Daily Archives: August 21, 2011

My First Contact With Hewlitt-Packard

My friend, Omar, who writes, hosts, the blog Lingua Franca recently had a post that said that Hewlitt-Packard disclosed plans to stop making smartphones and tablet computers running on Palm’s software.  HP is also looking to get rid of its personal computer business in a sale or spinoff.

That HP might be getting rid of their personal computer business is a bit disappointing to me. Two of the three notebook computers and one desktop unit have all been HPs and I have only had minor problems with any of them and usually after much hard use. For instance, the notebook I’m using to write this I’ve owned for about four years. The only problem I have with it is that I can no longer write to the CD though I can still read CDs without any difficulty. I have an older HP notebook that I brought with me here to Panama as a back-up to this one. It went through some very hard use and the CD component is completely dead as is the sound card. Except for those two problems it works just fine. I’ll be in the market for a new computer in the not too distant future and if there are no longer any HPs to buy I don’t know what my alternative will be.

My first contact with HP came back in the winter of 1973/74. I was living in Chicago then and was working as a “head hunter” for a firm that specialized in computer geeks. We only dealt with the higher echelon of these geeks: systems analysts, department heads, that sort of creature. No programmers. It wasn’t essential to the job I held to actually know anything about computers, simply the buzz words associated with them.

Now, this was back in the days when computers were monster machines. They took up whole floors of huge buildings and ate up in a day more electricity than Niagara Falls could produce in a month. They gave off so much heat that the spaces they occupied had to be kept so cold that you could store sides of beef alongside them and technicians in white lab coats were like religious acolytes scurrying around with huge reels of tape needed for the machines to do their calculations.

One day I made a call to an HP geek whose name I’d gotten from another geek. After getting his CV out of the way I asked him what he was working on at the present time.

“Oh,” he said, “it’s an exciting new project to make ‘mini-computers.”

“Mini-computers? What the hell is a mini-computer?” I asked.

“It’s a computer that people will have on their desks.”

“You’re kidding, right?”

“No, not at all. We’re working on a project where everyone will someday have their own computer sitting on their desk.”

“Yeah, sure thing, loser,” I thought to myself. “Good luck with that. Let me know how it works out for ya.” And I quickly wrapped up the phone interview because there was absolutely no possibility of putting this whacko in another job.

My how times have changed.

This doesn’t relate to the story above but it made me laugh out loud when I saw it:


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