Wildfire destroys Hewlett Packard founders' archive

October 30, 2017 | 09:44

Tags: #archive #california #computer-history #fire

Companies: #hewlett-packard #hewlett-packard-enterprise #history #hp-inc #keysight-technologies

An irreplaceable archive of documents from William Hewlett and David Packard, co-founders of a little company called Hewlett Packard, have been confirmed destroyed in a wildfire which has ripped through California' Santa Rosa.

Founded in 1938 by William Hewlett and David Packard with little more than a garage and a joint $538 in savings, Hewlett Packard is one of the world's largest technology companies. While split in twain in 2015 with HP Inc. taking on the consumer market and Hewlett Packard Enterprise the business sector, HP sits in second place just short of Chinese technology giant Lenovo for number of PC units shipped as of 2016 and controls over a third of the global printer market.

Key documents from its founders have now been destroyed in a wildfire which hit California's Santa Rosa. The Press Democrat reports on the complete destruction of an archive containing over 100 boxes of 'writings, correspondence, speeches, and other items' from the two technologists, valued in 2005 at almost $2 million and stored in a pair of temporary modular buildings - moved, according to former HP archivist Karen Lewis, from special fireproof vaults inside a permanent structure which could have protected them from the fire.

The archives had been formerly under HP control, but in 2014 HP spin-off Keysight Technologies acquired the documents from fellow HP alumnus Agilent Technologies, resulting in the move away from the dedicated storage facility. The company denies any fault in the loss of the archive, however: 'Keysight took appropriate and responsible steps to protect the company archives, but the most destructive firestorm in state history prevented efforts to protect portions of the collection,' Keysight's Jeff Weber told the paper. 'This is a sad, unfortunate situation — like many others in Sonoma County now. This is a time to begin healing, not assigning blame.'

Unfortunately, at no point in the documents' history had they been digitised for posterity making their loss absolute and irreversible.

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