Sandy Miranda on Technical Writing at Apple

Source: Interview with Sandy Miranda, 14 April 2000.

Working as a Technical Writer

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.

Status of Technical Writers

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?

Chris Espinosa and Caroline Rose talk in their interviews about the status of technical writers at Apple and the computer industry generally.

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."

Miranda talks at greater length about women at Apple at a later point in this interview.

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.


Document created on 20 June 2000;