Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Walking into a tree, mutilating a muffin, and other Danger fun

In 2003 I left the comfort of Microsoft's employ and struck out into the cold Silicon Valley recession looking for work. I soon connected with Andy Rubin, my co-worker from General Magic days, and got a job at his new company, Danger Inc. Danger created the Hiptop, a revolutionary mobile device for phone and other kinds of communications. You could use the Hiptop for email, AIM (AOL Instant Messenger, kids), web browsing, SMS, and other apps. The Hiptop had lots of great features, but the real jawdropper was the way you could flick the screen up with your thumb to reveal a keyboard underneath, as animated in this really cool holographic postcard.

video


The Hiptop was a developer platform, and Danger hired me to write developer docs. Danger was an awesome and weird company, filled with brilliant fun people. The offices were a strange complex on University Avenue in Palo Alto. Supposedly, the the place used to be dental office, and there were odd things around, like sliding doors and ambient noise devices. Every so often you would hear a pssst sound like escaping air, but nobody knew where it came from. The building was so close to the Caltrain station that when it was time to go home I could wait at my desk until I heard the train arriving, then grab my stuff and get to the station in time to board. The adopted company restaurant was Darbar, which was both loved and hated. Well, it was both enjoyed and ridiculed.

The Hiptop (in product form as the TMobile Sidekick) was my first indication that people would soon be getting lost in their phones. One day I was walking around downtown Palo Alto while AIMing with a friend when, yes, I walked into a tree. From then on I tried to avoid AIMing while walking (or driving).

I was only at Danger for a few months. In that time I faced just one deadline crunch. I was working in the early evening feeling the pressure and I was frustrated about something. I got up from my desk and wandered to the kitchen. There was a big pink bakery box with the bare remnants of that morning's breakfast pastries. With malice I grabbed a white plastic knife and proceeded to viciously attack a defenseless muffin. In seconds I had hacked it to bits. This all happened while one of my co-workers watched. After a few seconds of stunned silence, he said simply "Knaster has gone off the edge". And I had. But I got better.