David Packard: OBITUARY

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The Independent Online
Dave Packard invited - a better word might be "summoned" - me to breakfast as the constituency MP representing South Queensferry, largest of the Hewlett-Packard manufacturing units in Europe, writes Tam Dalyell [further to the obituary by Godfrey Hodgson, 28 March]. I found him the most formidable, and charming, of operators.

When he was in London, he stayed at the Connaught Hotel. He would appear at the dining-room door at 7am, not a minute before and not a minute after.

"About ma [sic] business in Scotland" was the inevitable opening. Packard would come straight to the point before raising his spoon to the porridge, which he had arranged should be put on the table just as we entered the dining room. Since his business was 1,600 well-paid jobs in my constituency, clear attention was required for his every thought.

And his thoughts in the 1960s, commonplace enough now, were pioneering at the time. On 14 May 1965, at the turning of the first sod of the Queensferry plant, Packard's partner and lifelong close friend (famous partners do not always remain close personal friends), the altogether gentler, more reflective scientist Bill Hewlett, told me that one of the chief reasons they had come to the banks of the Forth was the fame of Edinburgh University in embryo computer-related sciences. "The nearest thing in Europe to Stanford."

Packard saw that his managers got the best out of academics. The company pioneered the industrial-academic relationship, picking or exploiting the brains of European universities. They were also pioneers among American high-tech industries this side of the Atlantic in their determination to develop indigenous talent capable of taking over the most important managerial posts. Hewlett, the inventor and for many years technical assessor- in-chief, left it to Packard, the marketeer and manager, to choose people - and as a people-chooser Packard had an instinct for talent that was uncannily unerring. In 30 years representing South Queensferry, where the Hewlett-Packard factory overlooks the Forth Bridge, I have never heard a single complaint against the management, an astonishing record.

Of small talk Packard had little. In July 1972, after the toast and honey and about to leave, I ventured to ask, "Dave, what's all this about some burglary in downtown Washington which is creating such a fuss?" "Tam, I didn't think you concerned yourself with trivialities!" he replied.

The little local difficulty turned out to be Watergate and my host was the President of Creep, the Council for the Re-election of the President in northern California.