Sandy Miranda on Counterculture and Computing

Source: Interview with Sandy Miranda, 14 April 2000.

Pang: 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.

The influence of the counterculture on computing is also touched on by Chris Espinosa in his interview.

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.


Document created on 20 June 2000;