New York Times Article Explores Apple's Failed Attempt to Build the Macintosh in California

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by MacRumors, Dec 17, 2018.

  1. MacRumors macrumors bot


    Apr 12, 2001

    The New York Times today printed an interesting article exploring how Apple co-founder Steve Jobs set up a Macintosh manufacturing plant in Fremont, California in the 1980s that failed early on into its tenure.

    Titled "When Apple Was Homegrown," the piece by John Markoff offers an insight into Jobs' fascination with Henry Ford's mass automobile manufacturing in Detroit and the high-quality manufacturing capabilities of Japanese companies like Sony, and how Jobs aimed to synthesize the two cultures in a "highly automated" Mac factory.

    Apple's ill-fated California Macintosh facility (Credit: Terrence McCarthy for NYT)
    Construction of the plant, located just across San Francisco Bay from Apple's headquarters, began in 1983. The first reporters to tour it were told that factory labor would account for 2 percent of the cost of making a Macintosh, thanks to its state-of-the-art production line. Expectations were therefore high, but the practical realities of working at the plant were markedly different.
    Lacking the requisite schooling and subcontractors, Apple's Macintosh manufacturing in California was unable to reach the production volume that Jobs had envisioned. Eight years later, the plant was shuttered.

    Jobs made a second attempt to establish a manufacturing culture in Silicon Valley shortly after leaving Apple. In 1990 he oversaw another $10 million plant to build his Next personal workstation. The facility featured robotic devices, but it too was unable to produce in quantities that would support a long-term assembly operation, and it failed just like its Apple predecessor.

    Jobs' thinking on manufacturing had changed by the time he returned to Apple in 1997, and the next year he hired veteran supply chain overseer Tim Cook as Apple's senior VP for worldwide operations. Apple's manufacturing outsourcing quickly expanded to form a sprawling ecosystem of global suppliers.
    Aside from specialist operations like the Mac Pro facility in Austin, Texas, the vast majority of Apple's manufacturing takes place outside of the U.S. Indeed, in recent years under Cook's watch as CEO, Apple's complex web of global suppliers has boomed in response to the demand of making products like the iPhone for mass markets. "You can't bring manufacturing back because of those webs," said Andrew Hargadon, a former Apple product designer who worked on the Macintosh Powerbook Duo in the early 1990s. "You would have to bring the entire community back," he told Markoff.

    Recently, Apple announced plans to build a new $1 billion campus in Austin, Texas, as well as plans for a general expansion of operations over the next three years in cities across the United States. The plans are expected to create thousands more jobs, although the large majority of them aren't thought to be in manufacturing. Apple says it is on track to create 20,000 jobs in the U.S. by 2023.

    Interested readers can find John Markoff's full New York Times article online but with the alternative headline, "Apple Computers Used to Be Built in the U.S. It Was a Mess."

    Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

    Article Link: New York Times Article Explores Apple's Failed Attempt to Build the Macintosh in California
  2. s2mikey macrumors 68020


    Sep 23, 2013
    Upstate, NY
    Well, bottom line, it’d be nice if more stuff was made here in the USA. Hard to argue that. There’s plenty of profit there already.
  3. swingerofbirch macrumors 68040

    Oct 24, 2003
    The Amalgamated States of Central North America
    The article is missing info that Macs were still made through 2000 in Elk Grove, California—including the iMac.

    And that facility is now used for Apple distribution (it's a mix of Apple employees and temp workers now).

    Along with the fact that there is (was?) still some Mac final assembly in the US, specifically of the Mac Pro. But kind of hard to imagine there's many Mac Pros being assembled anymore.
  4. Southern Dad macrumors 68000

    Southern Dad

    May 23, 2010
    Shady Dale, Georgia
    When I hear that things can't be manufactured in the USA, and I see companies moving their assembly outside of the country, I have to wonder what Lenovo knows that we do not. They assemble computers in the USA. Not all of them, but some.

    What about in the automobile industry? While Ford and GM are sending their assembly outside of the USA, there are companies like Honda, Kia, Hyundai, BMW, Mercedes, and VW that assemble cars right here in the USA. What is different for those companies?

    Could it be where they locate their production facilities? Just tossing this out there but Steve Jobs opened his factory in California. That's not a real corporate friendly climate. Would it have been more successful if it had opened in Texas, away from a major city? In North Carolina like Lenovo?
  5. danckwerts macrumors regular


    Jun 7, 2008
    Richmond upon Thames
    Ought to move production to Wales! The Raspberry Pi moved production from China to the Wales in 2012.
  6. Moonjumper macrumors 68000


    Jun 20, 2009
    Lincoln, UK
    Apple may have been ahead of the times with attempting such highly automated manufacturing. Manufacturing keeps moving to where the cheapest workforce is. That may change when a workforce isn’t required to make goods.

    Apple has it’s most high value jobs in America, such as design and R&D, the roles most likely to survive the upcoming changes.
  7. gigapocket1 macrumors 65816

    Mar 15, 2009
    When iPhones etc is assembled by robots. China is the one that will lose, not USA.
    But then China will do something that protects their country, where a certain amount of the product has to be assembled in China, similar to what Taiwan (I think it’s Taiwan) does.
  8. magicschoolbus macrumors 65816


    May 27, 2014
    NYTimes talking down on American manufacturing... what a surprise. Their Chinese investors must be so happy.
  9. cosmichobo macrumors 6502


    May 4, 2006
    I could be totally wrong, but my understanding is that in order to have the levels of staffing required to produce the devices, yet have wages sufficiently low for the goods to be saleable, you need to set up in these countries were people are paid a pittance for their work.

    If you set up the same facility in the US, wages would push the price of an iPhone up massively. I'll be curious to see how long the Mac Pro remains USA-built.

    The company I work for makes kids luggage / accessories. They are all done in China. I know my boss did look at local manufacturers, but the pricing was all multitudes higher.
  10. frumpy16 macrumors 6502a


    Dec 8, 2008
    Also, HP "Z" workstations are made in Indianapolis, Indiana by Foxconn. They're pumping them out from there too. Foxconn is also building a giant display factory between Chicago and Milwaukee. So "Made in the USA" can certainly work.
  11. Shivetya macrumors 65816

    Jan 16, 2008
    I love how the NYT bends over backwards to support the regime in China that is accused of human rights issues daily and act as chief apologist for Apple's continued reliance on workers in that country.
  12. s2mikey macrumors 68020


    Sep 23, 2013
    Upstate, NY
    Good points. I know with cars the major hang up with making cars here is that the UAW is a huge cost burden for GM, Ford, etc and Toyota, Kia, etc do not/will not use union labor. They pay good wages/benefits but the avoid the union bloat which saves a ton of money. And Im sure that location has something to do with it too.

    As for computer stuff? I believe Apple is a tad greedy here anbd could easily build everything in the USA. Sure, some profit would have to be used for this but why should shareholders be first? I hate that. Didnt used to be that way. Companies used to tke care of employees first, customers second and then shareholders got theirs. Thats how it ought to be. But, Wall Street blood-suckers ruined it. Its never enough profit or money. Ever.
  13. sl1200mk2 macrumors 6502

    Oct 17, 2006
    I’ve been in the building that was the original manufacturing facility many times. It’s now a Datacenter for Hurricane Electric (their Fremont 2 facility). It still has some leftovers from Apple including markings in the floors (basically painted lines of different types) that the early automated carts used for guidance. It’s pretty cool walking around there knowing the history of the building.
  14. az431 macrumors 6502a


    Sep 13, 2008
    Portland, OR
    Apple is assembling computers in China instead of the US despite the fact that it can be done in the US for the same or less money? So what is your theory? That they like the extra complexity of a supply chain that is 10,000 miles long? They hate America? They're too stupid or lack the knowledge required to build a plant in the US?

    First, cars and iPhones have similar percentages of US vs foreign-made goods. The fact that one is assembled here and the other in China does not mean anything.

    The difference between car companies and electronics is the level of skill required to assemble them and the percentage of manual vs automated assembly. Bolting together steel parts with 1/4" bolts is not the same as assembling a glass and aluminum phone with screws that are barely visible to the human eye. For that reason, most of the electronics in cars are not made in the US, and likely never will be.

    In addition, shipping cars is a lot more expensive than shipping phones, and the shipping cost accounts for a far greater percentage of the overall cost. The cost of shipping a car here from Japan or Europe can be 10% or more of the price of that car, where on a phone the shipping costs is maybe 1%.
  15. Scooz macrumors regular

    Apr 9, 2012
    So, Americans can only handle large screws and things better have to be glued or welded, while unfocused Californians keep dropping things on the floor and sweep it together with a broom afterwards.

    There surely is no future for US-based manufacturing.
  16. az431 macrumors 6502a


    Sep 13, 2008
    Portland, OR
    Companies never took care of employees first, and if a company put employees ahead of shareholders that would be a breach of their fiduciary duty to those shareholders. Moreover, maximizing profit is putting employees first (most companies don't stay in business long by minimizing profit simply so they can hire more employees). If you owned a business I doubt you would follow your own absurd logic.
  17. Kaibelf macrumors 68020


    Apr 29, 2009
    Silicon Valley, CA
    Why falsely talk up something? Sorry, no participation ribbons here.
    --- Post Merged, Dec 17, 2018 ---
    Because shareholders put up the money at a risk of losing. If Apple went under shareholders also likely would be among the last to recoup anything. If you want it to be different, put up your own money instead, buy enough of the company to make demands, and then change things.
  18. AxiomaticRubric macrumors 6502


    Sep 24, 2010
    On Mars, Praising the Omnissiah
    There is no mention here of the GATT treaty (General Agreement on Trade & Tariffs) which provides many tax-funded perks to corporations investing in overseas factory production.
  19. Piggie macrumors G3


    Feb 23, 2010
    Sounds exactly like our boss

    SHOUTS about how easy your job is, and how, if you can't do it, he can always get someone else who can.
    Yet whenever he tries anything manual himself, he's totally useless and messes everything up, and then blames it on someone else.

    Yet he has his own reality distortion field and believes he is always right and literally everyone else is an idiot.
  20. joueboy macrumors 65816

    Jul 3, 2008
    I do believe that if SJ was still alive he would have fought for some of the production to be brought here in the US especially for the Macs. With the success of Musk ability to improve production that would be a challenge for Steve to show that he can do it as well.
  21. tridley68 macrumors 6502a


    Aug 28, 2014
    I think Steve figured out early on that the Chinese would work harder for a lot less money than folks in the United States therefore costing him less to manufacture his product.
  22. EvilEvil macrumors 6502a


    Jan 8, 2007
    New York City
    A.K.A Apple is too cheap to pay factory workers in America.
  23. DVD9 macrumors 6502a

    Feb 18, 2010
    "the Mac Pro facility in Austin, Texas"

    How many years has it been since Apple sold a Mac Pro? It's going on six years since it was updated. At most the base model is worth a thousand dollars but the price is three times that. Tim Cook is an enemy of "America First" as is the New York Times.

    This is why Trump's corporate media coverage is universally negative. Trump's inauguration speech was short and to the point and represented everything the "American" corporate establishment opposes.
  24. jjhny macrumors regular


    Sep 16, 2005
    More of the 'siren song' of Globalism from the New York Times. What a surprise. American manufactured goods are considered the best. It's just that we don't pay slave wages. So no obscene profits for the upper executive team. And Tim is an expert in slave labor - that's where the profits are.
  25. Kaibelf macrumors 68020


    Apr 29, 2009
    Silicon Valley, CA
    Oh please. Who made the clothes that you are wearing, and why didn’t you pay more to make sure it was from America end to end? If you want to see why businesses try to cut costs look in the mirror, and then turn it around and see where THAT was manufactured and think about why you bought the less expensive one.

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