A Very Memorable Visit to the ‘Mothership’ at 1 Infinite Loop in Cupertino

FEATURE: 10.26.18 – Before there ever was an Apple Park, Apple called the Apple Campus its home..

The Apple Campus — located at 1 Infinite Loop in Cupertino, California — used to be home to the headquarters of Apple, Inc. before its brand new pad, Apple Park, opened for business last year. No longer the main attraction as it had been for the past 25 years, “The Mothership” (its nickname) is still used in some form by the company although how and for what is unclear (Apple’s corporate office was asked about this but no response was given).

Apple co-founder and CEO, Steve Jobs, heads back in to work at “IL1,” the main building of the Apple Campus at 1 Infinite Loop in Cupertino, California, in this photograph taken on August 10, 2010. (Photo: Joe Leo / MacPrices)

Today, we take a look back at this writer’s very memorable visit to “The Mothership” along with a historical perspective of the Apple Campus which includes a few memories from key Apple employees over the past 25 years courtesy of Wired magazine.

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‘I Visited The Mothership’

It was a hot Summer day back in the Summer of 2010 when I (as the technology coordinator concurrently at two elementary schools where I was employed at the time) headed over to Cupertino for an educators conference that was being held at the Apple Campus. It was my first time ever visiting Apple’s then headquarters and I, being a huge Apple fan, was giddy at the entire prospect of being on the company’s home turf.

During our lunch break, I decided to take a quick tour around the campus grounds, first stopping by a special Apple retail store on site called “the Company Store” to see what I could buy there (I bought a black souvenir t-shirt with a white Apple logo on the back with the words “I visited the Mothership’ on the front), before continuing on to take a photograph of the main building of the Apple Campus (dubbed “IL1” by Apple employees per Wired).

In order to capture its impressive scale, I made my way across the street to get a wider view of the front of the main building. That’s when I noticed a scrawny man walking up a paved walkway in between the parking lot. As he got closer to me, I realized who the person was!

Approaching me in all of his aura and glory was the Apple co-founder and CEO himself: Steve Jobs.

I was so ecstatic to be in his presence (not to mention, a little shocked to be in close proximity to him!) that I had to gather my senses and calm myself down in order to focus and take my iPhone out of its holster on my belt (which I was fumbling for) so that I, of course, could take his picture. However, I did not want to be rude and seemingly invade his privacy so I politely waited for him to pass me by. With neither of us giving nary a nod to acknowledge each other, when his backside was to me, I turned around and took the photograph (as seen above).

As for getting Jobs’s face in the shot, I was not worried at all about catching him only from the back because he was wearing his famous everyday apparel of choice (uniform?), his blue denim jeans and black mock turtleneck, proof that this was the Apple co-founder and CEO himself (plus having “IL1” in the background made it clear that the photograph was taken on the Apple Campus).

In hindsight, I wish I had at least said hello or asked him something like, “Coming back from lunch Mr. Jobs?” Maybe even asked him if we could have taken a selfie together. Unfortunately, I did not think to do any of that because of my sheer excitement!

Notably, this was not my first time seeing the man in person, having originally seen him give his keynote address at the Macworld Conference & Expo in 2007 when the iPhone was unveiled (which I live blogged for PowerBook Central, the sister site of MacPrices which recently merged this year). However, this was the nearest thing to being up close and personal that I would ever get to being with the man who created Apple (and, sadly, the last time that I ever would see him since he would pass away the following year in October 2011 after a long battle with pancreatic cancer).

An Oral History Of ‘SuperSite’

Last month, Steven Levy, the editor-at-large of Wired, wrote a nice piece which gave an oral history of 1 Infinite Loop featuring a number of its employees both past and present. Reading the interviews, I came across some notable anecdotes about Jobs shared by his colleagues at the time.

In particular, the one quote that caught my attention was from former Apple Vice President of real estate, Dan Whisenhunt, who said, “He had very predictable paths. The first was from the parking lot through the lobby up to his office.” (now I know what Jobs was doing that day I saw him, witnessing in part, exactly what Whisenhunt detailed).

Another thing that caught my attention? Of all the unique aspects about the Apple Campus that its employees shared, from the onsite restaurant only for its workers called “Caffè Macs” which featured a custom outdoor wood-burning pizza oven to the specific areas indoors on the campus grounds that Jobs had locked down for secrecy (e.g., when the iPhone was being developed and each department was kept out of the… loop), no one mentioned the fact that the company’s former headquarters was home to the aforementioned special Apple retail store.

The Company Store was filled with all kinds of merchandise featuring the Apple logo emblazoned on them. Items such as clothing like shirts, jackets, and hats to accessories like mousepads and coffee mugs. The store also sold a handful of software titles for the Mac but, oddly enough, none of the company’s hardware or devices were sold in-store.

On the Apple Campus itself, it was the Apple co-founder himself who came up with the original idea back in the mid 1980s for Apple to have a centralized headquarters. It would not be until the early 1990s under former Apple CEO (1983-93), John Sculley, when the company would decide to expand its then current headquarters and build what is today 1 Infinite Loop.

“When I first started working with Steve Jobs, he had this idea of building an Apple Campus,” said Sculley. “Steve called it SuperSite. He wanted something like the experience of going to Disney Worldwith monorails going around where everyone was in different colored uniforms. When Steve told the Mac group that he wanted to have uniforms, they all looked at him like he was crazy!”

However, when the Apple co-founder returned to the company in 1997 after being infamously ousted from Apple 12 years earlier (over the Macintosh, of all things!), Jobs’s disapproval of the headquarters design was apparent. According to former Apple senior Vice President of hardware engineering, Jon Rubinstein, Jobs would look up at the buildings on the Apple Campus and just shake his head.

Most notable was this observation by Whisenhunt who said, “Steve didn’t like the campus. He wasn’t here during the time it was built and he didn’t have ownership of the design.”

Apple Park: ‘Steve’s Gift’

In another Wired article written by Levy (this one published last year) on the building of Apple Park in advance of its opening, the editor-at-large reported that the Apple co-founder started to discuss the idea of a brand new campus sometime in 2004 with a design which Jobs would finally take ownership of.

“The phrase that keeps coming up in talks with key Apple figures is ‘Steve’s gift,’ wrote Levy. “Behind that concept is the idea that in the last months of his life, Jobs expended significant energy to create a workplace that would benefit Apple’s workers for perhaps the next century.”

Apple Park was Jobs’s ultimate final product, a dream that he spearheaded and planned from its inception. Originally designed to be shaped like a clover leaf, the plans eventually transformed into the spaceship style campus that stands today. Sadly, Jobs would not get the chance to oversee his brainchild being built nor see it standing, passing away before its completion.

With Apple Park being open for business now for a little more than a year-and-a-half and the company having a new home , what will be done to its former headquarters at 1 Infinite Loop?

According to the Wired editor-at-large, Apple, for the foreseeable future, will be keeping its old campus at 1 Infinite Loop. It most certainly would be sad and very unfortunate to see the Apple Campus torn down in order to make room for something new (if Apple ever relinquished its ownership of its former headquarters, I hope that at least IL1, its main building, would be saved as a California state historical site or even turned into a museum of sorts).

The Apple Campus holds a lot of history. It’s where a lot of iconic products from Apple were designed and made. It was also where many iconic people have visited.

“As Apple regained its cultural momentum[1] ,Infinite Loop became a magnet for celebrities, musicians, political figures, and icons like Muhammad Ali,” wrote Levy.

While I have not yet had the chance to visit Apple Park? Bumping into the big man on campus (so to speak) and the opportunity to visit the Apple Campus at 1 Infinite Loop in Cupertino where a lot of the company’s history was made will go down as one of the most memorable events ever in my lifetime: a sort of “gift” from Jobs that I won’t soon forget!

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