Jay Miner, 1932-1994

Obituary from the San Jose Mercury News 22nd July 1994,
by Mack Lundstrom, Mercury News Staff Writer

Born:May 31, 1932, Prescott, Ariz.
Died:June 20, 1994, Mountain View, Calif.
Survived by:Wife, Caroline Miner of Mountain View;
nieces, Linda Heisig of Holt, Calif.,
Robin Beers of San Diego, Calif.
Services:Memorial at 1 p.m. Saturday at the
Palo Alto Unitarian Universalist Church,
505 E. Charleston Road.
Memorial:Donations may be made to a charity of choice.

When the admirers of Jay Miner's contributions to invention and design in computer technology gather Saturday to say goodbye to him, some will remember Mitchy, too.

The little cockapoo had her own nameplate right below "J.G. Miner" on the door to his office in the Atari headquarters in Los Gatos. It was back when Atari founder Nolan Bushnell's game of Pong was growing from coin operation to home computer. Mitchy's photo-ID badge was clipped to her collar as she trotted alongside her master into the building. From the couch in his office, she viewed the designer at work.

Mitchy saw plenty in the years Jay Glenn Miner helped companies put metal-oxide semiconductors to good use before he died of complications related to kidney failure at the age 62 on June 20 in a Mountain View hospital.

"He was always designing," said his longtime colleague and friend, Harold M. Lee, who hired Mr. Miner at Atari in the middle 1970s. "He never stopped designing."

He designed some of the first digital voltmeters and calculators. For Atari he developed the Video Computer system (VCS), which put its games in millions of homes, and then he went to work on the design for the Atari 400 and 800 computers. He put his touch on the chip that is central to the Ventritex implantable cardiac defibrillator that can be programmed externally.

But Mitchy was an observer, too, at Amiga Corp., the computer company that Mr. Miner and David Morse co-founded and other observers' view as Mr. Miner's most notable achievement.

The Amiga computer, which in the early '80s produced colour graphics that only today are becoming commonplace in PCs, created a community of avid adherents. It was Mr. Miner's dream to design a low-cost machine that could run several programs simultaneously, handle video and do it all in colour. An Amiga did that for less than $1,300 (a basic model sold for $750).

When Commodore acquired Amiga in 1984, the legion of Amiga loyalists thought the world would beat a path to the better-mousetrap door. It didn't happen. The Amiga languished.

Mr. Miner moved on to Ventritex, a Sunnyvale biotechnology company. The defibrillator was his last project.

A native of Prescott, Ariz., he grew up in Southern California and entered San Diego State University. It was Korean War time, and he opted for the Coast Guard, which sent him to Groton, Conn., to electronics school. At Groton, he also met Caroline Poplawski, whom he married in 1952. After a three-year tour of duty, Mr. Miner brought his bride to California and earned his electrical engineering degree from the University of California, Berkeley in 1958.

For more than a decade he moved from company to company, many of them start-ups.

Much of that time Jay Miner had lived with faulty kidneys and dialysis, said his wife, Caroline. After Mr. Miner's sister, Joyce Beers, gave him one of her kidneys in 1990, it gave him four more years.

Her husband was a man of many, and varied, interests, said his wife of more than 42 years: bonsai, model airplanes, square dancing, camping and backpacking.

Jerry W. Smith has many more pages about Jay Miner, from which this obituary was taken.
A video tape is also available courtesy of Metroplex Commodore Computer Club.

The photo of Jay is taken from the video "History of the Amiga". The signature comes from the interior of the Amiga 1000 case.

All pages on this web site are copyright 1998 Jay Miner Society.