Steve’s motorcycle

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After starting out in the early Eighties in Apple’s first offices, after a couple of years the development of the Macintosh picked up steam. Needing more room it was moved to the much spacious Bandley 3 building in Apple’s Campus.

As related by early Mac developer Andy Hertzfeld in the spring of 1984, the Bandley 3 lobby began to fill up with various items and artefacts. Among them were “a couple of stand-up video games, a fancy stereo system with the first CD player I ever saw, and, incongruously, a grand piano and a motorcycle, placed there by Steve Jobs as examples of great product design.”

The first items weren’t that out of place, in particular video games, which were a staple of Apple culture. Both Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak and Mac hardware developer Burrell Smith were very avid arcade players and there are pictures of a grinning Woz in front of what is probably one of the Bandley 3 cabinets.

Much stranger was indeed the presence in the atrium of a piano and of a motorcycle. Made respectively by Bösendorfer and BMW, they were undoubtedly very beautiful products but it was rumored that the real reason Jobs put there the expensive, german-made items was another. More than to inspire his employees, Jobs wanted to impress Hartmut Esslinger of Frogdesign, the german industrial designer that he was wooing at the time, and who would help propel Apple products to international stardom.

While the Bösendorfer was probably bought just for its symbolic and aesthetic value (Jobs couldn’t play the piano) the motorcycle was another matter entirely and has a more interesting story.

The motorbike was bought and used by Jobs a while back since at least 1982. He appeared on and with it in magazines such as Playboy and National Geographic and later in an ABC News profile. In National Geographic one could learn that the motorcycle was a 1966 R60/2 BMW and that Jobs used to ride it around in Silicon Valley “in plaid shirt and jeans”.

So, how did it end up in the Bandley 3 lobby? The answer comes from Apple employee Bryan Stearns who revealed that the motorbike had a broken clutch cable and was out of order.
Jobs apparently didn’t care enough to repair it and wasn’t interested in riding it anymore so he cunningly put it up on display to show off his good taste to employees and partners.

Note: the image of Steve Jobs on his motorbike is from the 10/1982 issue of National Geographic.

Tuesday 30 April 2019, 2:00 pm
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