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Hudson, Apple and Jonathan Ive

Apple's headquarters with its wonderful address.

Because we've moved so far away from LA and Hudson's friends in Topanga Canyon, we wanted to make sure that Hudson's seventh birthday - which happened this past weekend - was fun and extra-special this year.

Given Hudson's love of the W Hotel - and their kindness and generosity to him - we decided to take the family to the W San Francisco to celebrate (see a separate post coming soon above).

Then I had a thought. Hudson also loves Apple and the astonishing technology he has grown up with and loves to explore so intelligently (he recently reformatted a Mac Mini from disk entirely on his own, then installed all the software he wanted).

Apple's headquarters are in Cupertino, just south of San Francisco in Silicon Valley, so I thought maybe we could combine the W Hotel treat with a visit to the place where the iPhone and iPad were created.

I knew that Apple, one of the world's most secretive companies, doesn't do public tours - but fortunately one of our best friends, the wondrously gifted British writer, director, actor, comedian and Mac evangelist, Stephen Fry, not only knows Steve Jobs but also the genius British industrial designer, Jonathan Ive, who created the mind-bending and world-changing beauty and technological simplicity/complexity of the iMac, iPod, iPhone and iPad (with help from equally inspired hardware and software engineers).

So I emailed Stephen and asked if he could help arrange a behind-the-scenes birthday visit to Apple for Hudson...and Stephen did better than that.

He emailed Jonathan, who instantly emailed back that he would try to meet with Hudson if he could.

So, last Friday, we set off for Cupertino, intrigued as to what we would find. Would Apple's building be entirely white, like the Apple store? Would it be like walking into the space station in 2001 (a retro reference for many...Hudson would think more of the Axiom in WALL-E

I was excited just to visit what has to be one of the most beautiful addresses in the world: 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino.

The entrance to Apple's campus.

And the reality didn't disappoint. Upon arrival, we were greeted very warmly by the lovely Amy Olofsen, who works with Jonathan. (Jonathan's executive assistant, Harper Alexander, had also helped make this trip happen but was away on vacation.)

Amy led us through the lobby of one of Apple's very pleasantly designed buildings into an inner part of the campus - which as a whole has the open, nicely landscaped feel of a university campus. Immediately we noticed children everywhere: Apple encourages its employees to bring their children to work and for spouses to meet for lunch.

Within minutes, Jonathan Ive joined us - a quiet, humble man, especially given the immense contribution he has made to technology and design - and instantly gave Hudson a birthday gift of an iPod Nano, totally unexpected and a mark of how extremely kind and thoughtful Jonathan is.

We all sat talking for twenty minutes or so, with Jonathan answering questions about his history at Apple and the development especially of the multitouch technology of the iPhone and iPad that has been a "given" for Hudson and Paradise's generation. (Hudson is slightly older than the iPhone, in terms of its first release).

I still find the iPhone's capabilities astonishing, so it's fascinating to reflect on how it appears to those who have grown up with it as an established fact of life.

Jonathan confirmed that the iPad had in fact been developed first. The tablet device was considered so radical that a smartphone was considered a more accessible springboard for the touchscreen keypad, the amazing "pinch and stretch" capabilities of multitouch and the whole concept of something where you would access different apps simply by swiping your fingers across the glass.

He also talked about his own history at Apple: Jonathan was recruited in 1996, when, as he said, "The company was in a bit of a pickle."

Close to bankruptcy, things didn't really begin to change until Apple co-founder Steve Jobs came back to the company in 1997.

Jonathan and Steve "clicked," and the incredible development - and unique, minimalist design - of the iPod, the iMac and, ultimately, the iPhone and iPad followed.

We explained to Jonathan that, because we limit his access to media and technology, to encourage a more traditional childhood, initially Hudson had not been allowed to use a computer - but growing up in a house where Charong and I are always writing at our Macs, he quickly became intrigued. 

Although he, like Paradise, has loved books since the first weeks of his life (he is writing a children's book with me now as well as writing his own books completely by himself), Hudson asked to learn to read and write - primarily so he could read the instructions for various computer functions and use the keyboard to create his own emails and blogs.

Hudson also showed Jonathan his T-shirt for his own "company," BAnnu - now already over a year old - and explained that the name stood for, "Business Activities New News Utilities."  

(When Hudson first created BAnnu - which is always written with the mix of upper and lower case letters - he told us that was simply the name, it didn't stand for anything: the acronym explanation came later.)

After a while, Jonathan was called away - I'm sure, despite the very relaxed nature of the Apple Campus, his responsibilities are many - and we were taken to lunch in the Apple Cafeteria, which in itself is quite marvelous. 

Spacious and with a very inviting atmosphere, it offers a truly wide range of delicious, very reasonably priced, mostly organic food - and even, as Amy Olofsen explained, fresh sushi made from fish caught daily by Apple's own team of fishermen!

We ended the trip with a visit to "The Company Store" - Apple's own, on-campus Apple Store for employees - where Hudson bought a wrist strap for the birthday iPod that Jonathan had given him (and which Hudson is over the moon about), and where I was amused to see, given Apple's reputation for secrecy, T-shirts that read, "I visited the Apple Campus. But that's all I'm allowed to say."

Later, after we returned home from Hudson's San Francisco birthday trip, Hudson emailed Jonathan Ive on Hudson's own BAnnu email account, to thank him for his wonderful iPod Nano (quickly loaded with favorite photos and Beatles songs, not least Birthday from The White Album) - and Jonathan was kind enough to send Hudson a very nice email back.

An Apple T-shirt.
All photographs copyright 2011 Alexander Chow-Stuart.


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