Sandy Miranda on her Education and Early Work

Source: Interview with Sandy Miranda, 14 April 2000.

Childhood and Family Background

Pang: This is an interview with Sandy Miranda, April 14, 2000, at Buck's famous restaurant in Woodside.

Miranda: --just 48 hours before my huge party that I'm not getting ready for! [Miranda laughs]

Pang: You were just talking about your family connection to the area.

Miranda: My father built one of the first houses on Arastadero Road, which is really ground zero for a lot of what went on, and when I was working my way through college I worked in the organization led by Bob Noyce at Fairchild R&D as a lab assistant, a lab tech. So my job was to put thin films onto wafers, when they were trying to figure out how to make integrated circuits. That's how I worked my way through college.

Working in Silicon Valley

Working at Fairchild

Pang: How did you get that job with Fairchild?

Miranda: I didn't have any money, I wanted to go to college, and I knew if I was going to school I was going to get some jobs. So I just went over there and applied for a job.

They had me in some real clunky job for about a month, and then they saw that actually I could do things, and they said "we want to put you in R&D and have you do some other things." So they immediately gave me a better job. I didn't know it, but they had me doing thin-film depositing on these wafer things, and we were inventing-- they were inventing-- the integrated circuit. So I was there, too. And I've worked at many of these seminal places.

Working at ARC

So I started out at that level, and when I got out of graduate school-- I got an English degree, and then I studied world mythology and folklore and myth and symbolism and stuff-- which is very closely related to what went on in these computer places [Miranda laughs], and then I got my first job working for Doug Engelbart, as a secretary with that kind of background. And so in those days, to get my foot in the door, since I didn't have a degree in anything technical, my friend took me over there and had said, "This looks really interesting," and I've always been interested in science and technology. So I went to work as a secretary, and after about six months I got promoted to this job they called feedback.

Several people who worked on the Macintosh were ARC alums; Caroline Rose talks in her interview about working for Engelbart at Tymshare in the mid-1970s. Elsewhere in this interview Miranda talks about other ARC alumni at Apple.

I think you could say I was the first tech support on the Internet, or the ARPANET in those days. So my job was to answer any question that came into Engelbart's group-- from Bell Labs, from MIT, any of our partners-- within 24 hours. You've heard, there was this bouquet of money from people who'd give money and play with our software, with NLS. I was the person who got all the inquiries about, "This stuff isn't working, this command doesn't work, how do I do such and such," and I would run down the hall to Jon Postel, or Ken Victor, and sometimes Doug himself, and say, if I didn't know the answer, which a long time I didn't with a degree in English, I'd run down to Jon Postel or somebody like that, and say, "Hey, what do I tell Bell Labs," and he'd say, "Oh, just tell them such-and-such."

And after a while, I knew some of the answers, but I'd still go and check with them. That was my job, so I sort of see myself as the first tech support on the Net. 'Cause at that time we were the first node, and really, if you don't have a node, we don't have a network, so really that was the first one, and there I am, Miss Tech Support. You know, when I think about it, I realize, "Oh my God!" [Miranda laughs] And it was really fun.

Pang: So when did you join Engelbart's group?

Miranda: In 1973.

Pang: And how long were you with them?

Miranda: I think I was there either 3 or 4 years, I think 3.

Pang: Were you part of the group that didn't go with Doug over to Tymshare?

Miranda: What happened was, I married Engelbart's assistant director, and Doug didn't really like me being in the group when I was married to Jim Norton, who was his kind of marketing guy-- [Pang looks amazed] you didn't know this?

Pang: [recovering] No. I've talked to Jim a number of times--

Miranda: You have?

Pang: --recently, but this never came up.

Miranda: This makes it interesting. I will tell you-- So after a while, I ended up marrying Jim Norton, and Doug didn't like that. So he, he actually kicked me out because of it. But we're friends now, and I've totally forgiven him and all, but he just couldn't handle it. Everyone I worked with in all the different research groups sent letters saying, "Oh, don't do that, we love Sandy, blah, blah," and Doug was like, "No, I can't deal with it." And he said, "You have to go."

Pang: Weren't there a couple other marriages within the ARC staff?

Miranda: But they weren't reporting up to their husbands. My boss reported to Jim, and Doug didn't like that. I can understand it, but at the time I was like, "Oh, boy."

So anyway, so I went and worked in earthquake prediction at the USGS next door, which was one of the most interesting jobs I ever did, and I was responsible for managing and processing the satellite data stuff for the earthquake prediction. I was there about 3 years.


Document created on 20 June 2000;