Creativity and More Thrives in Garages

June 28, 2017

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Like most of us, I’ve heard many times that the APPLE computer was created by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak in a garage located in Los Altos, California. Wozniak now says,  “It’s a bit of a myth. We did no design work there.” At this point in its history, the origin of the design is a minor factor because the company is now worth $700 billion and has 47,000 people working directly for it in the United States.    

The home and garage located in Silicon Valley at 2066 Crist Drive in Los Altos, California where Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak worked on the world’s first personal computer.

The Jobs house/garage is now listed as an historical site and joins another that is just 10 miles away. This garage, in Palo Alto, California was named a national history landmark in 2007. Amazingly, in 1939, Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard started their business with an initial investment of $538. Wait a minute: that’s $9,278 in today’s money or a fair amount of cash. The garage where HEWLETT PACKARD was founded has now been made into a museum.

The single-car garage where Hewlett Packard began in 1939 at 367 Addison Avenue in Palo Alto, California

This fact and many other stories about garages as hotbeds of creativity appeared in an article by Edwin Heathcote in the weekend Financial Times of February 25-26. I was intrigued by the topic because the average garage is a boring structure that is popular in the suburbs – but has not, traditionally, been seen as a spot where products are created to change the world.

That, of course, has radically changed. In 1994, Jeff Bezos laid the foundation for what would become the online retailing giant, AMAZON, in his garage. Today, consumers can purchase everything from food to TVs from the online retailer that sells in 10 countries and has fulfillment centers in 13 – these figures boggle the mind.

The Financial Times article also cites a book by artist, Olivia Erlanger, and architect, Luis Ortega, with the provocative title, Garage: Hate Suburbia that proposes this structure as “the silent hero of the 20th century” while also naming it the ultimate man cave. Come to think of it, my father was the only one who ever spent any time in ours.   

Now, let’s go back in history and take a look at the garage where WALT DISNEY started his animation and entertainment empire. In 1923 his first studio was a tiny, one-car garage in Hollywood. This is where he waited to see if his Alice in Wonderland pilot would be accepted. It was given a “yes” by a major distributor. This allowed him to move into a proper studio. Today, 24 million people have seen Disney’s The Beauty and the Beast on Broadway. Currently, this $50 billion company sells in 30 countries and 25 languages.

The name GOOGLE is so popular today that it’s turned into a verb. “I’ll just google that and see what I can find,” a NYC librarian said to me recently. But back in 1998 everybody’s favorite search engine was just starting out in a Menlo Park, California garage with Stanford University co-founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin.

It took five months to perfect their search algorithm and by the next year the company had outgrown this space and eventually moved into, what is today, the Googleplex. To preserve this lasting legacy of their humble beginnings Google purchased the garage on the eighth birthday of their company.

What was their aim in creating Google? “Basically, our goal was to organize the world’s information,” says Larry Page. “We wanted to make it universally accessible and useful.”

We’d be remiss if we didn’t add garage bands and garage sales along with home gyms, recording studios and galleries that are created in garages. It seems this down-to-earth structure is an empty vessel, capable of accommodating almost any fantasy.

UPDATE: The Wall Street Journal reports that “June 26, 2017 will mark the 20th anniversary of the first HARRY POTTER book’s publication. The books have sold 450 million copies worldwide, 167 million of them in the U.S. The film adaptations have made $77 billion in global box office receipts. All this started with J.K. Rowling – a very smart lady.

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