Happy 2013! a.k.a the End of 2012 Steve Jobs News Roundup

Dear reader,

The new year starts as it should, with the continuation of one of my worst habits: the posting of news roundups that gather the equivalent of what should have been five or six separate, timely posts. Still, I will write such an article, because it does contain some interesting trivia that you might have missed.

 

Let’s start with the one-year anniversary of Steve’s passing. Although I did post on that sad day, it was only later that I found out the following anecdote: The favicon was at half mast during the anniversary of Steve Jobs’ death (from a great site, Little Big Details, which I recommend you check out).

Apple's favicon at half mast

That’s right, on October 11 2012, the favicon of apple.com was “flying at half mast”. Nice touch, and a reminder that the company continues to care about the smallest details (and to delight you when you happen to notice them). Of course, this was only the icing on the cake, and what a cake.

 

Another piece of news came from Steve Jobs’s “other” company, Pixar. The Disney-owned animation studios had the graciousness to name the newest addition to their campus “The Steve Jobs Building”. The building has a modernist look which SJ would probably not have disapproved of — it’s even possible he was involved in its design, like the rest of the campus, but this is speculation on my part (Source: Pixar Times).

 

PixarSJB

The Steve Jobs Building at Pixar in Emeryville

 

The day before the anniversary of Steve Jobs’s death came another piece of news that might be of interest to the “Steve Jobs community”: Chris-Ann Brennan, Steve’s high school girlfriend and the mother of Lisa, will be publishing a “memoir”, according to the NY Times blog. I wonder about its quality and content, since Chris-Ann has been known to be unstable and eccentric (this was confirmed in the Isaacson bio). It looks a lot like a get-rich-quick plan, but I won’t make hasty conclusions before I’ve read the book. While waiting for the book, you can still read the article she published in Rolling Stone’s commemorative issue after Steve’s passing: Jobs at 17: Nerd, Poet, Romantic (cached version, the actual article starts about 80% of the way).

This confirms the theory I have long held that Steve’s death would be followed by people untying their tongue, now that their fear of him (encouraged by the occasional threats) is gone. So far it has been mostly the usual suspects talking to the press or writing, but I do see a trend of former colleagues who begin to open up, too. Avie Tevanian in BBC’s documentary, or Tony Fadell, are two examples.

 

Chris Ann Brennan

My only confirmed picture of Chris Ann Brennan, from Facebook

I sincerely hope the trend continues, and that one day those who worked really closely with Steve start to speak up. Can you imagine a book about NeXT by former NeXTers, for example? I would be thrilled to see that happen. It would perhaps compensate for the usually negative image of Steve Jobs as a man, relayed by the people who had broken all ties with him and thus did not feel bound to respect him. Not to mention the shallowness of the Isaacson bio.

  

As far as pictures go, I’ve dug up a few interesting ones in these last weeks of 2012. Starting with this gallery of Apple I photos from Time Magazine’s Harry McCracken. ‘Wait’, you might say, ‘but I know plenty of pictures of the Apple I!’ And you’d be right, dear reader, but these are special. They come from Paul Terrell’s private collection. If that name rings a bell, it means you’ve done your homework: he was the owner of the BYTE SHOP, the electronics store (I daren’t say computer store) which was Apple Computer’s first client, back in 1976, before the garage — it was actually the order of 100 computers from Terrell which made the garage necessary, and made dollar signs flash in front of young-and-not-so-hippie-anymore Steve Jobs’s eyes.

The Byte shop

The first picture of the Byte Shop I ever saw, from the TIME gallery
(notice the groovy typeface for the logo) 

 

I will soon add those Apple I pictures to the site, along with a few I already added, from a few years later:

New pics of Steve Jobs

 

This batch of (too small) pics came from Vectronic’s Apple World (a treasure trove for old advertisement of the fruit company). They show Steve around 1980-81, when he was 25, a.k.a. The Moustache Years. The top left is from a series we’ve seen before, where he is riding his BMW motorcycle. All others are news to me: the top middle and right show him at a “PR agency” (perhaps McKenna’s, where he met his then-girlfriend Barbara Jasinski?) The bottom left and middle ones are probably in his ski destination of choice, Aspen. And the last one, the only large one, is obviously at a school. I will add more very interesting pictures of young Steve soon, so stay tuned!

 

In echo of my previous post, there was also some more talk of Steve’s famed yacht, Venus, in the last days of December. The talk was really not that interesting, and Philipp Elmer-Dewitt made a great short summary of it (as he does) on his blog: Steve Jobs’ yacht: The anatomy of a news cycle. Basically, French designer Starck was paid a percentage of the cost of the yacht. But the boat ended up costing less than planned (which is noteworthy), and so Starck was paid less than he expected — €3 million short (€6m instead of €9m). Apparently, Laurene quickly settled the case with him and the yacht, which had been temporarily seized by the Dutch authorities, was released a few days later. Big deal.

PED’s analysis is interesting in that it stresses how such small events become hugely inflated by the blogosphere and even mainstream media, just because they give an excuse to have ‘Steve Jobs’ in the headline and attract click$. This is something I have observed as well, and it sometimes really becomes ludicrous. The article on Examiner.com Psychic makes contact with Steve Jobs, says things not well in afterlife certainly takes the palm in that category.

I can hear your voice – “But that’s not all! He forgot about the movie! … I mean, the movies!” No, dear reader, I will speak of those movies. But they deserve their own post, and it will come very soon.

Although the blog has been quiet lately, I have been paying close attention to all things Steve Jobs all along, and even updated the site silently. Just last week, I added 22 new anecdotes and 2 new quotes to my growing collection. Rest assured that this will continue: as I’ve written before, I have some great content coming up soon.

 

Oh, I almost forgot… Happy new year! 🙂

Steve Jobs unveils his plans for Apple’s future campus

Finally! It was five years ago that Steve Jobs first came to the Cupertino City Council to unveil Apple’s plan to build a new campus in that city to accomodate their ever-growing workforce… Since then, not much had happened, besides Apple having its people move to HP’s former (and frankly quite ugly) offices.

Well, three days after the WWDC keynote, Steve made a (sort-of) public appearance again to unveil what he had been working on all along: Apple’s impressive future super-campus. The video is quite interesting to watch, mostly to see Steve describe the project, and despite the embarrassingly stupid comments and lame jokes from the City Council members (Can we get free wi-fi? Will the employees exit the building safely in case of fire? Why don’t we have an Apple Store?… pleaaase). Here’s the spaceship in Steve’s own words (please note this one-building design has nothing to do with what Spanish magazine El Economista talked about in December of last year):

For an architecture aficionado like me, there is so much to talk about this design. But I’ll stick to Apple metaphors.

I believe the whole concept of a single, huge, perfectly round building, surrounded by a forest, is an excellent metaphor for Apple as a company and even as a culture. It is the opposite of Google’s more open, decentralized, more ‘democratic’ (dare I say disorganized?) campus: image of a company working on different projects, going into several directions, without an apparent guiding principle. No, the Apple campus is a perfect, almost utopian (dare I say authoritarian?) building. Like an Apple product, it’s simple and straightforward (a circle). Like Apple the company, it’s huge and impressive in its size and organization. But even more than that, it’s pretty much a fortress secluding Apple employees from the outside world by a heavy artificial forest, just like Apple’s cult of secrecy isolates them from the rest of the industry.

The more I looked at the sketches and plans of the Apple spaceship, the more I thought of this:

This is Apple’s org chart (org circle?) that appeared in Fortune’s excellent Inside Apple story two weeks ago. I think it is one of the most telling and accurate depictions of the Apple Way. Coming back to our spaceship campus, I think you see where I am going:

 

That’s right, to make the metaphor complete, Steve’s office should be right in the middle: the centerpiece of this high-tech fortress, the ultimate impulsion and decision point that pushes everything Apple does, before it goes out the fortress to the bewildered world.

It’s an understatement that I can’t wait to go back to the Bay Area in 2015 to take a tour of that building, should I have to enroll in architecture school to do so (see Steve’s speech at 14:40 if you don’t see what I’m referring to).

Update on Pixar Phase II

If like me, in addition to being a Steve Jobs fan, you are an architecture buff, you will be delighted by this piece of news. The architectural firm behind the extension of Pixar’s Emeryville campus has published an extensive gallery of pictures/sketches of the project, called “Pixar Phase II”. They range from the early site analyses to the construction in progress. Check it out:

(Source)

 

 

Apple campus 2.0

Finally! We’re finally hearing some news on Apple’s new campus in Cupertino.

As a reminder, news on a new campus date back to 2006, when Steve himself went to the Cupertino City Council to announce the company’s plan to expand, after its purchase of land next to the HP campus. The video can still be watched on YouTube. As you can see, Steve speaks of a “3 to 4 years” period to get it built.

We’ve been waiting for that new campus ever since. People from the area have reported that Apple people have moved into these former HP buildings, without any architectural modifications. To tell the truth I was afraid that, busy with Apple products, Steve would delay the plans for a decade or so —  until his retirement or something.

That long delay makes more sense now that we’ve learned that just last week, Apple purchased another huge chunk of land from HP, right next to the properties it bought four years ago. The map below is impressive:

If you’ve ever been to the current Apple campus, you’ll realize that this is a HUGE expansion. As if I wasn’t excited enough, a Spanish newspaper has reported rumors that Steve Jobs has designated world-famed architect Norman Foster to build this new ‘City of Apple’. Quote from Philip Elmer-DeWitt’s column:

Jobs is paying extraordinary attention to environmental issues as he designs the future headquarters of his company, the paper has been told. The buildings that will house engineers and the R & D department will “incorporate cutting-edge technology in materials and equipment as well as renewable energy resources,” according to El Economista. All transportation between the buildings will take place through a network of tunnels, keeping surface areas green.

Can you imagine such a place? Steve Jobs moving in underground top-secret tunnels with prototypes of Apple products, underneath a green-clean-futuristic campus? I bet the windows of his iOffice won’t be see-through. This reminds me of old fantasies such as this picture from a 2008 Apple commercial you will most likely recognize:

The lowdown on Steve Jobs’ future Woodside home

OK, so for about two whole weeks, the WWWW (Whole World Wide Web) has been a-buzzing about the supposedly exclusive plans that Gizmodo unveiled of Steve’s future home in Woodside. Now that the story is a little more behind us, I thought I’d recap and use the occasion to come back on the whole Woodside affair, that’s been going on for years.

1. Context

As most of you know, Steve has owned a mansion in Woodside since 1984. He bought it with the money he made at Apple after the company’s IPO in 1980. The mansion — 14,540 sq.— was built in the 1920s by a copper magnate, Daniel Jackling, hence its nickname “the Jackling house”. It is located in the exclusive neighborhood of Woodside, not too far from Larry Ellison’s Japanese estate. Steve lived in it when he was a bachelor, roughly from 1984 to the early or mid-1990s (shortly after his marriage with Laurene). You can see pictures of Steve inside his mansion on all about Steve Jobs (I chose one of my favorites here).

Steve in Woodside in 1985

Steve in Woodside in September 1985, the day he announced he was quitting Apple.Note the mansion on the right, which looks really nice.

One thing you will note is that most of the rooms are devoid of furniture. As a matter of fact, the only room that was fully furbished inside the mansion was the kitchen — not that Steve was a great cook, he hired a couple who cooked for him.

Understandably, Laurene refused to live in this empty mansion, and had Steve and their new family move to a less reclusive — and slightly more furnished — house in Palo Alto. The Woodside mansion has been abandoned since then. Continue reading

Pictures of the expansion of Pixar’s campus

The best Pixar online resource I know of (if you know a better one, let me know in comments) reports new pictures of the expansion of the Pixar campus in Emeryville.

Pixar expansion construction photos (Sept. 2010)

I am writing on this because it gives me the occasion to go back on three things:

  1. I was a little skeptical in 2006, when the Pixar/Disney merger occurred, that Pixar would lose its identity. Apparently, it’s not the case — not only are the movies still great, but the company still enjoys the paradise-like environment of its genius-filled Emeryville campus, far from the bean counters of Burbank. I think it’s a powerful statement of independence. For the record, Steve himself could not force the then-small Pixar team to move to the South Bay in the early 1990s. They refused because being away from him gave them greater freedom to work on what they chose to. History proved them right.
  2. The “fence-gate”, so to speak. Perhaps you don’t know, or don’t remember, but this expansion was first blocked by the neighbors of the Emeryville campus. They complained that Pixar lived in its own world, isolated from the city community by the huge fence surrounding their campus. Tom Carlisle, in charge of Pixar’s facilities, made Pixar’s case pretty simply: ““If the city takes away our fence, we will not stay in Emeryville.” I am quoting the guy because he’s known Steve for a long time. He was in charge of NeXT’s headquarters back in the 1990s, as you can see on the pic on the right.
  3. Pixar’s campus is great, but what about Apple’s planned new campus? Gee, it takes even longer than the future Woodside home to appear 😉 (more on that soon btw). So far, no sign of progress whatsoever. Apple has moved to the former HP offices that they were supposed to tear down, well, for four years… My opinion: Steve doesn’t have enough time to concentrate on both new Apple products and a perfect new campus. Not to mention his own home. This will take years, perhaps construction will not even start before he’s retired.

I’d also like to point out again that this blog is really about Steve Jobs, not Apple. Pixar, though less important, is Steve’s other company, and deserves to be mentioned on this blog just as much. Who doesn’t love Pixar anyway?