I met my wife thirty-two years ago and married her about a year later. We had never met prior to that, but coincidentally we were born in the same hospital, we went to the same schools, my father sold her mother their house, and our older siblings were classmates. Sometimes your soulmate is right there next to you, and you don’t realize it.
HP and Poly have a similar story to my wife and I. As I’m sure you know, HP bought Poly this past year, bringing the leader in collaboration solutions into an organization that has been leading the way in technology for over eighty years. However, did you know that, just like my wife and I, HP and Poly also ‘went to the same schools and had the same parenting’ without meeting until now?
I was reminded of this by the recent launch of the Artemis space mission. When humankind first set out to accomplish that monumental task in the 1960’s, both HP and Poly were there – together.
The story for Poly begins in 1961 when NASA launched Mercury Redstone 4 Sub-Orbital Spaceflight with Astronaut Gus Grissom aboard. This was the second manned space flight and it lasted about 15 minutes. After splashing down in the ocean, the hatch on the capsule prematurely blew open. Water poured into the capsule and, as it flooded, the electronics short circuited. When this happened, all power was lost inside of the capsule. Nothing worked, including the radios, and Astronaut Grissom lost communications with the rescue team. He nearly drowned, and the capsule sank.
After that incident, NASA contracted for the development of a portable radio transceiver that was small and lightweight to fit into a pocket of the astronaut’s spacesuit. In the event of a power loss inside the capsule, it could be deployed to facilitate communication with the rescue team. Plantronics heard about the need and provided NASA with MS50 lightweight headsets (just developed for airline pilots) as part of the emergency radio solution.
At the same time, astronaut Wally Schirra really disliked the headsets used by the astronauts on the first Mercury missions because they were heavy and cumbersome. He asked NASA to investigate using the MS50 headset inside of his helmet for his upcoming flight.
From that point forward, all NASA space flights utilized the Poly (Plantronics) headsets in the astronauts’ “Snoopy Caps” used for communication. The immortal words “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” (and all other astronaut communications) were spoken on a Poly headset.
At the very same time, the “Snoopy Caps” and radios required solid state components like diodes and pin-switches that were provided by, of course, HP. And that was not the only contribution that HP made to space flights in the 1960’s. One other example includes HP’s cesium beam frequency standards were the atomic clocks that kept the worldwide Apollo network of 18 tracking stations and communications systems synchronized within a few thousandths of a second.
It’s important to note with pride that the HP components used during the Apollo missions were off-the-shelf products. The same precision components that NASA required to complete the missions successfully were in use across the globe in many industries.
HP’s involvement in the space program also goes back to the original Mercury program. On May 15, 1963 Astronaut Gordon Cooper Jr. piloted the Mercury Earth-orbital space mission in his “Faith 7” capsule. During the nearly 35-hour flight, all of his vital signs were continuously recorded on an HP Sanborn “350” 8-channel recording system so that NASA scientists could learn how the human body reacted to the conditions at all times.
So, like my wife and I who were there together three decades ago without formally having a relationship, HP and Poly worked side-by-side over five decades ago, facilitating humanities exploration of the moon.
All these years later, HP and Poly are in a ‘moonstruck’ relationship leading the technology world and proving that innovation has and can continue to drive extraordinary contributions to humanity.
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