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Google Hardware Hacking Build Technology

Inside Google's Secret Employee Hackerspace 84

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the i-want-to-go-to-that dept.
An anonymous reader writes "One of the more secret perks on Google's campus is their hackerspace that even most of the employees don't know about. Only the most skilled need apply, but once you're in, you have a treasure trove of equipment at your disposal. While there are no restrictions on what employees can build for personal use, some pretty important hardware has come out of the Google hackerspace over the years. Their Streetview trikes were designed and built there, as were some components for their self-driving cars. Yet another reason I want to work for Google." I guess the AP blew that "secret."
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Inside Google's Secret Employee Hackerspace

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  • Microsoft used to pay a lot of people to sit in a tiny office for years and work on personal projects. Don't know if the still do

    • They still do this. But instead of actual hardware, they primarily work on making video's of things that would be cool if they existed in real life. Occasionally, they will make hardware, primarily out of clay.

    • by camperslo (704715)

      Having had a job offer from a small company many many years ago where perks included free components and use of tooling and lab equipment for my own projects, I have no doubt that there must have been some other companies doing the same thing too. After all, it makes perfect sense to attract people that find joy in creating. They're the sort that as long as they've got enough to live on, are really more dedicated to what they're doing than to just collecting a check. You don't hire the best and brightest

      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        The tale of the guy that developed the Graphing Calculator at Apple more than a decade ago makes for a good read. It's not quite the same thing, but does reflect people of the same mindset.

        Apparently Apple tends to operate like that. Features like Expose came out because someone did it for fun and showed it off to his manager and it somehow trickled up to Jobs who had it implemented officially in the next revision of OS X (10.3 I think at the time).

        And don't forget HP was probably one of the first to do so

    • by mr1911 (1942298)
      Steve Ballmer?
  • not really, it was featured yesterday on hackaday.com, and probably 2 dozen other sites

    • Other than its existence, not very much was revealed. Even the five photos there seem carefully posed. You see no work in progress, there aren't metal chips around the lathe, this is that never happens in an actual working shop.

  • by unassimilatible (225662) on Thursday April 28, 2011 @01:30PM (#35965440) Journal
    I wonder if Google will give Apple a tour?
    • by Nikker (749551)
      I just got a mental picture of Mr. Burns laughing with an Apple logo on his shirt.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Steve Jobs looks more like Mr Burns every day - see: http://www.macrumors.com/2011/04/27/transcript-of-interview-with-apple-executives-on-ios-location-tracking/

  • Does a company really want someone who works only for the additional benefits of the company, rather than the core business?

    I'm coming from this line is the article:

    "The workshops are my No. 1 perk at Google," Awad said during a break from a welding project. "They're the main reason I will be a Googler for life."

    • by istartedi (132515) on Thursday April 28, 2011 @01:47PM (#35965688) Journal

      Consider the alternative (usually unexpressed) "The money is the No. 1 perk at FooCo", Awad said during a break from filling out his TPS report. "It's the main reason I will work for FooCo until it goes bankrupt".

      • "It's the main reason I will work for FooCo until it goes bankrupt".

        Or "It's the main reason I will work for FooCo until I get a better offer (from say, Google!).

        • by istartedi (132515)

          I kinda thought of that after I hit submit. You're right.

        • by grcumb (781340)

          "It's the main reason I will work for FooCo until it goes bankrupt".

          Or "It's the main reason I will work for FooCo until I get a better offer (from say, Google!).

          Most people swing back and forth between these two alternatives while the world continues to turn underneath their feet. It's a phenomenon known as FooCo's Pendulum.

          (... explanation here [wikimedia.org] for the humour-impaired.)

      • by IICV (652597)

        Consider the alternative (usually unexpressed) "The money is the No. 1 perk at FooCo", Awad said during a break from filling out his TPS report. "It's the main reason I will work for FooCo until it someone else offers me more of it".

        There, fixed that for you. Presumably some other company could offer Awad a welding kit and time during work to use it, but I kinda think that's much rarer than just offering people more money.

      • If a company gave me $30,000 raise, that raise would be subject to income taxes, and might even kick me into a higher tax bracket. So say it's really 20K. Then when I go spend that 20K on things for myself, I pay taxes again, so the value is further reduced. So the company is only really giving me a <$20,000 in services or goods while spending $30,000 of its cash all the same. On the other hand, the company can offer more value to the employees while giving less to the government by offering perks. Hence
        • by sycodon (149926)

          This is how we ended up with company provided health care benefits. During WWII and the wage freezes, companies started offering it as a way to entice potential/or keep employees since they couldn’t offer more money.

          • by mjwalshe (1680392)
            yes talk to the Auto Unions in private and they will tell you that doing that was a big mistake as post WW2 the US was heading down the same route to a health care system like the German one - until all those deals in the 50's with the big firms sort of derailed it.
        • and might even kick me into a higher tax bracket.

          Do you actually know how "tax brackets" work? I see so many arguments like this on /. and I can only conclude that many posters haven't ever had a full-time job.

          Hence company-provided laptops, smart phones, gym memberships, ping-pong tables, daycare, spa memberships, massages, and even cars.

          Are these all legitimate tax-free expenses in your jurisdiction? They're certainly not in mine. You can't just find out what employees want and buy it for them as a way of avoiding income/payroll/social security tax.

          and the government will get less.

          You seem to emphasise that goal. Are you suggesting tax avoidance as a sensible way of protesting certain levels/forms of taxation? Bec

          • Do you actually know how "tax brackets" work? I see so many arguments like this on /. and I can only conclude that many posters haven't ever had a full-time job.

            If you mean the fact that tax is charged on the incremental amount, then you dont need a job to understand it, its part of 10th grade maths

    • by Abstrackt (609015)

      Does a company really want someone who works only for the additional benefits of the company, rather than the core business?

      A company wants someone who is capable of doing what they're supposed to and happy to come to work in the morning. Intrinsic motivation is all well and good but if giving your employees a playroom motivates them to make innovative stuff I say have at it.

    • Does a company really want someone who works only for the additional benefits of the company, rather than the core business?

      Too bad there's no way to have both.

    • by WhiteDragon (4556)

      Does a company really want someone who works only for the additional benefits of the company, rather than the core business?

      I'm coming from this line is the article:

      "The workshops are my No. 1 perk at Google," Awad said during a break from a welding project. "They're the main reason I will be a Googler for life."

      yes. It means that the employee is doing their passion, which hopefully means that they are doing good work that they care about.

    • by Eivind (15695)

      The "core business" of any company, from a certain perspective anyways, is turning a profit. However, this by itself is not directly motivating to any employee who ain't also a owner, because that profit belongs to the share-holders.

      It may -indirectly- be motivating because success at turning a profit, tends to mean more opportunities for the employees, be it in the form of more interesting work, higher wages, or some other way.

      Still, if a company keeps harping that everyone should always remember that only

  • "Besides heavy-duty equipment, such as an oscilloscope, plasma cutter and miter saw, there are some children's toys. "

    Woah, talk about heavy duty. a miter saw!!! Seriously, I can get a plasma cutter from Harbor Freight for like $500 (After my 20% off coupon of course :)
    • I'm sure these hackerspaces have some badass equipment and are simply oozing with Google Coolness, but the description left me rather unimpressed. The hackerspaces that have left an impression did so because of the stuff they made, not the stuff they had. And as Feynman said, it;s often a lack of fancy tools that stimulates creativity.
    • by hellwig (1325869)
      Seriously. If you really want this equipment, and are proficient enough to use it, you own it, or have access to it through, say, a coop. Vertical metal milling equipment, a blast furnace, gimme something I can't afford or fit in my garage. Oohh, how about a fancy C&C machine, mill me out some sweet rims for my Sonata!

      Only the most skilled need apply? Accepted after a year in woodshop at a local highschool? My god, these really are computer-only nerds, aren't they? I knew of this breed starting
      • Oohh, how about a fancy C&C machine.

        I think you mean CNC which stands for 'Computer Numerical Control.'

        Don't stop playing gin every morning in the breakroom. You won't be getting the promotion.

        • No no, I think this [youtube.com] is what he means.
        • by lemur3 (997863)

          excuse me while i kiss this guy

        • by hellwig (1325869)
          Oh, ignorance exposed, run away!!!

          I admit, I've never used one, that's why I thought about mentioning it. My public high school could afford oscilloscopes, metal lathes, even vertical milling machines and a blast furnace. That Googlers are getting excited over MIG (metal inert gas, didn't even have to Google that) welders and screw drivers is sort of humorous, that's all.
      • by ErikZ (55491) *

        If you're in Denver, we have http://www.clubworkshop.com/ [clubworkshop.com]

      • by mjwalshe (1680392)
        Well i do wonder how many Googlers they employ that have background in mech engineering to make use of this there cant be many like me who got into computing by working for the mathematical and nuke engineering department of a high end RnD organization or doing a degree that required them to make stuff.
        I actually did a very specialist Vocational BTEC in mech engineering - which i last used anything from 25 years ago.
    • by rickb928 (945187)

      Oscilloscopes are heavy-duty? A Time-Domain Reflectometer is heavy-duty, if it has plenty of output modes. A spectrum analyzer with bandwidth up into W band is heavy-duty.

      Plasma cutters are cool tho. If they have a glass furnace and a hot shop, now we're talkin.. Want.

      • by AI0867 (868277)

        I'm sitting 2 meters away from a scope that cost about 8k. Sure, cheap scopes don't cost much, but you can add a LOT of features the concept.

      • How many reporters do you know that are skilled enough to identify the really interesting shop equipment? I doubt that the Google shop is as poorly equipped as you seem to think.
        • by rickb928 (945187)

          I quoted the reporter's lameness. I think the shop is probably even better equipped than the reporter(s) thought or could know.

          You missed the point. Sheesh, do I have to use crayons here now?

    • Right. I have access to all that stuff at TechShop. Costs me $100 a month. Cheaper than some cable TV packages.

      Now, if they had a water jet cutter (which TechShop is installing right now in San Francisco) or a 5-axis CNC mill with HyperMill software (TechShop only has a 3-axis plus a rotary table, and midrange Vectrix software) or a full surface mount assembly setup (Hacker Dojo has one, but nobody uses it) I'd be impressed.

  • by Hazel Bergeron (2015538) on Thursday April 28, 2011 @01:54PM (#35965770) Journal

    Google sponsor a few interesting external projects which then end up having their name slapped on them to the point that people assume it was their work (driverless car, etc.), but they produce fuck all of this sort themselves. The reason, to me, is pretty clear: a creative genius would not want to work there. They're a glorified ad broker which has spent 13 years resting on the laurels of a better-than-average search algorithm.

    The rare lone inventor hero can and does prototype in his own garage; the man needing the support of modern technology and the input of his peers has academia. Those who have high talent and the single-minded technical enthusiasm to plough themselves into secretive efforts in a budget-unconstrained environment will get work directly for the government, enjoying all the privilege and security which no profit-directed corporation will ever give you. The more routine individuals with a sound past or promising future have established research arms anywhere from IBM to Microsoft, all having decades of experience actually ploughing out new inventions and papers.

    Google's a cult of big kids. Combining the accessible populism of GWB with the more sophisticated charisma of Obama, it reaches the top without being very remarkable. Its success - like the success of Windows - says more about the disinterest and/or ineptitude of the competition than anything.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The didn't hire you, did they? Let me guess, your didn't even make it to the interview process.

    • Bing much?

    • by Animats (122034)

      Google's a cult of big kids.

      No, that's Facebook. Google was like that once, but that was years ago.

      The ad side of the business has been slowly taking over. A big fraction of their head count is in ad sales [google.com] now. 97% of revenue is still from ads. All those smart people on the engineering side haven't been able to come up with a second big money-making product. That's Google's killer problem.

      Google's stock peaked in 2007, around 714, and it's 538 today. Google is no longer a growth company. They're quite profitable, but since th

  • In my book, the most newsworthy part of the article was this:

    The screening usually falls to Rodney Broome, 63, a veteran machinist who teaches the craft at nearby San Jose City College when he isn't busy as the foreman of Google's workshops.

    Wow! Google actually has a 60+ year old employees? Sounds like a blue-collar type too. The general impression I had gathered before was that to work there you had to be under 40 (preferably under 30), and intimately conversant on the difference between a latte and a frapachino.

    • by blueg3 (192743)

      Interesting but not surprising. Their workshop includes machine tools. You really need a trained machinist to oversee such things (and teach non-machinists how to use them), and most trained machinists are older. (Plus, the older ones are better.)

      • by Anonymous Coward

        the better machinists have more fingers.

    • by sunking2 (521698)
      Like all old shop teachers he likes to lecture about the dangers of the band saw and show off his missing fingers as proof.
    • It makes sense in the context of Clive the Northerner [youtube.com]. Most of these kids won't have done a days' manual labour - which might go some way to explaining why they're so impressed by routine kit - and the idea of actually building something tangible will be quaint entertainment. "I remember learning in modern history class," they'll guffaw over their tofu frappuccino, "that Americans once made a living building the stuff we rely on. 's'at true, Rodney?"

      Rodney will smile. He's OK - retirement soon and a generou

    • by SnowZero (92219)

      The general impression I had gathered before was that to work there you had to be under 40 (preferably under 30),

      Don't get your general impressions from Slashdot comments. Google needs people who can code, and does not hire pure architects which is one thing that I think leads to this misconception that you can't go there if you're older. If you've been writing UML for 10 years while your 15 underlings write the actual code, have an accomplished resume, but you forgot how to write and analyze code, you probably won't make it past the interviews. That kind of position is correlated with age.

      No software methodology i

  • ... and I snapped a quick photo on the phone I snuck in. What the hell are they doing, anyways? [movieprop.com]

  • Google has little to do with innovation or technology. They have crossed the line into cult, and cults often have super secret inner circle things to make them more cult-y.

    • Google has little to do with innovation or technology. They have crossed the line into cult, and cults often have super secret inner circle things to make them more cult-y.

      At least they apparently WANT to start getting involved with innovation. That combined with Google's bank account balance could very well produce some interesting results. I think that there's a good chance they'll succeed. IBM is a behemoth, yet they regularly innovate through their fellowship program. Google could do the same.

      • by Ironpoint (463916)

        The misconception is that Google is different. However, Google still funds a "party" plane for their founders/execs. Every company reaches a point where its about serving the management. They have literally billions in cash to innovate with and produce instant search and what else? One billion dollars would fund 33 Space Ship One style projects, but they are just making things that already exist like browsers, office apps, email.

        Google's innovation time is over. Now its about acquisitions, plundering,

    • What magically bizarre definition of technology do you have?

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