Coffeehouse Thread

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Life at Microsoft

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  • User profile image
    Yggdrasil

    Like it or not, Microsoft is more than just a software company - it's an ideal, a scapegoat and pretty much an icon of the software industry for many, many people.
    This is probably why I am always fascinated by various Life at Microsoft blog posts and stories, like this or that. Microsoft corporate culture has generated a huge interest - not least because of the last point in my first link - the work that Microsoft does has a HUGE influence on computer users all around the world.

    About 10-12 years ago, Douglas Coupland wrote a novel called Microserfs, detailing the life of a Microsoft programmer and his buddies. The book is dated at 1993, and it shows - this was way before the .COM bubble, the internet entering our lives or even the Win95 desktop explosion. Furthermore, Microsoft is more the background for the story, not the point of it - Coupland's agenda is showing slices of Americana, and of geek life in general.
    I personally love the book - reread it a couple of times, and probably will again. My question is - how well known is the book around the Microsoft campus? Is it commonly derided as far-fetched and made-up? Is it considered true to life? (Or true-to-life-12-years-ago?) Is it virtually unknown?
    And for any Microsoft oldtimers who were around in the early 90's - how closely does it match the atmosphere back then?

    Been wondering about that for years, ever since I first read the book. It's cool to have Channel9 so I can ask. Smiley

  • User profile image
    jamie

    id add that there use to be many many new books on ms coming out all the time.. but really the last one was Breaking Windows by david banks.. not a very flattering book either - and that was years ago

    wish some new ones would come out

  • User profile image
    scobleizer

    I try to capture what Microsoft life is like with my video camera. Maybe I should do a walking tour of Microsoft.

  • User profile image
    W3bbo

    scobleizer wrote:
    I try to capture what Microsoft life is like with my video camera. Maybe I should do a walking tour of Microsoft.


    Put a bugging device in Bill Gate's "Executive Washroom" and see if you can get some tabloid material Big Smile

    I also understand that the "working philosophy" differs vastly interally, that the MS Games and XBox devs come to work in shorts, whereas the Windows and Office team are all shirt 'n' tie. Can we get some evidence to back these claims too?

    Hmmm, now that I mention it... you haven't done a video-tour of the MS Games dept. yet, have you?

  • User profile image
    Cider

    Robert, were you involved at all with a recent trip by a UK show, The Gadget Show, to Redmond?

    It was 2 around-5-minute sections about Microsoft, the latter being solely about the eHome at Redmond (you MUST get a video done of that!) but the first half was aboutjust about how big Microsoft was, how big the campus was, how the only people normally allowed to visit are "Government ministers" and how "no one at Microsoft likes to appear on camera" before informing us that the reception desk she was walking past had 2 receptionists cowering behind it!  That first half was a bit of a missed opportunity to show off any new openness to Microsoft, really.

    And we didn't get your happy, smiley fizzog beamed across the UK...

    There wasn't even a Channel 9 guy hidden in the reception!

  • User profile image
    Foredecker

    Windows a shirt and tie org???  hahahahahahah!   One of the guys on my team comes to work in his Pajamas - no kidding.  He's one of our best developers.

  • User profile image
    scobleizer

    Cider: nope, wish I was involved with that! But, didn't even know they were here. I work 200 yards from the eHome, by the way. I'll try to get a video of that.

  • User profile image
    RandyRants

    I was working for Symantec 93-95, while they had an office on the east coast, and they were a typical Software Company of the time.  No where's near as big as MS (even at the time) but they made software, and all that implies.  I have to admit that a good deal of what was described in Microserf's first few chapters mirrored what I had lived during the same time period... just in another part of the country (and without the Geek group homes).  There are at least four devs I could think of that could have devloped a love of flat food; back in those days, most engineers seemed to follow the beat of a different drummer... it's just how things were.

    I think it's a combination of a number of different stories from a lot of different people - I don't know that it would have been the same for every MS'r in the 90's, but I'm sure a number of people could fit in certain parts of it.  Even through the move to CA: that migrate was a two way street for a while in the 90's. (Symantec is based in Cupertino, and business trips took the eastcoasters out there often enough)

    One thing that is very certain is that not many people are "calling in rich" (a la Susan and Abe) at MS anymore - or anywhere else for that matter.  That was a hallmark of the early 90's and the Boom.

    I DO find it pretty funny that they all worked in Building 7, though.  Classic Coupland, that.

  • User profile image
    ZippyV

    scobleizer wrote:
    I try to capture what Microsoft life is like with my video camera. Maybe I should do a walking tour of Microsoft.

    Maybe you could follow Bruce or Jonathan for a day.

  • User profile image
    Yggdrasil

    RandyRants wrote:
    One thing that is very certain is that not many people are "calling in rich" (a la Susan and Abe) at MS anymore - or anywhere else for that matter.  That was a hallmark of the early 90's and the Boom.


    Yeah. Coupland has Dan come to the realization, looking at a bunch of new kids just out of College, that they will be the first generation of Microsoft workers to live in a time where stocks might not just continue to rise, rise rise, and you cash out a millionaire at 30 when you get bored of programming.

    RandyRants wrote:
    I DO find it pretty funny that they all worked in Building 7, though.  Classic Coupland, that.


    What am I missing here?

  • User profile image
    jonathanh

    Yggdrasil wrote:
    What am I missing here?
    There is no building 7...

  • User profile image
    lenn

    Although I started here in 1997, a little late in the 90's to be really sure that it was like that, I did read the book a few years prior to moving west and found that the experience and stories I would hear at the time was very similar to what was described in the book.  

    I knew many people who were calling in rich, and who lived lifestyles that most of us can not relate to let alone sustain.  It was a strange time, the company grew almost three fold since I started here, so the culture has changed quite a bit since then.

    People do still talk about "flat food" but I have never seen Bill looking out of his office window to see who takes the most innovative path Wink

    lenn

  • User profile image
    Cider

    jonathanh wrote:
    Yggdrasil wrote: What am I missing here?
    There is no building 7...


    According to Top British Nutjob, David Icke, there is...

    http://www.davidicke.net/tellthetruth/research/microsoft.html

  • User profile image
    RandyRants

    Indeed.  There's 1-6 and 8-10, right near each other (the original campus was 1-4 and the first expansion was 5,6 8-10) but there's yet to be a Building 7.

    ...which is one of the first jokes played on a new employee: "We're having a meeting today in Building 7" which leaves the newbie walking around campus in a daze.

  • User profile image
    RandyRants

    "According to Top British Nutjob, David Icke, there is..."

    Whatever we do, keep this guy away from Dan Brown's books!

  • User profile image
    NeoTOM

    RandyRants wrote:
    "According to Top British Nutjob, David Icke, there is..."

    Whatever we do, keep this guy away from Dan Brown's books!


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