Sandy Miranda on Technical Writing in Silicon Valley

Source: Interview with Sandy Miranda, 14 April 2000.

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.

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

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.


Document created on 20 June 2000;