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Hewlett & Packard: Architects Of The Info Age

The founding fathers of Silicon Valley steered tech away from hierarchy

The plaque outside the ramshackle two-family house at 367 Addison St. in Palo Alto, Calif., identifies the dusty one-car garage out back as the "birthplace of Silicon Valley." But the site, where Dave Packard and Bill Hewlett first set up shop, in 1938, is more than that. It's the birthplace of a new approach to management, a West Coast alternative to the traditional, hierarchical corporation. Sixty-five years later, the methods of Hewlett and Packard remain the dominant DNA for tech companies -- and a major reason for U.S. preeminence in the Information Age.

The partnership began when the pair met as students at Stanford University. Packard, an opinionated star athlete from the hardscrabble town of Pueblo, Colo., had a commanding presence to match his 6-ft.-5-in. frame. Hewlett, whose technical genius was obscured from teachers by undiagnosed dyslexia, favored dorm-room pranks and bad puns. While different in temperament, the two soon discovered a shared passion for camping and fishing -- and for turning engineering theory into breakthrough products.