By Calvin Zito, @HPStorageGuy
I'm feeling a bit nostalgic today for a few reasons -
- Earlier in the week, Ray Smelek - the man that brought HP to Boise - died at the age of 78. I didn't know Ray personally but in my early days of working in HP Storage, I was in reviews with Ray and did meet him several times. I also often saw him driving to or from work as we lived on the same side of Boise.
- I was at the HP Boise site earlier today and saw an article about an HP disk drive manufactured in Boise that was introduced in 1986. Not many people know that HP Storage used to be centered in Boise.
- While at the HP Boise site, I also saw HP's first laser printer (the HP 2680A) that I used to work on when I worked in the field for HP and was also designed and manufactured in Boise.
These all have had a major impact on me personally and are very much related so I wanted to touch on each.
Ray Smelek - HP tech giant in Boise
In the mid 70's, Bill Hewlett asked Ray to start a new printer business and find a location to do it. Ray visited several locations in the U.S. and settled on Boise as the place. You may not think of Boise as a tech hub of the U.S. but along with HP, Micron Technology and several other high-tech companies are here. Also, both Boise State and the University of Idaho responded to the influx of technology companies by offering engineering programs. If not for Ray, none of that would have happened and I wouldn't live in Boise today.
Ray was the general manager of the printer business in Boise for over 10 years but then later became the GM of the Mass Storage Organization, which is how I got to meet him while I was working a six-month assignment in Germany when I introduced HP's first disk array to Europe back in 1992.
The local news did a story on Ray earlier this week and former HP VP Rich Raimondi (who used to work in HP Storage and is one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet) talks about Ray and bringing HP to Boise.
1986 - HP introduces a 300 and 500MB "disc" drive
There's an area at the HP Boise site where you can see products and memorabilia from HP's 35 plus years in Idaho. What caught my eye was an article from the local newspaper from 1986 titled "HP unveils generation of disc drives - products called faster than predecessors". HP was a disk drive manufacturer at the time - this was before there was RAID or array systems - and the HP 7936 and 7937 were sealed disk drives that replaced older disk drives that had removable disk platters. I worked on these disk drives and remember installing many of them during my time as a Customer Engineer in Fullerton, California.
Rich Raimondi managed marketing for our Disk Memory Division and is quoted in the article talking about these drives. In 1986, the 571MB HP 7937 list price was $17,600. Funny that today you can't give away a 500MB USB stick! The 7937 was also just a tad bit larger than a USB stick - probably about half the size of a dishwasher. The article also talks about HP's revenue in the first three quarters of 1986 (November through July) was $5.17B. My, how things have changed!
HP's first laser printer, the HP 2680A
I was a Customer Engineer (the guy that fixed hardware) when HP first shipped the 2680A. I remember going to a training class in Cupertino to learn all about it. The 2680A had a print resolution of 180 dots per inch and a top speed of 45 pages per minute. It printed on A/A4-size fanfold paper rather than cut sheet paper. The 2680A took almost five years to develop and was the start of what has been an enormously successful partnership with Canon.
These beasts required regular preventive maintenance (PM) - and as a customer, it didn't have a toner cartridge that you could pull out and put in a new one - so when your print quality wasn't looking so good, you called your friendly CE (namely me).
I worked at my PM's and got them down to a science. I could get it done in about half the time as others took. The downside of my approach was that the toner - yes, that black stuff that gets laid down on a page and fused onto the paper - would get everywhere. I ruined more shirts doing PM's on the 2680A than I do eating spaghetti (and that little fact would surprise my wife).
But the worst part was (sorry, this is going to be a little gross) that I would blow black toner out of my nose for a couple of days after doing a PM. That drove me to look at doing something different at HP - I ended up going to Cal State Fullerton where I got my MBA and before I had my diploma, I moved to Boise where I've worked in HP Storage ever since.
It all comes together
So today as Ray's memorial service starts (literally as I'm typing this), I'm thankful that Ray brought HP to Boise and that I got tired of ruining dress shirts because of the ink and toner stains - and I found my way to Boise, Idaho and HP Storage.