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Friday, May 6, 2016

HP inkjet printer pioneer Niels Nielsen plays in retirement

Niels Nielsen playing a guitar as shown in inkjet history printed in American Heritage, Spring 2001, pp. 22-23

PHOTO: HP inkjet printer pioneer Niels Nielsen as shown on pp. 22-23 of the history of inkjet printers magazine article that I wrote: Thomas Kraemer, "Printing Enters the Jet Age, How today's computer printers came to eject microscopic dots with amazing precision," American Heritage Invention & Technology, Spring 2001, Vol. 6, No. 4, pp. 22-23. For my personal copy of the text, see previous post History of HP inkjet printers in American Heritage Invention and Technology (2/19/12).

The local newspaper in Corvallis, Oregon, where the HP inkjet printer was developed and first manufactured, printed a profile of the HP inkjet printer pioneer Niels Nielsen. Below are some selected quotes from the article:

Niels Nielsen . . . "Now that I have become unemployably old -- some people call it retired -- I've started building wacky bass guitar stuff I could use on the stage," Nielsen said. . . In the art community, Nielsen's pieces often drop jaws and start conversations. Outside of the art community, the 64-year-old ex-engineer is perhaps best known as one of "Cloutier's crazies," the nickname given to the design team of Hewlett-Packard's revolutionary thermal inkjet printer . . Nielsen first came to Corvallis in 1979, when he was 27 and fresh out of the University of California Davis with a master's degree in mechanical engineering and materials science. . . "Growing up in the '60s and '70s, I was always a nerd and a geek. I was one of the bottom-feeders in high school and college," he said. "I didn't feel like I had found home until HP hired me. Then I was surrounded by people like me: weird-ass geeks." . . In 1988, the team introduced HP's inkjet printer, the DeskJet . . Nielsen took a voluntary severance package and retired from HP in 2007 during a round of downsizing. Today, the 64-year-old ex-engineer has "rebooted" his life creating what he calls gonzo art -- bizarre functional and decorative pieces meant to stupefy, amaze and amuse. . .
(Quoted from Nathan Brutell, "Retired HP engineer turns to gonzo art," posted May 3, 2016)

I was amused to read Niels Nielsen's comment about the type of engineers at HP when he first joined, because I have only seen this type of entrepreneurial engineer at other successful high-tech startups in Silicon Valley (where the HP Corvallis division was first started as a scientific calculator division before it was moved up north) (See previous posts Newsweek 'Founders of Silicon Valley' special edition on newsstands provides overview history of HP, Fairchild, Intel, Google, Facebook, etc. (5/4/16), IEEE Milestones HP 35 calculator (5/2/09) and HP and Corvallis newspaper history (3/22/09))