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

FEATURE: 10.26.18- The former headquarters of Apple, Inc., the Apple Campus at 1 Infinite Loop in Cupertino, California, which has served the tech company for the last 25 years is no longer the main attraction with its brand new home, Apple Park, opening last year. Today, I take a quick look back at my very memorable visit to the old campus along with a historical perspective, including a few memories from its key employees, courtesy of Wired magazine.

It was a hot Summer day back in August 2010 when I — as the technology coordinator concurrently at two elementary schools where I was employed at the time — headed over to the Cupertino headquarters for an educators conference that was being held at the Apple Campus. It was my first time ever visiting the location and I being a huge Apple fan was giddy at the whole 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 taking a stop at a unique Apple Store called “the Company Store” to see what I would find and could buy there, then I continued on to its main building (which I recently learned was dubbed “IL1” by Apple employees). I wanted to take a picture and capture its impressive scale so I crossed the street to get a wider view of the front of the building.

In this August 2010 photo, Apple co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs is seen heading back in to work at “IL1,” the main building of the Apple Campus at 1 Infinite Loop in Cupertino, California. (Photo: Joe Leo)

As I made my way across the street, I saw a scrawny man walking up the aisle from the parking lot and as he got closer to me, I realized who the person was. Approaching me in all his aura and glory was the Apple CEO and co-founder himself, Steve Jobs! This was not the first time I saw the man in person, having seen him speak at Macworld Expo 2007 when I covered his keynote that unveiled the iPhone which I live blogged for PowerBook Central, the website I used to write for which is the sister site of MacPrices (merged earlier this year). However, this was the first time and the nearest thing to being up close and personal that I ever would be with the man who created Apple.

I was so ecstatic to be in his presence but a little shocked to be that close to him that I had to gather my senses and calm my inner emotions down so that I could focus and take my iPhone out of its holster which I was fumbling for. I, of course, wanted to take his picture but did not want to be rude and seemingly shove my smartphone in his face when doing it. So I politely waited for him to pass me, with neither of us giving nary a nod to acknowledge each other, and when his backside was to me, I turned around and took the picture. I was not worried about getting his face in the shot because he was wearing his famous everyday apparel (uniform?) of choice, his blue denim jeans and black mock turtleneck. Plus, the backdrop was already proof that this was the Apple CEO himself since I was at 1 Infinite Loop.

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

Last month, editor at large Steven Levy of Wired magazine wrote a nice memoir of the Apple Campus at 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.

One that caught my attention in particular was from Apple Vice President of real estate (2007-18), 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.

On the campus itself, another thing that caught my attention and gave me a chuckle — being visually impaired myself and totally blind since 2013 as a result of complications with my health — I found this memory from Apple senior Vice President of software (1997-2012), Scott Forstall, noteworthy to mention.

“Those buildings were mazes!” said Forstall. “Every time I would bring someone on campus, they would get lost. There’s only one time I remember someone not getting lost and it was when we were working on a screen reader for sight challenged people.”

He continued, “I brought someone in who needed a seeing-eye dog. He asked to use the restroom. Every other time this happened, I would wait because they would get lost trying to find their way back. Left, right, left, right, right. Five minutes later his dog brings him right back into the room. That seeing-eye dog was the only one who knew his way around the very first time!”

Just for the record, I myself personally do not have a seeing-eye dog for assistance to get around, relying more on a human guide most of the time and whenever possible.

The Company Store, seen here in this August 2010 photo, on the Apple Campus is a special Apple Store where one can find merchandise with the company logo emblazoned on the items. (Photo: Joe Leo)

Of all the unique aspects about the Apple Campus that its employees shared, from the onsite restaurant only for its workers called “Caffè Macs” with its custom outdoor wood burning pizza oven to the special areas that Jobs had locked down for secrecy — for example when the iPHone was being developed — so that each department was kept out of the loop (no pun intended), no one mentioned the fact that the former headquarters is home to the aforementioned special Apple Store, The Company Store.

That retail store was filled with a lot of merchandise featuring the Apple logo emblazoned on them. Items like clothing from shirts, to jackets and hats, to accessories like mousepads and coffee mugs. The store also sold a handful of software titles for the Mac including the company’s own, of course, but oddly enough did not sell any hardware or devices.

After the educators conference ended for the day, I returned to The Company Store and decided to buy three souvenir T-shirts — one for myself and the other two for my friends — that said, “I visited the Mothership” printed in white on the front with an Apple logo in white on the back, all on a black short-sleeved shirt.

I also looked for some pens but they did not sell them. However, I noticed at the cash register that they had some black pens with the white Apple logo on them and asked the employee there if they were for sale. She said no but let me take a couple of them for free since I was making a purchase.

So, with Apple Park the current headquarters of Apple, Inc. being open for business now for a little more than a year and a half — its first batch of employees moving in to the “spaceship campus” in April 2017 — and the tech company having a new home, what will its former headquarters, the “Mothership” at 1 Infinite Loop be used for?

Apple for the foreseeable future at least, according to Levy of Wired magazine, will be keeping the old campus. The question is what will it be used for and I contacted the company directly through one of its media spokespersons but the representative, while initially responding, had not answer my main question yet from a follow up email as of publication time.

It most certainly would be sad and very unfortunate to see 1 Infinite Loop torn down in order to make room for something new. Hopefully, if Apple ever relinquished its ownership of its former headquarters, I hope that at least IL1, its main building, would be saved as a state historical site and 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, like: the Macintosh in 1984, the iMac in 1998, the iPod in 2001, the iPhone in 2007, the MacBook Air in 2008, and the iPad in 2010. It was also where many iconic people have visited. As Levy wrote, “As Apple regained its cultural momentum,Infinite Loop became a magnet for celebrities, musicians, political figures, and icons like Muhammad Ali,” some of those musicians being Sheryl Crow, Stevie Wonder, Tom Jones, and Lady Gaga just to name a few.

It was Jobs himself that came up with the original idea back in the mid 1980s for Apple to have a centralized headquarters which he called “SuperSite” according to former Apple CEO (1983-93), John Sculley, who became the company’s third CEO when Jobs was infamously ousted from his own company. It would not be until the early 1990s when Apple, under Sculley, 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 Jobs returned to the company in 1997, his disapproval of the headquarters design was apparent. He would, according to Apple senior Vice President of hardware engineering (1997-2006), Jon Rubinstein, look up at the buildings on the Apple Campus and just shake his head.

Circling back to Whisenhunt, he made this notable observation and 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.”

Fast forward to sometime around 2004, seven years after Jobs returned to Apple and took over the helm shortly thereafter, when he started to discuss the idea for a totally brand new campus to where he would finally take ownership of its design. It would be much later in the process when he came up with the idea for a cloverleaf-shaped campus before he realized it wouldn’t work with his overall vision and it would transform eventually into the ring-shaped spaceship style as it stands today. Apple Park, the brainchild of Jobs, was his ultimate final product, a dream waiting to be realized which he spearheaded and planned from its concept until his last days. Sadly, he would not get the chance to oversee Apple Park being built nor see it standing as he passed away — — seven years ago this month — on October 5, 2011 after a long battle with pancreatic cancer.

In another Wired magazine article published last year, also written by Levy, on the building of Apple Park in advance of its opening, the editor at large wrote the following about Jobs and the legacy he left behind for the future of the company he created.

“The phrase that keeps coming up in talks with key Apple figures is ‘Steve’s gift.’ 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.”

A souvenir T-shirt owned by Joe Leo purchased from The Company Store on the Apple Campus at 1 Infinite Loop. (Photo: Henry Leo)

I have not yet visited the Apple Park spaceship campus in Cupertino, “Steve’s gift,” and hope to do so one day. Sadly, all I can do is imagine what it looks like since I will never get to enjoy its grandeur visually speaking. It would be nice if Apple created something for the visually impaired that was tactile so one could feel what its new headquarters looks like by touch. (That idea is from my other boss, Dan Knight, publisher of Low End Mac, one of the other websites I write for, who recently mentioned to me about an attraction that opened up in his hometown which has a miniature replica model of the entire venue cast in bronze designed for the visually impaired to get a feel, literally, for what they cannot see.). Before I lost my eyesight,I remember seeing some preliminary designs when Apple Park was being conceptualized and it really did look like something akin to the space station outpost, also shaped like a ring, where the sci-fi television series “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” was set. Being a “Trek” fan myself, only rivaling my Apple “fanboy” status,I was always fascinated — to loosely quote the late Leonard Nimoy’s iconic character Spock himself — about that idea and thought that was awesome.

However, I am so glad that I at least had the opportunity to visit the original headquarters, the Mothership on the Apple Campus at 1 Infinite Loop — where a lot of the tech company’s history was made — and see it for myself along with bumping into the big man on campus (so to speak) himself, Steve Jobs. Being the huge Apple fan that I am, it will go down in my life as one of the most memorable events ever and I won’t soon forget it!

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