Professor Umran Inan

Winter 2000-2001

Date: Wednesday, February 7, 2001
Time: 4:15-5:30 PM; Refreshments at 4:00 PM
Location:PACKARD 101 (This Seminar Only)

Bill Hewlett and Graduate Student Life in Fred Terman's Lab

Prof. C. Stewart Gillmor
Wesleyan University


Money was very tight at Stanford in the 1930s. Fred Terman donated much of his own materials and used some of his patent royalties to buy or swap for equipment and supplies for his lab. Beginning in 1928, Terman said he wanted to develop three areas of research in radioengineering (the word for "electronics" in those days.) These areas were: vacuum tube circuit design and theory; vacuum tube design and techniques, especially at high-frequencies; and radio wave propagation. Due to the economic depression, it took Terman until about 1937 to get all three areas of research humming.

From 1928-1941, Terman directed more graduate theses than any one in the university, indeed more than most entire departments. Terman worked to get the best graduate students, and to obtain financial support for them. This was key to building a great university, he wrote. Space was very tight as well, and the EE grad students worked in wire-covered cubicles in the attic of Building 500.

Throughout his career, Terman designed laboratory instruments, and from about 1935 on, he studied feedback circuits. In his graduate courses and lab in the 1930s he worked with a number of students, Joe Pettit, Ed Ginzton, John Woodyard, Dave Packard, Mike Villard and others who went on to fame in engineering. One of Terman's most celebrated papers was co-authored with students Bob Buss, Bill Hewlett and Fred Cahill. ("Some Applications of Negative Feedback with Particular Reference to Laboratory Equipment", Proc. I. R. E., October 1939).

Bill Hewlett graduated B. A. in engineering in 1934 and then spent a year working with Terman to prepare to enter MIT for a Master's Degree. After returning from MIT in 1936, Hewlett worked around Terman's lab. He was joined by Dave Packard in 1938, with Packard getting a half-time fellowship from Terman using Charles Litton's klystron patent royalties. Packard worked on klystrons and ultra-high-frequency tube designs with Litton, while Hewlett worked on feedback circuits with Terman. It was in Terman's lab that Hewlett developed the resistance-tuned audio oscillator which became the Hewlett-Packard Model 200, sold initially for $54.40, and launched the H-P company..

This presentation will discuss those days, the life of a grad student in EE, and the occasional shenanigans in Terman's lab. A surprise guest may be in attendance.