As an Apple fan growing up in the 90’s, Apple’s Infinite Loop headquarters has always been a special place. Not just an office park, but Disneyland. A place where magic happened and new Macs were made. One Infinite Loop is where the Apple faithful would pilgrimage, take self portraits outside the main entrance, and buy “I visited the Mothership” t-shirts from the Company Store. As a east coast kid I could not wait for my chance to go.
Now that I am an adult and Apple’s corporate address reads “One Apple Park Way,” I know Apple’s old HQ has lost some of its magic. But for me and the other Apple kids of the 90’s, Infinite Loop is still a symbol of Apple’s storied resurrection. The place where the Apple we know was born, and where all of our favorite Apple products came to be. If I could choose only one Apple HQ to visit, it would be the icon infested gardens of Infinite Loop on the eve of Steve Job’s return over the rolling hills, magnificent orchards, and curved glass ring of today’s Apple Park.
Unfortunately no time machine exists to take me back to the Apple HQ of lore, but this collection of interviews curated by Stephen Levy may be the next best thing. Here Apple employees past and present tell us the behind scenes stories that helped make Infinite Loop the mecca for so many Apple fans.
For more than a year I’ve been interviewing Apple employees, past and present, about their recollections of Infinite Loop. In their own words, edited for clarity and concision, here is the story of a plot of land in Cupertino, California, that brought us the Mac revival, the iPod, iTunes, the iPhone, and the Steve Jobs legacy.
My two favorite quotes come from Phil Schiller, and Tim Cook on his first day working at Apple.
Schiller: We’re like, “Steve! Newton customers are picketing! What do you want to do? They’re angry.” And Steve said, “They have every right to be angry. They love Newton. It’s a great product, and we have to kill it, and that’s not fun, so we have to get them coffee and doughnuts and send it down to them and tell them we love them and we’re sorry and we support them.”
Cook: At IBM and Compaq, where I had been working, I had been involved in helping with thousands of product introductions and withdrawals—and, I have to say, very few people cared about the withdrawals—and not very many people cared about the intro, either. I had never seen this passion that close up.
Steve Jobs is often criticized for killing the Newton because it was John Sculley’s creation, but I have long believed killing the Newton was a sacrifice Steve had to make to save Apple. Both hypotheses can be true, but these two quotes show a rare glimpse of Steve’s empathy for Apple’s customers and the passion for Apple’s products that made the company worth saving.
Of course I could not share this article without passing on a little Infinite Loop lore of my own.
My tenure at Apple’s Infinite Loop was shorter than most. During my two weeks of Mac Genius training during the summer of 2004 my classmates and I made the trip to Caffè Macs every day for lunch; often spending the remainder of our lunch break touring the halls of Infinite Loop and finding out what doors our employee badges opened (answer: none). During our initial orientation we were told to avoid contact with Apple’s “celebrity CEO,” a warning that played out humorously later in the weak when one of my classmates suddenly stepped out of the Caffè Macs lunch line because Steve was standing behind him waiting to “pay” for his Odwalla.
The highlight of my visit was hearing Steve Jobs speak during an employees only Town Hall meeting at IL4. (We got there early to get good seats; but sat far enough back from the stage as not to stand out in the crowd.) The topic was Microsoft’s entrance into the music business with their new PlaysForSure music service, how they couldn’t leave enough alone, and wanted to rule the world. Steve told us not to worry, Apple had great products in the pipeline, and they did.
After my two week stay in Cupertino, I vowed to return to Infinite Loop as a full-fledged Apple employee, but I never did. Looking back I am grateful to have shared — however small — a tiny bit of Apple’s Infinite Loop’s history.