I respect that.  I am not sure if this link meets with HP's approval so enjoy it while it is there.
Tour of HP Garage This is an external link to another tour similar to the above although it has more descriptions in text.  Again, I am not sure how long this link will be alive.

Yahoo Group sites related to information about HP / Agilent products  

Yahoo Tech Group: HP/Agilent Equipment Description from site: "This group is dedicated to the maintenance, repair, usage, and correct operation of HP/Agilent test equipment. It concentrates on older equipment for which support from HP/Agilent has been discontinued. Members may pose questions, request information or manuals, or explain how they solved particular problems. All aspects of equipment repair, calibration, maintenance, and operation are within scope."
Yahoo Tech Group: HP Archive Description from site: "This community serves collectors and users of vintage Hewlett Packard equipment, catalogs, Journals, and manuals." The website is http://www.hparchive.com .
Yahoo Group: HP/Agilent Swap This is another group that has an interest in HP and Agilent test equipment.

Links to my email address and to the main page of this site

Email contact information This link has the information to email me with questions, comments, etc.  I am always glad to hear from and respond to people who like this site.
Main kennethkuhn.com page This link takes you to the main page of my personal web site where you can access a variety of information.

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