An oral history of Google, excerpted from “Valley of Genius,” a new book about Silicon Valley, is a throwback to the days when the company was young, idealistic and not at all politically correct.
Let’s just say this was back when the “don’t be evil” mantra wasn’t quite as complicated for Google as it is nowadays. It was also way before the “Me Too” movement.
For example, here’s Charlie Ayers, the famous first chef at Google’s legendary cafeteria, basically talking sex, drugs and rock n’ roll:
“On the ski trips in Squaw Valley, I would have these unsanctioned parties and finally the company was like, ‘All right, we’ll give Charlie what he wants.’ And I created Charlie’s Den. I had live bands, D.J.s, and we bought truckloads of alcohol and a bunch of pot and made ganja goo balls. I remember people coming up to me and saying, ‘I’m hallucinating. What the (expletive) is in those?’ . . . Larry and Sergey had like this gaggle of girls who were hot, and all become like their little harem of admins, I call them the L&S Harem, yes. All those girls are now different heads of departments in that company, years later.”
Google has not responded to a request for comment about that particular passage, which refers to Google’s co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin.
Then there was this from Heather Cairns, a Stanford administrator who became Google employee No. 4 and was its first human resources manager, according to the excerpt from Vanity Fair: “You kind of trusted Larry with his personal life. We always kind of worried that Sergey was going to date somebody in the company.”
That worrying was warranted, as it turns out. Brin had an affair with Amanda Rosenberg, who was a marketing manager for Google Glass. He and his wife, 23andMe co-founder Anne Wojcicki, divorced.
Cairns also referred to Googlers having sex at work, which almost seems as common to fledgling tech companies as free food in the cafeteria: “And we didn’t have locks, so you can’t help it if you walk in on people if there’s no lock. Remember, we’re a bunch of twentysomethings except for me—ancient at 35, so there’s some hormones and they’re raging.”
The book also features quotes from Marissa Mayer, Google employee No. 20, who mentioned early brainstorming sessions and experiments.
“I was there the day we did the first Street View experiments,” Mayer, who later became CEO of Yahoo, said. She said they rented a camera from Wolf Camera, hopped in a blue Volkswagen bug and “just started driving around Palo Alto taking a photo every 15 seconds, and then, at the end of the day, we took photo-stitching software to see if we could stitch the pictures together.”
Google Street View later raised privacy issues galore, but it was pioneering technology that later was integrated into Google and Apple maps.
Mayer and others, such as Doug Edwards — who was in marketing, was employee No. 59 and also wrote a book — mentioned some other far-out ideas that came up during brainstorming sessions.
Brin “wanted to project our logo on the Moon. He wanted to take the entire marketing budget and use it to help Chechen refugees. He wanted to make Google-branded condoms that we would give out to high schools,” Edwards said.
“Some things we actually did go out and build—like driverless cars,” Mayer said. “We brainstormed that.”
The book’s full title is “Valley of Genius: The Uncensored History of Silicon Valley (As Told by the Hackers, Founders, and Freaks Who Made It Boom).” It was written by Adam Fisher and released Tuesday.