Apple's recent move into its new multi-billion-dollar, spaceship-like headquarters brought back memories of a trip I once made to their original headquarters.

When I was in high school in the early 1980s, I took a flight to Reno, Nevada to visit my sister, who had moved there for work. Since I had never been to San Francisco before, we decided to take a four-hour road trip there. While most teens would probably have been content to see the iconic Golden Gate Bridge or Alcatraz, I had different plans.

Yes, I wanted to see San Francisco. But I also wanted to head south to Cupertino, where I could visit the headquarters of Apple Computer and maybe even catch a glimpse of the legend himself: Steve Jobs.

So with no appointment, and nothing to indicate that Apple welcomed random teenage visitors appearing unannounced in their lobby, my sister and I drove to Cupertino. We located the main office, parked, and walked in.

And that's when I saw it: Steve Jobs's BMW motorcycle. It was parked right inside the lobby, between a row of popular video games (the standing, coin-operated kind) and some sofas. How odd, I remember thinking. How cool.

It's a scene that I revisited while reading Walter Isaacson's biography of Jobs a few years ago. Isaacson notes that by parking his BMW motorcycle alongside a Bösendorfer piano in the lobby, Jobs felt he would inspire an obsession for craftsmanship and design.

A 1982 National Geographic profile of Silicon Valley and the nascent personal computer industry depicts Jobs's BMW motorcycle as the more relaxing foil to his other favorite means of transportation:

Although Jobs drives the requisite Mercedes, success seems not to have spoiled the first folk hero of the computer age. In plaid shirt and jeans, he still prefers, as a friend said, "to drive his motorcycle to my place, sit around and drink wine, and talk about what we're going to do when we grow up."


Lounges stocked with organic munchies and video game consoles may be de rigueur perks in today's tech world, but this was the early 1980s, Silicon Valley's adolescence, and well before most of the tech brands we are so familiar with even existed.

For a teenager and bona fide computer geek like me who idolized the company and its founders (both Jobs and Steve Wozniak) --and having never stepped foot into a computer company of any kind --this was a pretty big deal.

I can't remember what my sister said to justify our sudden presence at Apple's corporate doorstep, but we were greeted by a friendly woman who ushered us into her office. She said a few things that I can't remember, handed me a bright yellow Apple T-shirt as a souvenir of our visit, and sent us on our way.

Three decades later, I still try to decipher the meaning of the scene I witnessed. An example of his iconoclastic, tear-up-the-rule-book approach to design and business? A metaphor for the "reality distortion field" he cast upon others? Or just his way of leading by example?

Whatever it meant, it was a pretty cool sight. And I have my sister to thank for it.

A version of this article also appeared on LinkedIn.

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Published on: May 23, 2017