Google’s Secret Perk? A Private Hackerspace


Working for Google has always had many perks, and most of them are pretty well known. Google employees enjoy free food, on-site workout facilities, and one free day a week to work on whatever they like – but you knew that already. One Google perk however, has been kept pretty quiet until just recently.

Google has provided a hackerspace on their campus for about four years now, which is open to any employee that meets some pretty strict requirements. A written test is given before an employee can access the facilities, and even then they must be deemed worthy of working on particular pieces of equipment.

The idea behind the hackerspace was to help Google stay rooted in the philosophy that, “all good things start in the garage”. While a lot of the employees embark on fun personal projects, several pieces of familiar Google technology were born in the workshop. For instance, the Google Streetview “trikes” were created there, along with a few smartphone prototypes, autonomous car components, and even some secret projects Google declines to speak about at the moment.

It’s an unbelievably cool job perk, and we would be lying if we said we weren’t jealous. For now, we will just have to be happy with stale coffee from the break room.

[via the Adafruit Blog]

[Image via AP]

39 thoughts on “Google’s Secret Perk? A Private Hackerspace

  1. +1 for photo choice. If we weren’t previously convinced that the Mountain View building is just a cover for the secret volcanic-island HQ where Google carries out its actual operations, we certainly will be now — I mean, if anyone ever looked like a henchman, it’s that guy.

    (Also, in before anyone else makes a ‘Google goggles’ pun. It’s not funny when I’m doing it and it won’t be when you do, either.)

  2. I would assume it is a not evil version of Disney’s IP rules. Anything you make outside of urine and feces belongs to them. If urine and feces prices continue to rise, that may be eroded as well.
    I consider myself a lone captain on the sea and as such my shite belongs to me, my rum, and my Makarov. The dog hasn’t been cleared on the Mak so it isn’t part of the plan at the moment…

  3. Strange that Google hires people that do not know their limitations, and then must have testing to keep the functional retards from blowing themselves up with welding gases.

  4. I dunno, Google is definitely the king of “has too much information about its customers and we don’t even know for what purposes.” If a private investigator monitored everything from where my router is located to my internet activity to photographing my house, and then selectively “passed this on to select business partners” and or published it, I wouldn’t be happy.

    So, for all the pomp they have about being innovators, sometimes I wish they’d just piss off.

    PS: posting this via my Android smartphone. Arrrrgh.

  5. Nice if you don’t mind giving away your ideas to the corporation.

    Bad if you discover something wold changing and the mother corporation makes Millions and you get a email that says “nice job”

    I’ll keep my hackerspace at home thank you.

  6. It is refreshing to see a hackerspace with a real fume hood over the cutting torch area.

    But why does he wear full leather gloves and welding outfit but pretty much the cheapest goggles possible? I mean, they protect your eyes fine and all (as long as you use the right shade) but not your face or head. I know they sell full face masks for torch cutting/brazing/plasma cutting and they are not that expensive either.

    I guess torch cutting generates much less UV than say, welding but why go to the effort of looking the part so to speak and then not go all the way?

  7. When I worked at Ford, I had access to the DIY machine shop. Initially we just used it. Later, we were required to take an 8 hour safety and proper machine use course.

    We had a *really* great instructor from the local community college, and his teachings have no doubt saved me from injury countless times. Thank you Hank!

    Safety training and checkout are essential. Ultimately, no matter how smart, some people are not wired to work around high speed machinery. Or live high voltage. Etc.

    It was a really great shop, and a nice perk. Some people would abuse such a perk, but I didn’t see it where I was. I observed great benefits to the company from that shop. As an employer, I want to hire people who invent and build stuff. I want them interacting with other employees who invent and build stuff. Etc.

    Nobody asked what you were making. There was no “IP”. I suspect it is similar at google.

    When I left, I bought my own mill and lathe. My mill is much better, but I miss the Hardinge tool room lathe they had. That thing was sweeeeet.

  8. @Hackerspacer

    He is welding, not cutting. The only thing you get with welding is bright light which is what the goggles provide protection from. When gas welding (Not brazing) there are sparks thrown so it is advantageous to wear leathers.

    Now if they just taught him how to hold the torch…

    As for the shop perk there are also shops on military bases where the guys can go to work on stuff.

  9. @avrpunk: People who don’t know their limitations aren’t constrained by them. In implementation phase it may lead into a disaster. In development phase it may also lead into a breakthrough.

    @macona: True. However, in civilian settings, “being shot at” is usually not in the job description. This puts the military option into a certain level of disadvantage.

  10. I think he’s brazing, actually. More like soldering than welding. The leathers are complete overkill for brazing as there are no sparks like welding or grinding. Eye protection is always a good idea, however.

    Cool idea though. I do wonder how they deal with intellectual property.

  11. When I worked for an “atmospheric research” facility in Boulder, Colorado (over a decade ago, so this may not longer be true), they had a mini-machine shop available for employees to use, right next to the REAL machine shop. And yes, to use it, you had to prove, by example or trade-school certificate, that you knew what you were getting into. I never pursued that option. IIRC it had a mill, lathe, drill press, bandsaw and a few other things.

  12. @DoktorJ: Can you give a reference for that? What you’re describing there is known as a “war crime,” and all recent incidents I’m aware of were blatantly illegal, and the soldiers responsible for them are going to be punished most severely.

  13. A bit unusual image of software engineer Ihab Awad going the extra distance fully leathered up, but unfortunately leaves his face and lid vulnerable.

    For the record, he had a mullet and a Santa Claus beard on April 11, 2011.

  14. @Volfram Join the military. How about prosecuting the Vietnamese for still holding POWs? Nah I reckon it would be like Amnesty International that only prosecutes the US because they are allowed to inspect unlike most guerilla/govt paramilitary groups that actually beat the tar out of their own people and dump folks in mass graves. How is the official AI report from the Sudan going? There isn’t…

  15. @carbunkle: Aside from the fact that I have a medical disqualification from military service, my best friend is currently serving overseas. He was recently back here on leave to celebrate his daughter’s birthday.

    Beyond that, I can’t make heads or tails out of what you’re trying to say. Are you supporting me or the militant pacifist up there?

  16. HP used to have this. Back in the days when HP actually made stuff.

    Unfortunately, the full time machine shope employees pretty much sabotaged it. The machine shop employees were piqued that an engineer might occasionally need to drill a few holes in a lab prototype right NOW, and didn’t want to fill out a build request for the machine shop to execute in a week or two, once they got off one of their perennial coffee breaks.

    So in the end the machine shop employees made sure the press punches weren’t aligned, and all the drill bits were perfectly dulled, and the bins of scrap material pretty much depleted of anything useful.

    And then themachine shope employees pitched a fit when all their jobs got shipped to China, and without ever wondering why.

  17. @Hackerspace

    1) UV light is not generated in siginificant enough proportions to be of a concern when welding using the oxygen acetylene welding process.

    2)Those goggles provide plenty of protection. There isn’t enough UV to burn your skin so all you need to worry about is the IR burning out your eyeballs. Plus the process doesn’t throw sparks unless you really suck and shove the neutral flame directly into the center of the puddle.

    3) He isn’t welding, he is brazing it what looks like the 1F position.

    4)Quit talking shit about things you know nothing about.

    5)I agree the leathers are laughable, I’ll weld the OAW process in jeans, a t-shirt and dark sunglasses usually.

  18. @NateOcean: my dad’s a former HP employee and he used to tell stories about that, too.

    Back in the days when Bill Hewlett himself was still part of the company, he went in to the shop one day to find the cabinet had a lock on it. He took a pair of bolt cutters to the lock and left a note stating that the next person to lock the cabinet was fired.

    By the time my dad left the company, it was standard policy to have a lock on the cabinet :(

  19. NOTE: If you are from Oslo, Norway, and in case you read this and became a bit jealous: don’t worry.

    You should join the upcoming hackerspace in Oslo, anyone can become a member. See their website, Makers.

    For anyone interested in hackerspaces, see the global hackerspace catalog wiki if there’s one near you:

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