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Key Points

  • Hewlett-Packard was founded in 1939 by Bill Hewlett and David Packard both of whom were Stanford graduates in Electrical Engineering.
  • The company specialized in producing audio oscillators and light bulbs and one of its first clients was Disney.
  • In the 1960s, Hewlett-Packard produced electronics for the healthcare sector and would go on to produce its first personal computer in 1980.

Hewlett Packard is one of the most well-known technology companies. It was founded by Bill Hewlett and David Packard in 1939, albeit primarily for the production of measurement equipment.  Today, it is one of the leading manufacturers of laptops, desktop computers, printers, and much more. However, doesn’t just exist as a single company. Instead, it now exists as several companies which focus on different things — including the Hewlett Packard Enterprise company which concentrates on enterprise solutions and analytical data products.

Read on to explore the full history of Hewlett Packard and discover how it has evolved through the years to be the highly successful brand that it is today.

Quick Facts

Year Founded
Bill Hewlett, David Packard
Computing software, hardware, IT infrastructure
Palo Alto, CA
Key People
Bill Hewlett, David Packard, Carly Fiorina
Notable Products
Numerous computers, Printers, and other pieces of electronic hardware

The History of Hewlett Packard: What to Know

Hewlett Packard is an +80-year-old company that has a long history of involvement in the area of technology. Originally founded in 1939, the company has evolved into a worldwide technological conglomerate. Like many companies, their product line has evolved significantly over time. The company was once primarily involved in the production of measurement equipment. Today, they are a worldwide leader in the manufacturing of computers, printers, ink cartridges, laptops, and more. The company has also evolved significantly in terms of its overall organization. It now exists in multiple companies, with different companies handling different facets of their operations.

The Founding of Hewlett Packard: How it Happened

Hewlett Packard company logo
Hewlett Packard was founded in a one-car garage in California in 1939.

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Hewlett Packard was founded in 1939. Like many tech companies, it lived the cliche, being formed in a one-car garage that was located in Palo Alto, California. Appropriately enough, the company now has its headquarters in Palo Alto, and the garage in which it was founded is today a historical landmark.

Hewlett Packard was founded by Bill Hewlett and David Packard. The two young men both had electrical engineering degrees from Standford. The company began as a part-time effort in 1938 but was formalized into a full-time job in 1939.

Originally, the company made audio oscillators and light bulbs. Their work and product line would gradually expand, and they landed a major company right out of the gate: The Walt Disney Corporation.

Hewlett Packard Through the Years


Hewlett Packard’s first major product was an audio oscillator, the HP200A. The product was cheaper than other similar products that were on the market, and this landed the company its first major customer: Disney. Its products were purchased and used in Disney’s hit Fantasia. 

Hewlett Packard would expand its product offerings in the early 1940s and become involved in the way effort. The products it worked on included counter-radar technology and fuses for artillery shells. HP would continue its involvement in the tech area, and it did not become involved in computing until the 1960s.


HP did not directly participate in the semiconductor revolution of the 1960s. Instead, it worked on its own research, working with Japanese companies like Sony and Yokogawa Electric to develop its own semiconductors that would power the computers it eventually created. HP began to sell some of its products to Japan during this decade. It also began to produce electronics and equipment for the medical field. In 1961, HP was listed on the New York Stock Market for the first time, and in 1962, its rapid growth allowed the company to make the Fortune 500 list.

HP created its first computer in 1966. This computer was the HP 2116A, a computer designed to assist in HP’s continued product expansion in the testing and measurement area. Its computer line would expand so that the company began to create additional computers that could be purchased by the government, businesses, or even individuals.


This decade saw continued advancement in the area of computers. HP produced several computers during this decade and began to more directly enter the area of business computing and related products. One such example was the sale of the HP 3000, a business server. It also sold the HP9800, a popular desktop computer.

Its testing and measurement line continued into the field of calculators, including handheld and programmable calculators. By the time the 1970s would end, HP had created 35 handheld calculators.

The 1970s also saw the end of an HP era: in 1978, CEO Bill Hewlett would retire.


The company created its first truly personal computer in 1980 and began to sell the product across the world. They also began to expand into other related computer markets, including keyboards. Perhaps the most notable product introduction during this time period was the creation of HP printers. These printers began to be produced in 1984 and have since been expanded into a slew of other products, including an array of multifunction printers. The company also produced a series of computers that would eventually become staple products for them, including handheld computers, desktop mainframes, and its first laptops.

By this point, HP was active on five continents, had over 85,000 employees, and sales totaled well into the billions.


The 1990s saw an explosion of tech growth, particularly on the internet, and this growth brought more good things for HP.

First, there were expansions in printing: Printer cartridges could be recycled, and color printing boomed, opening a whole new product line for HP. Home computers became cheaper and higher performing, resulting in more sales to the company.

1999 saw a major change in the way that HP did business. The company spun off a variety of its operations, including anything that did not directly address computers, computer storage, or computer imaging. The company created was Agilent Technologies. The company was a $30 billion organization. 1999 also saw the appointment of Carly Fiorina as the company’s first female CEO.

The 1990s also saw a major scandal for the company, which saw HP selling products to Iran despite the existence of sanctions. HP ultimately severed ties with the subsidiary that engaged in the sales. 


The 2000s saw the continued expansion of HP. In 2001, HP purchased Compaq, the former leader of personal computers in the world. The purchase was for $25 billion, and it marked a massive expansion in HP’s total reach in the computer manufacturing sector. 

During this decade, HP continued to unveil a series of new personal computers, including those that are backed by major celebrities. They continued to expand their line of computer accessories as well, including with the introduction of gesture-based keyboards, TouchSmart, and more. 


The 2010s saw a massive expansion of HP into business enterprise ventures, including consulting and business technology services. They also continued to develop new products, such as the ArcSight, free recycling of their printer cartridge, and more. 

The company also purchased Palm Inc and began to make tablet devices to complement its laptop and personal computer line. The company also began to invest further in data centers, including data centers that were geared towards minimal emissions. 

Finally, HP saw a major change in operations. The company split into two branches. The first was HP, Inc, which would continue to sell computers and related equipment. The second was Hewlett Packard Enterprise, which would engage in traditional business services. 

Most Important Inventions From Hewlett Packard

Hewlett Packard has had a long and stormy career of business innovation and technological inventions. Some of their most notable products include the following.

  • High speed frequency counter, 1951
  • First atomic clock, 1964
  • First desk calculator, 1968
  • First scientific calculator, 1972
  • First personal computer, 1980
  • First mainframe computer, 1982
  • First LaserJet printer, 1991

How Does Hewlett Packard Make Money?

hp envy 13 laptop
HP makes money through the sale of its products, such as laptops.

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Hewlett Packard makes money through several different avenues. These include the sale of its products and through its extensive enterprise solutions. Let’s take a closer look below.

Sale of Products

A quick look at HP.com reveals an extensive array of products that Hewlett Packard sells. This includes:

  • Desktop & Laptop Computers of a variety of technological capacities. This includes computers meant for home, work, school, gaming, and more. While more and more of HP’s business has moved from personal computers to laptops, personal computers are still an extensive component of their market.
  • Printers and printer accessories, including ink cartridges. Again, the company targets numerous audiences in the sale of their materials, including the home, work, and office space.
  • HP has gotten more into the sale of computer accessories and gaming-related equipment over the past few years. For example, they sell a variety of virtual reality products.

Provision of Business Services

In addition to the above services and products that are targeted to businesses, Hewlett Packard Enterprise is also involved in extensive enterprise solutions. This involves numerous components, including:

  • Hardware geared towards major businesses and non-profit organizations, including servers and related equipment.
  • Data visualization and real-time analytical products, like HPE Greenlake.
  • Data storage services.
  • Networking and software services.
  • Consulting services across a variety of technical fronts, including strategic and technical advisement.

Hewlett Packard Acquisitions

Over the course of its history, Hewlett Packard acquired over a hundred companies. Some were relatively minor, including smaller names like Boonton Radio, Colorado Memory Systems, and Division Inc. Some, however, were more significant. These included:


Verifone is an American online bill payment organization. As the name implies, the company takes advantage of the latest technology to help businesses purchase and process payments via credit card. Verifone developed the technology that helped make these transactions more secure.

HP purchased Verifone in 1997 for $1.1 billion. It would sell the company four years later.


At one time, Compaq was one of the world leaders in computing. Similar to HP, Compaq made personal computers and related computing equipment. It was considered a leader in this field at one point but began to struggle in the 1990s. In May 2002, Hewlett Packard finalized the purchase of Compaq. The price was $25 billion, making it Hewlett Packard’s largest purchase. HP would discontinue the brand in 2013.

Procter & Gamble IT

Hewlett Packard’s purchases were not limited to buying entire companies. In numerous instances, they made purchases of parts of companies that fit in with their overall tech mission. For example, in 2003, Hewlett Packard purchased the Information Technology branch of Proctor & Gamble. The purchase price was three billion.

Hewlett Packard Notable Controversies

Involvement in South Africa

In the 1980s, Hewlett Packard became involved in South Africa. This was highly controversial at the time, as the nation was practicing apartheid, the practice by which whites and blacks were separated.

A social justice movement fought to bring pressure on the South African government to end apartheid by pressuring businesses not to do business in the country until they ended the practice. However, Hewlett Packard expanded their operations into the country anyway. Shareholders voted down a measure that would force the company to withdraw from the country, but the pressure became too much. Hewlett Packard ultimately sold Sittek, the company by which they were doing business in South Africa, rather than continue to face the public scrutiny of doing business in the racially segregated nation.


In the aftermath of a leak of information, Hewlett Packard conducted an extensive investigation. The investigation – which was explicitly sanctioned and instigated by the company offers – targeted numerous board members and journalists. This was done under false pretenses: Individuals were hired that pretended to be other board members or journalists, then used those lies to attempt to obtain the information that they were seeking.

Such operations were illegal. They resulted in the resignation of numerous board members and staff, as well as state and federal charges against members of HP.

Bribery Scandals

In 2014, HP officials pled guilty to bribery. The case stemmed from Russia, where HP officials were found to have attempted to bribe Russian government employees as part of an effort to win a government contract. As a result, the company was forced to pay over $108 million in financial penalties.

Hewlett Packard — Complete Guide: History, Products, Founding, and more FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

When was Hewlett-Packard founded?

Hewlett Packard was founded on July 2, 1939.

Who founded Hewlett-Packard?

Hewlett-Packard was founded by Bill Hewlett and David Packard, two recent graduates of Stanford University.

Does Hewlett-Packard still exist?

Yes, but not in the same form that it once did. The company split into two companies in 2015. The first company – HP Inc – makes personal computers and printers. The second company – Hewlett Packard Enterprise – engages in business services.

Is Hewlett-Packard going out of business?

Not exactly. Hewlett Packard does not still exist in the same form that it once did. However, both HP Inc and Hewlett Packard Enterprise are active in their respective business realms, and neither is believed to be going out of business anytime soon.

Is HP owned by China?

No. HP is an American-owned and American-headquartered company.

Where is Hewlett-Packard headquartered?

Hewlett-Packard has its headquarters in Palo Alto, California, in the United States.

What does HP manufacture?

HP makes a wide array of electronics, computers, printers, and servers. These include ink cartridges, personal laptops, and much more. They are considered one of the leaders within the computer and electronics industry.

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