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An Oral History of Apple's Infinite Loop (wired.com)
92 points by rosser 9 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 21 comments

I was an Apple engineer from 2007-2011. Worked in IL2 and IL3, as well as across the street in De Anza 7. When I started, all the signage in the Infinite Loop buildings used design cues from classic Mac OS styling--the Chicago and Apple Garamond fonts, pixelated icons and bitmap dingbats from the Cairo font. Awesome geeky old Mac stuff.

After the iPhone took off they started removing all of these signs and replacing them with ones that were more "on brand." The building number signs, with their Apple colors and pixelated Chicago characters, were replaced by gray Myriad on solid white.

Everyone in my building either had their own office or shared it with one other coworker. I was a relatively junior engineer, a couple years out of college, with a window office to myself. Haven't had that since.

In early October 2011 I was looking for another job. I was actually at another company's office for an onsite interview when the interviewer told me of Steve's passing. Must have been awkward for him to deliver that news, but I did accept the job in the end. :)

Sadly, I joined the company too late to see the famous "Icon Garden." I think it was taken down in the late 90s/early 2000s.

> Everybody wanted to move in. It was a gigantic shift in the way we worked, because we went from being in cubes to, all of a sudden, literally every person had an office.

And now they've regressed.

> And now they've regressed.

That's not entirely true, there are teams in the new campus that have offices (usually shared, which is much the same as Infinite Loop) - it's a mix of working spaces and styles.

What is true is that engineering at Apple is very much a meritocracy, and some teams are treated much better than others. When I was there I saw engineering teams - particularly those working on things perceived as less important by the company - were put into open plan spaces and cube farms. Meanwhile, others were treated very well, with large offices and private spaces.

Beside cost saving, I wonder whether it is generational with Millenials having been closely watched over by the hovering parents, etc. all their live.

To the comment below: Not all Millenials may be explicitly asking for it, yet they definitely have lesser allergy/resistance to it which makes the cost saving measure of the "cool offices" more feasible. Other people have also at different times/comments (for example https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18009641) noticed that the open office is frequently used as an "ageism" filter.

Are the millenials actually asking for open offices? I think you're projecting a lot, and making pretty unfounded statements.

I don't know a single person IRL who prefers them that works as a software engineer.

Finally - I've never been hired somewhere that actually let me decide on my office format. I've been places that asked, but none have ever actually given me what I asked for.

I find no shortage of young engineers who’ve never experienced offices expressing a strong preference for open plan working arrangements. Sure it’s not all of them, but it’s a significant amount. Everywhere I’ve worked, if/when the topic of office layout redesign or move has arisen, the young folks desires for “bull pens” or big shared desks or similar has always won out.

I think popular culture has almost made the open plan office aspirational for some too, which is kind of hilarious.

I've heard very few entry-level developers complain about them and many say they like that someone's always around to answer questions. I don't think that's because of helicopter parents, though.

Or is it boomer managers who are used to closely watching over their kids and want to transfer that into the workplace?

The boomer managers have offices with walls and doors. They're not out sitting with the kids.

I don’t think “cost savings” factored into the new HQ. even within the walls out of view, construction tolerances were insane for no particular reason other than it was “right.”

for the same number of employees and the same cost - building bigger office with bare-minimum satisfactory tolerances vs. smaller office with unnecessary high tolerances. Saving at one place to spend at another.

I don't know if it's still there, but when I visited Infinite Loop 4 back in 2012, printed on the wall was one of my favorite Jobs' quotes:

"If you do something and it turns out pretty good, then you should go do something else wonderful, not dwell on it for too long. Just figure out what’s next."

I think you mean Infinite Loop 4 (the building with Town Hall & the Cafeteria). Last I saw it was still there.

Yes, you're right – thanks!

I worked there for a while until a year before Steve came back. I always dreamed of working at Apple having spent most of my career up til then building stuff for Macs. But it was pretty depressing (they lost $1B while I was there) and I didn't want to be there when they died. But I liked working in IL, the cafeteria was great, so many cool people to work with. But it was obvious none of the execs had any idea how to fix all the issues. I wondered who would own IL afterwards. Of course I was an idiot for leaving, but telling the future was not my strong suit.

I think most companies in Apple's position would have folded, or hobbled on for a few years while they sell off more and more of their business. You did a reasonable thing.

I don’t think you can beat yourself up too much for that one - Apple’s turn around in the late 90s was hardly obvious or even probable at times. If I’d been at Apple during the period just before (heck even during) the NEXT acquisition I’d have constantly been considering jumping ship before the seemingly inevitable collapse too.

> You see more young people than we ever had. You walk around and you’re hearing probably every foreign language being spoken around this campus.

That's been my first impression as well. Now that I work there.

is it true the sushi guy was interviewed by jobs?

He was basically forced out of retirement for Jobs. Jobs loved his sushi

When did he stop being a fruitarian? Is that a myth about Jobs that he was a vegan who only ate fruit?

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