By CHRIS BARTON
The Microsoft campus in Redmond, Seattle, is the the working home of about 16,000 employees.
More than 80 rather unremarkable low-rise office buildings are set among a lush forest of trees in an area about the size of a small suburb.
We ride one of the shuttles that ply their way between buildings and that carried 610,359 passengers last year. The shuttles are always provisioned with a full basket of candy to keep the Microserfs suitably revved. How much did they eat in 1999? A mighty 4173 kilos .
The driver radios in - "five for Building 43." There are about 10,000 radio transmissions a day.
At the next stop several climb on board clutching freely provided soft drinks - indispensible nerd fuel with impossible names like Cool Jolt Nestea or Tangerine Talking Rain.
They drink a lot: 121,056 cans of soda, 121,056 cans of carbonated water, 73,248 cans of juice and 69,133 carton of milk a month, to be precise.
In one of several company cafes we can select from an enormous range of subsidised hot and cold food. Pizza is by far the most popular choice with 3656 slices eaten each day.
At lunch we talk with Michael, one of the handful of New Zealanders now working on campus. His dress - shorts, sneakers and T-shirt - is par for the course. He has been with Microsoft eight years, the last four at Redmond.
Like all Microsofties, he has stock options given to him every year. How many he gets depends on how well he does in his annual performance review.
He says he doesn't think about it much, but he does keep tabs on Microsoft's stock price - on both the handheld Jornada he carries and on his office PC. Unlike many Silicon Valley firms, Microsoft offices are not cubicles or open plan, but small cell-like rooms with doors.
Because of his seniority, Michael has one on the window side, looking out on a canopy of green. Like many there, on paper, he's probably well on his way to becoming a millionaire.
That evening we meet Ian, a large, brash Australian who is the project manager for Windows 2000 development, a 4000-strong team. Ian is also a snowboarder. It was he who, after going large on a jump and landing on his head, came up with the code-name Whistler (a mountain in Canada) for the next version of Windows.
He has just turned 37, making him one of the oldies. The average age on campus is 34.5. Ian has so many options, he really doesn't think about them anymore.
He clearly gets much satisfaction from his job. He says he can't think of anything else he would rather be doing.By Chris Barton Email Chris