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Last week I popped on over to Redmond to have a chat with the guys at Microsoft on the future of
Visual C++, MFC, and the new .NET world. Instead of presenting a point list of what we can expect
in the future, I wanted to give you guys a taste of what a visit to Redmond is like, and I'm dead
keen on having feedback from you on your own personal experiences.
A quick Thanks goes to Dundas Software and Microsoft for making this trip possible.
Part 2 - Seattle and the Microsoft Campus
<table <% if IE4Plus or NS6 Then %>style="float:right"<%Else%>align=right<%End If %> width=300>Not a bad view...
Microsoft campus in Redmond is designed to seem like a campus like any other. When it was
designed the thought was to make the transition from College to work as painless as possible,
but with most of Microsoft's employees now between the tender ages of 30 and 40 this is no longer
such a necessity. The buildings blend in with the native forests and are surrounded by gardens
of ferns and shrubberies.
<table <% if IE4Plus or NS6 Then %>style="float:left"<%Else%>align=left<%End If %> width=137 height=250>That's me tilting, not the hallway
Inside the offices look like any other office. A receptionist, smart cards to get in the doors,
long corridors with doors spaced evenly along. There is no sign of the open plan cube-hell - each
employee works in their own private office, though in some situations (the guys who design the
About Box? QA? The Visual J++ team?) developers are squeezed two or three (or more?) to a room.
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There is not a suit in sight.
All in all it's a really casual kinda place. One office has a bead curtain as a doorway,
another holds an assortment of electric guitars and amps, and still another the most comfortable
looking sofa I've ever seen. The lack of windows for the inner offices would drive me nuts,
but at least everyone has a door they can shut when they need to concentrate.
Seattle was something else. It never rained, but it never really cleared up either. I gained
first hand experience of the exciting road-splitting phenomenom you guys in the States have. It's
bizarre. A harmless looking
freeway suddenly splits for no apparant reason, and if you are running on auto-pilot then you're
faced with a panic decision: east or west. What - you want to continue heading north? Mwaahahaha!
Too bad little man. It's comforting, but also slightly worrying in a way, to see the packs of
water filled barrels placed at the dividing line of these splits. How many people have suffered
brain lock while trying to decide left or right and plowed directly into a watery oblivion.
<table <% if IE4Plus or NS6 Then %>style="float:left"<%Else%>align=left<%End If %> width=200>Too bizarre
Then there is the post turn-off
signage. I think it's a national custom - and an adorable one at that - to arrange street signs
on turn-offs at a location where they can be read only after you've made the turn. Sort of
a "yes - this is in fact the road you thought it was" little reminder.
Downtown Seattle is one big coffee house. If you are looking for a caffeine fix then this is
the place to go. If you are looking for, say, food, then you need to look a little harder. Maybe
we were just tired, maybe our brain was still hurting from a run-in with a street
performer called Obnoxious Bastard - but finding somewhere to eat took more energy than we had.
Another amazing thing about the US and Canada: Their coins are called the same names, are of
the same denominations, and seem to have identical dimensions, but how amazing is it that a phone
box that has only a 30% chance of actually working can tell, with 100% accuracy, whether that
quarter you just placed in the slot is US or Canadian. We gave the offending quarter to a passer
by who asked if we had a spare quarter ("Why, yes we do!") and had ourselves further
entertainment as he discovered it was Canadian. The offensive item came sailing back in our
direction, hit a taxi instead, and started a colourful exchange that seemed to sum up the
situation pretty well.
The Microsoft Team.