Jay and his Amiga Friend
Obituary from the San Jose Mercury News 07/22/94
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
"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
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 color 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 color. 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
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
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.