Interview with Sandy Miranda

About Sandy Miranda

Sandy Miranda grew up in Silicon Valley: her father "built one of the first houses on Arastadero Road, which is really ground zero for a lot of what went on." Later she worked at Fairchild Semiconductor as a laboratory technician while studying English and mythology at San Jose State University. After graduating, she joined Douglas Engelbart's Augmentation Research Center at Stanford Research Institute, eventually becoming the "first tech support [person] on the ARPANET." After a stint at the USGS, Miranda joined Apple in 1980, where, she worked as a technical writer on the Lisa and Macintosh projects. She began her career as a freelance writer after being laid off in the famous merger of the Lisa and Apple groups (during with Steve Jobs made his remark that "I only see B and C players"): her first contract was to write the "Test Drive a Macintosh" script.

Miranda continued to work as a technical writer in Silicon Valley until the mid-1990s, and for the last decade has been a producer of the "Music of the World" show on KPFA, an alternative radio station in Berkeley, California. She was one of the first radio broadcasters to develop a Web site for her show, and now broadcasts online as well over the airwaves.

During the interview Miranda talks about her work at SRI; the culture of Apple in the early 1980s (particularly its support of women); her careers as a technical writer and radio personality; the relationship between the counterculture and rise of personal computing; and the excitement of working on leading-edge technical projects.

About the Interview

The interview was conducted on 14 April 2000, at Buck's restaurant in Woodside. There is too much background noise on the recording to publish audio extracts of the interview. The transcript was created and edited by Alex Pang, and reviewed by Sandy Miranda; a final version was created on 28 June 2000.

A copy of the original audio file (an Audio Interchange Format file) has been deposited in Stanford University Library Department of Special Collections.


Education and Early Work

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 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.

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.

Working at Apple

By that time, I started getting wind of Apple, and once you have this other stuff in your blood, the minute I started getting wind of Apple-- and mind you, it hadn't gone public yet-- I went over there and wrote a poem, and was hired because of this poem I wrote to apply for a job. Things were really freewheeling there then. This was in May of 1980.

So, I went and worked there in technical writing, and it was just (to sound like Steve Jobs) insanely fun, just insane. I mean, here's all these-- Everybody who was there is still really close friends; we still see each other all the time, we're totally bonded. The ARC group has stayed in touch, even 20 years later; that early Apple tech writing group is just unbelieveably tight to this day, all these people, you know. And yeah, so I was there, I was there for almost 4 years, and then I went back-- I worked on the early Apple IIs, that had cassettes that fed the programs in, and then it was the Apple II for just a little while, and then I worked on the Lisa. The Lisa was like Steve Jobs'-- he, at one point, he decided there was an A team and B team, did you hear about that?-- and my whole group was gone then. And so my manager and everyone in my group, they decided that was the B team, and so we were all out. But a couple months later, Chris Espinosa called and said, "We want to bring you back, how would you like to write the Test Drive for the Macintosh?"

Chris was good to me. Because he liked me, after the B-team got laid off, he brought me back in. He said, "That's ridiculous. Come on back." I came back and as a consultant got like three times the amount of money I'd been making as am employee. So Chris was a good friend to do that. He made sure that didn't happen to me.

Pang: He was just out of college at that point, wasn't he?

Miranda: I'm not sure, but he bought a Volkswagen. One of those Volkswagens that had the roll bar, convertible, and he taped a huge goose to the roll bar, and he used to drive it in and out of the parking lot with this goose on it. [Miranda laughs] He was just a kid then.

Pang: And how was he to work with? Here you are, you have ten years of experience by this point--

Miranda: But the guy is obviously so bright. One of the things that you learn at Apple was, I don't look at you to see how old you are, I listen to what you have to say. And that's something that happened at Apple, like my boss at KPFA, at the radio station, when she came in she was like 28 years old, and I'm a bit older than that, but she was so brilliant that I didn't care, I learned a lot from her. And age-- that's one thing you learn, there are some very young, very bright people.

Basically a lot of very precocious people ended up here. It was one of those things where-- I don't think I'll every be anywhere where there are such bright, creative people, ever. I don't think I'll ever see it again. Ever. The place was just vibrating with creative energy, like nothing I have every witnessed. The radio station is like that, but it's on a smaller scale. But I I can't work anywhere where it's not like that, after having that experienced first with Englebart and then at Apple and now at KPFA. I just can't be anywhere where people aren't really turned on and alive, and doing their life's work. Because you get totally into it, and once you have that experience, you're not going to go back. It's very liberating.

It's dangerous. What they were doing is dangerous. Give all these people the secret key, and watch out! [Miranda laughs]

So I came back as a contractor, and that was great, because that started me out as a consultant, which I've done ever since. And I probably, I never would have done it for a long time, I get this incredibly plum project, and I got to work with Carol Kaehler, who has since passed away, she was Ted Kaehler's wife, and we did the "Test Drive a Mac." This was when the Mac first came out, and I wrote the script for it, and you had like these, there was only like 3 pieces of software available for it, there was a spreadsheet, a word processor, and like a paint program--

Pang: MacWrite, MacPaint--

Miranda: Yeah, yeah, and I still have the stuff at home. So I wrote this script for the thing, and Carol did the book, and it was the first-- one of the first multimedia things that Apple ever did. You had to put a cassette into a player, and listen to it, and then watch this little thing go on on your screen, and that was my project. And then I kept going back as a contract consultant over the years, all the way up through e-World-- yes [Miranda laughs]. So I've stayed in touch with Apple, because there's a very big loyalty of all of us early employees. I was number 998, so I was under the first thousand.

I just went to the NAB show [National Association of Broadcasters] this Tuesday, and I was so happy because the Apple people had this huge presence there, very beautiful, and they were announcing Final Cut Pro, their new software, they're back in the software business. There were hundreds of people in the booth-- a huge booth-- and there was huge excitement, just like the old days.

And I was so pleased to see that. Because nobody was willing to let Apple go down, the world was not willing to let Apple go down. Did you see the difference there, when Microsoft gets into trouble, people say, everyone's like, "Get those bastards!" You know what I mean? And when Apple's in horrible trouble, the world will not let them go down, they refuse. So there's a difference in attitude there that people appreciate.

Technical Writing at Apple

Pang: Tell me about the technical writing group, and what it was like working in it. Would you have been reporting to Jef Raskin?

Miranda: No, this was after that. Phyllis Cole actually was the head of that group. It was on Bandley, let's see, Bubb road. Before all the buildings moved together over on the main drag over there. Elizabeth Weil, me, Kathy Williams, Meg Beeler, Ernie Bearnik, Dave Casseres, Steve Chernicoff, people like that. And Chris Espinosa.

There was this great energy. It was just so exciting to be there, you'd go to work and everyone's having so much fun, it was really high energy. People were playing basketball up and down the halls. It was like everything you hear about, early Apple. People were just on fire. I joined, and a few months later they went public. You know, I forget when it was, maybe six months later or something. At that time, none of us knew what stock was. But we found out in a hurry what it meant!

It was just exciting. And everyone was very well-educated. They had a lot of English majors, a lot of artists. People were totally educated, and no one, in those days, you couldn't go and take a class in any of this stuff, it didn't exist. But they proved, and I think that people could pay attention to this now, what they proved was, you can take a bunch of creative, turned-on people who want to make a difference, and they can learn anything. And we just figured it out as we went.

Pang: What sort of status did the technical writing group, or technical writers, have within Apple? In some places technical writers were-- or are-- treated as glorified secretaries. What was it like for you?

Miranda: Well I felt very honored by them, and I remember that when I came from the USGS I was documenting...they got new computer systems just constantly, working on all this earthquake stuff, like state-of-the-art. And I was constantly writing. Not only was I working with the satellite data, but I was documenting every new thing. So I've been doing this since I was in my early twenties. I've always been a writer. So I was just documenting whatever anybody needed, I could document it for you, right? It's easy.

So, I remember coming from the Survey, Apple doubled the salary I asked for, and then even gave me more. It was so exciting that I immediately called two of my friends back at the Survey, and said, you've got to come right away. I said, "Let me recommend you!" And I was bringing in women, especially women, bringing in women like crazy that had been so underpaid. And I feel good about that. I remember bringing in three or four, just constantly recruiting more and more people. And they paid us extremely well.

And that was a good thing, and I always liked Apple for that, 'cause women have played a major role in running that company. And they've been paid just the same as men, I think, at least in those days. I don't want to deal with that, the way it is in the rest of the world. And I think they set the tone for that. In those days, everyone knew that they paid better than anybody. When you pay people well, they like it and they respond accordingly. They were respectful with that money, "Work hard for us and we'll pay you well."

Pang: Within Apple, did technical writing in the development process differ from other places, like say at SRI?

Miranda: Over the years I worked at SRI, Earthquake Physics at the USGS, Apple, some startups, Sun Microsystems R&D; I worked at NeXT, I worked for HP for six years as a consultant in Corporate, I've worked in all these companies. I thought that technical writers were extremely honored at Apple. And I always appreciated that.

Artistic Culture

The other thing that was really special at Apple that I've never seen duplicated was that they had a feeling for art. They knew the importance of marketing like no company ever until then, they had incredibly great graphic artists and graphic designers, their identity was fabulous, they had-- The production values of the books were fabulous, so they attracted artists who could write, because we all liked to see our work looking so good. That was something unique, totally unique that they did. They had an understanding of marketing and the art side of things, and how that carries part of the message.

Pang: Within Apple there were lots of musicians-- yourself obviously, and Jef Raskin worked as a conductor. It seems there was a dual artistic-technical identity for many people there.

Miranda: I'm also a student of culture, in business, in the workplace like you and I asked people, and I would check it out, because the people part was always the most interesting to me. There were an enormous number of people who were artists and musicians there. I mean, almost, it was the norm. Everybody there-- there were bands who came out of there, they were everyone, many people were into music, a lot of people were very cutting-edge, a lot of people were Deadheads, a lot of people were into rock, people were into classical, chamber music, opera, but almost anybody you would sit down with you would find out they were either an artist, or more likely a musician. There were an enormous number of musicians there. So I think that's very interesting, and you're right, it's very true. And many of us have gone on to more music later.

Pang: You were employee number 998. Was there any status that came with having a lower number?

Miranda: Yeah, I think so. Because in fact, I always tell people that number, 'cause there weren't that many people, by the time I got there, they were just hiring so fast, that right about that time, you couldn't keep track of people any more. A little bit after I got there, you still sort-of knew everybody and then it got bigger in a hurry. But yeah, I think there is a certain amount of...'cause people are always, other people will say that, I'm not the only one. You'll see somebody and they'll say, "Oh yeah, I was number 602." People are proud of it, 'cause at that point you had to have a certain vision to be there at that early time, and I always feel like I saw it and I knew and I went there. I still have the poem I wrote to get hired, in my file. And every once in a while I take it out and I look at it and I go, "Boy, those were the days."

Technical Writing in Silicon Valley

Pang: It sounds as if there was a recognition in the Valley really early on that Apple's technical writers, and what Apple was doing in terms of creating its manuals, was very different from everybody else.

Miranda: After working on staff at Apple for four years, I had carte blanc to go into any company, they would pay me the highest rate. And I mean, they were fighting over me. I never had trouble getting a job. It was like gold to have come from Apple, because they were totally so far and away, five years ahead of everyone else. So I had a great time after that, and having come from Englebart too, it was like double gold. Yeah, it was very easy to get a job after that.

Pang: So what was it that they saw as being great about Apple technical writing? The manuals, certainly, are very well-produced and they look nice--

Miranda: The production values are fabulous, and that's something we had never seen before, ever, ever, ever in the history of technical writing. The understanding that part of the usability, fifty percent of the usability, in a piece of technical writing is in the production value. I remember the idea of the style guide, I worked many times on style guides and the idea is having a plan, and there was a woman named Kathy Vian that I worked with at Apple, I was privileged to work with her. She is an architect and came into technical writing and did style guide after style guide at Apple and HP, and she kept winning these international awards and stuff. I was privileged to be on her team at a number of different companies, and every time I worked with her I would also get these awards because she was a genius and she sort of taught us. And it had to do with taking an architectural approach to the format of information. These were the first information designers, although they didn't call it that then. Fantastic.

And then Englebart started that with his hierarchical structure, so between that and then having Kathy come in with this architectural knowledge-- She was responsible personally for upgrading the way things looked in Silicon Valley. She consulted to everybody, even those days she was a consultant at Apple. She rewrote the HP style guide for the whole company five years ago, and won the international STC (Society for Technical Communications) award for that. She rewrote... I mean she's just, at NeXT, she headed the project I did at NeXT. I went back and worked for Steve again, if you can imagine anyone subjecting themselves to such a thing! [Miranda laughs]

Pang: Why did you do that?

Miranda: Actually, I never even saw him. He was never in. Caroline Rose was there at NeXT, but she left just before I got there. Another woman, who I liked very much, took over Caroline's job.

Pang: So how long were you at NeXT?

Miranda: Over a year. Maybe a year and a half. I remember I was working on their manuals and I was buying a house at the same time in Berkeley, and I did it over the fax machine. I remember sitting there working in Redwood City and faxing back and forth all the contracts, and buying this house.

Women at Apple

Pang: I've heard bits and pieces about things changing some after the company goes public-- nice cars showing up in the parking lot, that sort of thing. You hear today about when some small company goes public, you've got everyone spending as much time going to their Schwab accounts or eTrade and checking the stock as much as they're working. But did it make much of a difference?

Miranda: Part of what Apple is about is getting rid of the patriarchy, and I don't mean male, or men, but that part in all of us that doesn't help us grow. What happened was, they empowered people and especially they empowered women, and I remember that I eventually ended up with about $X after I got all my stock. It wasn't a huge amount, because I came in as a low-level regular writer, but by the time I had cashed in the first round of whatever stock they gave me I had about $X I went and bought a house. And I'm on my fourth house now. It made my life work, financially, and I was very careful about investing.

And, there was a whole bunch of us women in technical writing and we all supported each other very strongly, and we all talked and we all got together and said. "What should we do with this stock?" and we all said, "We should all go and buy houses, and this is how we will take care of ourselves and be financially wise." So we all talked about it and helped each other ,and we all went out and bought little teeny houses with the stock we got. People who were careful ended up with twenty, thirty, and I'm very good with stock. I got as much as anybody did because I did it at just the right time.

So there was this whole sense of us being empowered and being responsible for the empowerment and doing something with it, and especially-- I mean, it was a great group, all of us, but especially for the women it was this revolutionary empowerment with not being a part of the old system, and that's part of what still goes on there. It's like we're not going to take, we're not going to accept the old way of doing things. We're going to be whatever we want to be, and be empowered. So people were very excited. It was the original IPO, right?

Pang: In some stories about the development of the Macintosh, there's some macho language that gets used to describe who these people were and what they thought about themselves-- as pirates and so on. Were there any problems that women had at Apple, that flowed from any sort of sense of programming or other work there being a kind of masculine activity?

Miranda: Well, by the time I was really involved with the Mac, I was a contractor, a consultant. So by that time I was no longer on staff. But I can tell you that I personally never heard anybody say ever that there was a problem with that. And I have experienced only empowerment. And I always thought it was cool, the pirate thing.

So personally, I never had any feeling about that whatsoever, my feeling about Apple was there were so many women in high places that the place was equally run by women. It was very unusual, so quite the opposite of what you're saying, I've never heard anyone say that. But then, like I say, by the time I was involved by the Mac group, I was coming in on projects as a consultant, so I don't know what it was like to be there day by day, but when I was for four years up to that point, everyone was just like-- I mean there were women in very high places there, and happy about it.

Pang: So in some other less supportive sorts of environments, the sorts of things that you describe, like getting together to talk about investments, could be more of a defensive thing. But it wasn't the case here.

Miranda: Well it was all casual, the way we got together but no, I never experienced any of that myself. I just, I never saw any discrimination because of that. If anything it was the opposite, that women were really pushed into positions of power and that was a goal, so I was always very proud of that.

Pang: Why do you think that was? Why is it that women got into these positions early on, and were pushed in those sorts of ways?

Miranda: I think it's because they took people on intelligence and creativity, and not on their sex.

And as we know, there were at that time a lot of women running around, s there always have been, who are brilliant, and they were ready to go. And in those days, they were really ready to go, and they were flocking to Apple, and boy they came in droves. Creative people would make a beeline for there, so we had the best and the brightest, and it was fun. And the exhilaration of this was happening all along too. It was very obvious that it was very likely that you'd be reporting to a women and there's a certain, I mean it's a stereotype and a generalization, but In general, there's a tone that goes with that that is very open. Yeah.

Pang: Had you had women supervisors at USGS? Was this a new thing for you.

Miranda: At high levels, yeah, and really bright people. I don't think I ever had a-- all my managers and their managers I think were women. It was kind of a big joke, that Apple was-- part of what made it different, it was a new vision.

ARC-Apple Connections

Pang: Before we started recording, you mentioned Harvey Lehtman talking to you about whether he should join the company. Were there other ARC people or Tymshare people who you had spoken to about it?

Miranda: Well, I remember when Harvey called me. And I think that it seems to me like Dirk van Nouhuys also called me. I'm trying to remember, but I think he did too. Those two in particular, and I think there were others. I remember the day that Harvey called me, because I've always been very fond of Harvey. We were good friends, you know. We still talk every once in a while. I just saw Dirk last weekend. And they just were checking it out and...the only thing you could say at that point was, "How fast could you get here?" [Miranda laughs] You know, it was quite a zoo.

Pang: Were there other ARC people who you ended working with when you were at Apple? I know David Casseres is also one of the....

Miranda: Yeah, that's the one I was trying to remember. He was in the tech. writing group when I got to Apple. He's always been one of my favorite people. Whenever there's a party when we get back together, I make a beeline for David, he's the one I want to see the most, 'cause I never see him except at these reunions. I ended up working with him. I think he was the only one in that first group, but later on, they were all there. They were all, all those people it ended up, they were in different groups from me, but David, I actually was in the same group with David and we used to talk about it all the time.

And Dirk van Nouhuys, he was there, but I was in the Lisa group and they were in the Apple II group at that time, or Apple III, whatever it was by that time. They were across the road, and at that time Jobs-- by the time they started developing the Mac-- he wouldn't let anybody in that building unless you had that badge. [Miranda laughs]

Pang: It sounds as if working in that more secretive kind of way was a new thing for the company.

Miranda: Yeah, that didn't happen until the Mac started. And I think it probably was because the Lisa team was still there, they kind of took-- The Lisa was a transitional project that led to the Mac. We did all this development and then they took it and said, "Okay, this is good, now here's what we really want to do." And so I think they were worried about people getting upset, cause it was always the pariah. They kind of made it into a bad thing. But it wasn't a bad thing, it was part of the process.

Pang: Now you had said something about Jef Raskin...

Miranda: Oh yes. This is a good story. This is good. You'll like this. Somebody, I can't remember who, but when I was at the USGS working on earthquakes, somebody showed me an Apple manual, the very first one, I think it was Basic. And it was Jef Raskin's first book for Apple, and in there on page ten or something it said, "If you can understand this page, you are a mutant, and you will go far in the computer world." And when I saw that, I said, "I'm going to work at this company and I'm going to write books with whoever did this because I love this." And that's why I did. I just called them up and said, "I want to come down and interview because I love what this guy said, who is this person?"

That was my idea of a great time, 'cause I'd been writing this government stuff, and the stuff at ARC was so serious. That was my only big complaint about ARC, it was a true privilege to be working in that group, but the stuff that we produced was so serious. The people were great but it was very serious stuff that went out. And Apple had this whole different vibe to it, and it was like, "Hallelujah." It was kind of getting, letting you out, unlocking the door, saying, "Okay now you can really let it all hang out," you know what I mean?

But I see Doug every once in a while, and whenever I see him he comes up and gives me a hug and says, "Hi, Kid." He always says that to everybody, right? Anne Duvall was one of my best friends at ARC, and Pamela Allen--have you heard of her? And Bill Duvall, of course, was my husband's (Jim Norton) good friend, and I still see the Duvalls socially. Like I said, we all see each other.

That's a family that was created that will never go away. 'Cause basically, we all know we changed the world. We don't say it that way, but we did, and when we got to Apple, we really changed the world. Doug Engelbart laid down the foundation, and then we went out and took it to town.

Pang: It must be gratifying seeing Doug's work get the recognition that it has now.

Miranda: Yeah, it's fantastic. The evolution of the whole project is really interesting, and I mean the tool-- every writer wants this tool. This was a dream back then. There was another guy in ARC called Kirk Kelley, have you ever heard about Kirk Kelley?

Pang: He worked for Sun... he died a few years ago?

Miranda: Yeah. Kirk had this demo, back in those days, that was called the Whole Universe Catalog, it was like on the computer, and it was the first vision of the Web, sort of. What he did was he would show the Earth, and the next frame would go down, and then pretty soon you'd go in each level, so you went into a state, and into a city, and into somebody's house, then you could read something that was on the table. He had this demo, I mean, this is the kind of thing that the Web does now. This was in '73, talk about a visionary.

This is the kind of thing that was going on there, and here I am right out a college as a mythology grad... you know, studying all this stuff. And I didn't-- I mean a lot of us, even people of us who had training as computer programmers-- we didn't know what was going on there, it took about a year to know what Doug was doing. You know, people just said, "Whoa, I don't really know what's going on here, but I'll do what I can to help." [Miranda laughs]

Pang: So you went to college right in the area?

Miranda: San Jose State.

Counterculture and Computing

Pang: Okay. One of the things that I talked to Dave Casseres about is the argument that there's a connection between the counterculture and the development of personal computing...

Miranda: Absolutely. Absolutely. Yes, go ahead.

Pang: ...That argues that in addition to there being specific people who are prominent in both: Steward Brand's doing The Well, Lee Felsenstein with the People's Computer Corporation, and then Osborne, Homebrew Computing Club, but more generally, that there are cultural connections between the anti-establishmentarian, decentralized, do-it-yourself ethos that develops in the '60s and the creation of the PC. Here's the slow ball down the middle: what do you think of that?

Miranda: Well, it's very exciting to me to hear you say that as the person that's doing this project. It's very exciting because I know you understand. This is the thing that I want people to understand about us more than anything, is that it's an attitude. What we're talking about here is an attitude. It's a different way of looking at the world.

And that's why if you see somebody in an airport in London, or someplace down in Peru or something, and you see an Apple tag on their bag, or an Apple T-shirt, it's like the Deadheads, you see that talking you find out you both worked at Apple, you have an instant friend. It's kind of like the Elks Lodge or the Moose Hall or something, but it's more than that. Most likely, you share something very core to your being with this person, which is a life outlook, a special vision.

I'll give you an example of this, and it has affected my whole life. I just sold a house in Menlo Park. I sold it to a guy and his wife and he is from France, but he works at Apple. Normally when you buy and sell a house, the realtors tell you, "You don't talk to the person, you let us handle all the deals. You don't have any contact with them."

Well, the minute we found out we had both worked at Apple, we just sort of blew all that out the door. We arranged a deal that worked for both of us where he rented back the house to us for three months; it's been five months since he bought the house and we still trade email about once a week. He asks me about anything around the house that he doesn't understand, I took over an old cat door for him, it's like instant family. It's like all the rules, we didn't have to abide by them because we had this thing in common, that we were like, it was like, and it was like part of the family thing, and it made the whole deal go instantly smooth, where it wouldn't have.

That's the kind of respect that Apple people have for each other, because it means something serious when you've contributed to what's going on there. Now I don't know what's going on now-- there was a low point, five years ago, so, and I don't know what happened during those years.

Pang: Englebart's group was looked upon by the rest of SRI as slightly flaky, not just in terms of the research, but also in matters of personal deportment and so forth, wasn't it?

Miranda: What we're talking about here is politics, too. SRI is a very right-wing, conservative organization. You get a group like ARC in there, with a bunch of people with these kinds of ideas, and they get demonized, just as they do in any other situation. Because there's this clash of politics, more than just philosophical politics, you have literal politics and world views, I think it's like that. And I-- actually I've gone on to work at another place like that now, where I've been for eleven years, so for me it's been a continuation, and the same sort of thing goes on there.

Pang: There are a couple people at ARC who had been politically active in college, and David Casseres actually dropped out for a couple of years and went to a commune in Oregon. Had you done that sort of thing before going to work for Englebart?

Miranda: No, but I stayed in school for a long time and was really heavily involved with the art department and was definitely leading a bohemian lifestyle, to put it mildly. [Miranda laughs] I was very big into the rock 'n' roll scene and KSAN and at the Fillmore, very involved with the music scene and what the '60s were famous for, I was in the middle of it, that sense, yes.

Radio Broadcasting

Pang: So, how much of your time how much of your time has been spent doing radio versus--

Miranda: One day a week. For the last 11 years I've gone to KPFA one day a week. And up for a long time I was working at both. For instance, a major Silicon Valley company hired me in R&D and the agreement was I could work Monday through Thursday, and every Friday I did radio. It was completely above board. They paid me a full time salary and said, "Fine, we want you real bad and that's fine. You do whatever, you just tell us what you want to do." 'Course they weren't really ready at that time to do much of anything, this was ten years ago, or nine.

So starting in '89 I had my true life desire, which was to do radio and audio, and I started going in and getting trained. And seven years ago, I started doing a weekly two-hour show. Up until then I was doing once a month, or something. But I got a two-hour weekly show seven years ago.

I've been on doing that ever since and it's fantastic. It's a lot of work though. It's like teaching a two-hour class every week that you've never taught before. It takes about a day to prepare for it, and a day to do it, and then a couple hours to update the Web site because everybody is spoiled, and of course I was the first one who had play lists available online from my own Web site, and three or four years later, everybody else sort of said, "Okay, okay," because they were complaining that they couldn't get other people's once I started doing it. And now they're Web cast so it's live, we get people listening in London and stuff like that. So I'm using all the tools, and I do digital stuff. I work in a digital studio. I'm totally unafraid of the technology, having been brought up in the midst of it.

Basically for me as a person, having worked for Doug, then going to Apple, after that, man my life was real easy for a long time after that. People just thought you walked on water, I mean literally, if you had been in Apple during those days. And still people will go, "Wow, you were there then." They think of you as, "How could you have known?" But it was pretty obvious to me in those days, having grown up and already working since I was nineteen in what was going to be Silicon Valley. I was there from day one.

Document created on 20 June 2000;