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Jay Miner

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Jay Glenn Miner
Jay Miner in 1990
Jay Miner in 1990
Born(1932-05-31)May 31, 1932
DiedJune 20, 1994(1994-06-20) (aged 62)
Alma materUC Berkeley
OccupationIntegrated circuit designer
Notable workAmiga architecture
Atari 2600 TIA chip
Atari 8-bit graphics chips
SpouseCaroline Miner (1952–1994)
Jay Miner's signature from the top cover of a Commodore Amiga 1000 computer, along with his dog Mitchy's pawprint.

Jay Glenn Miner (May 31, 1932 – June 20, 1994) was an American integrated circuit designer, known primarily for developing graphics and audio chips for the Atari 2600 and Atari 8-bit computers and as the "father of the Amiga".[1]

Early life[edit]

Jay Miner received his first formal electronics education after joining the U.S. Coast Guard out of high school. Following his service he became a radio operator for the North Atlantic Weather Patrol who serviced meteorological duties on distant islands for three years. He returned to school to enroll in the University of California at Berkeley, for which he received a BS in EECS in 1958, focusing on electronics design.[2]


Miner first became a chip designer when he joined General Microelectronics in 1964, playing a role in the design of the first calculator to use the MOS ICs, the Victor 3900. He then worked at the companies Standard MicroSystems and American Micro Systems, at the latter of which he contributed to the design of the MP944 microprocessor.[3] Subsequently he co-founded Synertek in 1973, where he served as the company's primary chip designer. One of the company's earliest contracts would be creating CMOS chips for the Bulova Watch Company,[4] but they quickly became a second source manufacturer for chips designed by other firms such as Intel,[5] Rockwell,[6] and MOS Technology.[7]


Due to its manufacturing of the MOS Technology 65xx series of chips, Synertek was recommended as a partner to Atari, Inc. after it had been decided to use the MOS 6507 for their upcoming Atari VCS home video game console. One of Atari's engineers, Harold Lee, had worked with Miner at Standard MicroSystems and suggested him as the designer for a custom chip which would power Atari's new console. Through an arrangement with Synertek, Atari hired Miner in late 1975 to lead the chip design for the Atari VCS, primarily that of the display hardware, the TIA.[8]

Miner was also the designer on the follow-up technology intended for a successor console to the Atari VCS. The ANTIC and CTIA[9] were created with enhanced capabilities compared to the TIA but the project was altered from a video game console into what would become the Atari 8-bit computers. Due to clashes with management over this and other decisions, Miner left Atari before the release of the computers and found his way into the medical world. He worked for a company called Zymos Corporation and received two patents[10][11] for a microprocessor-driven pacemaker made into a product by the company Intermedics Inc. called Cosmos.


The original Amiga (1985)

In 1982, Miner was approached by Larry Kaplan, former console programmer at Atari, about starting a new company to create video game hardware without the oversight of a large corporation. They would become two of the co-founders of the company Hi-Toro (eventually renamed Amiga Corporation), where Miner headed the development of a chipset called Lorraine. The company suffered financial difficulties which led it first into a temporary deal with Atari, Inc. and then acquisition by Commodore International.[8] The Amiga computer was released in 1985 and, though not successful in mass market penetration, gained a devoted following among specialized users and computer game players.

Miner continued to work for Amiga Corporation as a subsidiary of Commodore but once again grew frustrated with the management style of the company. His frustrations largely revolved around what he said was Commodore marketing executives' failure to penetrate the Amiga into the low cost computer market.[8] He left to work as a consultant for the company sometime after 1988, during which time he would appear at various Amiga shows and user group meetings. Among the Amiga users he was known as "Padre" or "the father of the Amiga", recognized for his contributions to the power of the machine.

Miner's last electronics job was at the company Ventritex, operating medical instrumentation and designing chips which controlled a cardiac defibrillator.[12][13]

Personal life[edit]

Miner married his wife Carolina (née Poplowski) in 1951 while attending an electronics school in Groton, Connecticut.[14][13] His dog Mitchy, a cockapoo, accompanied him everywhere. While he worked at Atari, Mitchy even had her own employee ID badge with number 000, and an embossing of her paw print is inside the Amiga 1000 top cover, alongside staff signatures.

Miner's personal hobbies included cultivating bonsai trees, square dancing, and camping.[13] He was a particular fan of flight simulators on computers, having been significantly inspired to design Amiga as an excellent flight simulator. He said at one time his favorite Amiga program was the game F/A-18 Interceptor published by Electronic Arts in 1988.[8]

He endured kidney problems for most of his life, according to his wife, and relied on dialysis. His sister, Joyce Beers, donated a kidney to him in 1990. He died due to complications from kidney failure at the age of 62.[13]


  1. ^ Nick Montfort (October 1996). "Spawn of Atari". Wired Magazine.
  2. ^ "Register - University of California, Band 2". 1958.
  3. ^ Holt, Rod. "The Garrett AiResearch and American Microsystem MP944 Microprocessor Design Team". firstmicroprocessor.com. Retrieved March 9, 2021.
  4. ^ "Bulova Watch Company contractual announcement". Radiocorriere (in Italian). Vol. 52, no. 4. April 1975. p. 48. Retrieved March 9, 2021.
  5. ^ "Other New OEM Products". Computerworld. Vol. 9, no. 12. March 19, 1975. p. 38. Retrieved March 9, 2021.
  6. ^ "Rockwell & Synertek Reach Agreement". Microcomputer Digest. 1 (12): 11. June 1975.
  7. ^ "3rd Generation Microprocessor". Microcomputer Digest. Vol. 2, no. 2. August 1975. p. 2. Retrieved March 9, 2021.
  8. ^ a b c d Skelton, Mindy (July 1988). "INFO Interviews Jay Miner". Info. No. 21. p. 25. Retrieved March 10, 2021.
  9. ^ US patent 4296476, Mayer, Steven T.; Miner, Jay G.; Neubauer, Douglas G.; Decuir, Joseph C., "Data processing system with programmable graphics generator", issued 1981-10-20, assigned to Atari, Inc. 
  10. ^ US patent 4390022, Richard V. Calfee & Jay Miner, "Implantable device with microprocessor control", issued 1983-06-28, assigned to Intermedics, Inc. 
  11. ^ US patent 4404972, Pat L. Gordon; Richard V. Calfee & Jay Miner, "Implantable device with microprocessor control", issued 1983-06-28, assigned to Intermedics, Inc. 
  12. ^ "The Byte Stadium ― Power Plays". Byte. Vol. 15, no. 9. September 1990. p. 296. Retrieved March 11, 2021.
  13. ^ a b c d Lundstrom, Mack (July 22, 1994). "Obituary from the San Jose Mercury News". San Jose Mercury News. Retrieved March 10, 2021.
  14. ^ "Around the City". The News and Observer. January 1, 1952. p. 20.
  • On the Edge: The Spectacular Rise and Fall of Commodore. Variant Press. 2005. ISBN 0-9738649-0-7.

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