Monday, January 23, 2006

Geeking with Greg: Early Amazon: Door desks

This is great- Greg is doing a series of posts about old-skool Amazon. Here's his post on door desks:

Geeking with Greg: Early Amazon: Door desks: "In addition to being inexpensive, door desks offered a lot of surface area. Put your computer monitor on top and in barely makes a dent. If Amazon wasn't so bloody cheap, you could have put three more monitors up there. Plenty of space for all of your crap.Ergonomically, door desks leave a lot to be desired. Keyboards were usually too high. Typing for hours could be uncomfortable. And those angle brackets have sharp edges; accidentally scrapping exposed flesh against those was a mistake that wouldn't be repeated.But door desks came to symbolize the Amazon frugal culture. They took on a live of their own. Years later, in 2001, there was a 6.8 magnitude earthquake here in Seattle. We were in a different building by then -- the attractive PacMed building up on Beacon Hill above downtown Seattle -- but we still had our door desks. And I can't tell you how happy we were to have that door desk over our heads as the building shuttered and swayed around us."

Door desks are great. I love mine, it's more than 5 feet long, and insanely deep. Add a keyboard tray, and it's perfect. I have three computers on it, all my O'Reilly books, a coffeemaker, and there's still room to pile up papers and notebooks.

I really enjoyed reading his old amazon memories, so here's one of mine... I was hired in Dec 1998, but I still had a semester of college to finish up. So come May 1999, I began to think about my waiting job in Seattle. I sent my manager-to-be an email, telling him I was going to go out to Seattle for a week in May, to apartment hunt, and asking if I could stop by and say hello. He invited me to come by and meet everyone while I was there.

So I flew to Seattle, carrying a small thermos with water which held my fish, Puck. My friend- who worked at Microsoft- was going to watch Puck for me for my last few weeks before I moved out. I stayed with her up in Greenlake while I searched Belltown for a cheap apartment. (There were more of those then than there are now.) One day, I walked down to the Columbia Building and met my new teammates. I saw the Bat Cave, where most of the web devs sat. Everyone was using Emacs. I think Bosco showed me how to goof around with the desktops of people who had done "xhost +" by opening crazy windows on their screens. Then I went up and saw Pacmed, where we would soon be moving. And finally, I was invited out to a big lunch with lots of web dev folks, at what is now Dragonfish. That was a great lunch- I tried frantically to remember everyone's name and ingest all the moving-to-Seattle advice I got.

Two days later, I flew back to Boston and graduated. Then I flew back to Seattle, and settled into the apartment I'd found. My plan was to take 3 weeks to unpack and hang out before starting work. But quickly, I was bored doing nothing- I'd unpacked my boxes, I'd seen Star Wars Episode One at the Cinerama twice, and I didn't know what to do with myself. I asked my manager if I could start a little early. That Monday, I took a bus up to Pacmed to my first day as an official web geek. That was June 21, 1999.

We used to have paper badges, so my first day I got a little blue laminated piece of paper with my login on it. I set up my computer, and settled my fish onto my desk. The next day- my first real day of work- an email went out to all the developers. We were about to launch the toy store, and the photographers (who shot images of all the toys that would be on the site) had an emergency! Turns out, all the legos we had to photograph were in boxes. Photographs of boxes of legos are BORING, and so a plea was sent to the geeks of the company. Come assemble legos, and we'll feed you pizza! So my manager and I showed up, ate pizza, and assembled legos. We got our asses kicked by the 6 year old son of one of the PMs, who could assemble lego kits with lightening speed.

The part that killed me was that the toy store was a big secret, so I couldn't tell any of my friends that I had the greatest job ever, programming and putting together legos! After the store launched a few weeks later, I was able to pull up some toys detail pages & show off my creations.

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