Terman was a member of the US Army Signal Corps' advisory board at the time, and when asked by the army how best to acquire a computer for research purposes, he naturally turned to Hewlett — one of his former students — for assistance. Unfortunately, HP were then immersed in the world of electronic test equipment and, as such, had very little knowledge of a product from which they would eventually make huge profits; hence this reply. 10 years later, they introduced one of the world's first 16-bit minicomputers: the HP-2116A.
Transcript follows. Image courtesy of Steve Blank. Many thanks to Mac Harwood for suggesting it.
Image: Steve Blank
June 13, 1956
Dr. F. E. Terman
Office of the Provost
I have no personal knowledge of computers nor does anyone in our organization have any appreciable knowledge.
Sorry we can't help you out in this regard.
William R. Hewlett