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CPSR - CPU, Issue 6

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Issue: 006 CPU: Working in the Computer Industry 11/13/93

CPU is a moderated forum dedicated to sharing information among workers in the computer industry.



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Editors for this issue: Michael Stack and Jim Davis. We may be contacted by voice at (510) 601-6740, by email to, or by USPS at PO Box 3181, Oakland, CA 94609.

The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent those of the editors or CPSR. On the other hand, some do.


Sorry for the delay in getting this one out. Work and electoral work intervened, but we think this one is worth the wait. This issue features a talk given by Lenny Siegel of the Pacific Studies Center in August. Siegel has been a longtime observer of the global electronics industry. His special interest in labor relations in Silicon Valley has resulted in some very interesting research on Valley demographics and employment. His talk covered so many areas of interest to us -- race and gender in the computer workforce, contracting and organizing -- that we decided to pretty much devote this issue exclusively to it.

Also check out the CPU Bulletin Board (story #4) -- we've received some info requests we're passing along.




[Editor's Note: Lenny Siegel spoke at a CPSR/Berkeley meeting, August 29, 1993. Siegel is the director of the Pacific Studies Center, and publishes _Global Electronics_, a newsletter which covers various trends in the electronics industry. The data referred to below in his talk appeared in recent issues of the newsletter. Subscriptions are available from PSC, 222-B View Street, Mountain View, CA 94041 for $12 per year.]

A number of unions are getting together nationally with real money to do some organizing of the production/service workers in Silicon Valley.

This is something people like me have been urging for years. For some reason the union movement has believed that Silicon Valley has solved all of its problems and serves as a vision for the future as seen by Bill Clinton, for instance, and that everybody makes good money, exercises at the company exercise center after work and that post-industrial America is here.

These unions led by the SEIU, which has been organizing the janitors, through campaigns at Apple, Hewlett Packard and Oracle, has shown that there are strategies that can organize some of the most difficult to reach workers in Silicon Valley. And so, to me, it's not only exciting because it's a chance for these people to improve the quality of their lives and their income; but an opportunity to rebuild a progressive political base.

If you look at the history of the left in this country, and those of us who have been working for change on all kinds of issues, the strength of the labor movement and the growth of the labor movement has played an important role, and as the labor movement gets weaker or the leadership of aspects of organized labor moves away from its history, then, we no longer have that kind of base. So the opportunity to organize people around their real needs will influence the entire political system and the economic system as well.

So I'm going to step back and describe a little bit about what I see Silicon Valley to be.


Silicon Valley is the greatest concentration of high tech talent any place in the world. I remember over 10 years ago when I was registering voters for a local rent control campaign. On one day, at two different markets, I registered a total, not a total of three engineers -- I had dozens of engineers -- but 3 people who listed their occupation as "integrated circuit designers."

Any place in the rest of the country, no one would even dare put that as an occupation. They would say "designer' or "engineer" or something like that. But Silicon Valley is known for this, it is known for the fact that people like David Packard or Steve Jobs made a lot of money off of high tech, and there are a lot of them. The Queen of England, the President and the King of Sweden, they all come to Silicon Valley and they get tours of H-P or some other big-name company. The latest was when Clinton came and went to Silicon Graphics. They morphed his face out of Washington and Lincoln and Jefferson and I don't know who else, but he was very flattered by that I'm sure.

More accurately, Silicon Graphics should have shown him the dinosaurs from "Jurassic Park," because that's really where the labor relations in the valley are at -- back in the Jurassic era -- or graphics from "The Terminator" since that also reflects a lot of the attitudes of Silicon Valley management.

But it is important to understand that Silicon Valley is a vital, dynamic, expanding industrial empire that, while the computer industry as a whole, like IBM, DEC, lots of companies are having trouble, Silicon Valley-based companies are not only profitable, but they're growing in their influence as the designs of the chip becomes more and more the design of the computer; as software, as opposed to hardware, becomes more and more the value added in the industry.

The dynamic of Silicon Valley is based upon the fact that it is still physically possible to squeeze more and more circuit elements or transistors onto a flake of silicon. If you think back, this is the easiest way to describe it although it's not technically complete. The first microprocessor at Intel, that was put together as a four-bit microprocessor for pocket calculators, enabled the creation of very simple calculators and digital watches. A couple of years later microprocessors were a bit more powerful and you had video games; Atari was big at the time. A couple of years later, commercially viable personal computers -- the Apple II being the most notable. And soon, the procession of devices through the IBM-PC; graphics-based computers, workstations and now we're into multimedia work, where the microprocessors and memory chips are capable enough to support the new applications.

The semiconductor industry -- actual chip-making -- has essentially levelled off in terms of employment because they're in the business of doing more with less silicon, but what it has created with each new generation of chips is the possibility for new applications.

New applications mean new companies building them or old companies, if they're lucky, adapting to the new technologies and producing the hardware and software as well. But it has created a situation in which you have an important segment of the economy which is growing, to some degree growing by creating services that were never there before, and to some degree growing because it's providing a way to automate things that were being done by people elsewhere. The reason it's important for me to lay this out is that Silicon Valley is not falling apart. It is doing better than the national economy. Some of the companies are having some trouble but high tech is viable and the Valley itself is viable.


What we see in Silicon Valley is a shift, however, and it's been a gradual shift away from the production of mature products, or away from the fabrication of semiconductors as well. That is because as companies get larger, they have the capability to move various elements of production and operations around the country to places where they can do it most efficiently or most cheaply, in fact around the world. So, almost since the inception of the semiconductor industry, they've been doing the bonding and the labor intensive assembly in Hong Kong, the Philippines and Malaysia. Now they're moving wafer fab from Silicon Valley to places like Austin, Texas, Albuquerque and Oregon. Computer companies, similarly, as they grow in Silicon Valley, they tend to move production out of the area where they can pay lower rents, pay lower wages, etc.

So Silicon Valley is gradually becoming more of a headquarters area and a laboratory area, and the blue collar workforce is less important, but it actually still remains. It remains because this is still the best place in the world to do start-up companies. And it's the best place in the world for foreign companies, from Boston or Taiwan, to set up shop, to take advantage of the technology. And it is still an excellent place for locally-grown companies to introduce new products. When you introduce new products you want to sell the first versions, the prototypes, locally. So what has emerged is a Valley which has grown much more rapidly in the white collar work but still has an important blue collar component.

The difference that you have between the semiconductor industry and computer companies is that when semiconductor companies dominated the Valley's production, they had a need to manage very closely every step of the operation through a sequence of extremely fine steps. We're dealing right now with sub-micron architectures, and you have to control contamination, you have to control power supplies, all these things are much easier for a company to deal with in-house.


Today however, with major production in the Valley being done, let's say, by Sun Microsystems, it's very easy to contract out the fabrication of circuit boards. They're standardized, and the assembly of the circuit boards because they can go out and pay people a lot less, so companies like Sun Microsystems go to Selectron or SCI and the whole range of subcontractors that actually produce the computers that go under Sun's name. Sun has very few manufacturing personnel. We call it "farming out the dirty work." Actually, it's not just the work that requires the cheap labor; it's the work that pollutes the most. If you can shift responsibility on to a subcontractor then you as a major employer don't get stuck with the social responsibility and the cost and whatever. If production somehow lags, then you can always make your subcontractors bear the cost.

Also, there are particular elements built into the benefits system whereby, if you're an employer and you buy a health plan for your white collar employers, your software engineers -- you're in a very competitive market to get the best software engineers -- you're going to have to provide an A-1 health plan for these people. If you buy an A-1 health plan for those people, the health plan vendors say "you've got to buy a health-plan for all of your employees." Well, what do you do? You either farm out your work to a subcontractor or you hire someone as a contractor, and you don't have to -- you aren't stuck with -- the cost of benefits for your entire workforce. And that is another way -- the use of subcontractors, of temporary employees, contingent workers -- it's another way in which Silicon Valley is pioneering U.S. industry. We aren't just pioneering new technologies, we're pioneering with old forms of labor relations. Moving back to the time when workers had even less power over the relationships and means of production.


The consequence of the "subcontracting" phenomenon is to make even worse a long history of stratification with the Silicon Valley workforce. Silicon Valley companies indeed do pay engineers fairly well. You can argue that there's poor job security, long hours -- there are certain problems that you can identify with the treatment of the professionals in the industry. But by and large it's a seller's market and people who have the skills an talent and aren't too old and meet certain other race and gender conditions, you get treated pretty well. But historically, the people who do most of the production, or, say, the janitors -- the service people -- are not treated well, and so what emerged in Silicon Valley is an intensely stratified workforce in which you have white men at the top -- people who've gotten the engineering degrees or who are managers -- and you have non-white women at the bottom, people who have basically no bargaining power in the economy. While the percentages of the people in these bottom positions are smaller locally than they used to be -- globally they're probably pretty much the same if you count the women in Malaysia and the women in Texas -- the companies are hiring pretty much the same workforce, but they've moved out. Now, they've moved it out of the companies to the subcontractors; and they've moved it out of the area.

1990 census data points out the extreme discrepancies in income based on race and gender. The same result emerges in another study of census data which takes how many professionals you have versus how many production workers by race and gender. You've got white men at the top and non-white women at the bottom. You happen to have a lot of white women concentrated in clerical tasks, in that sort of in-between role. And you find that in sales, Asians who tend to be over-represented everywhere else in high tech, are under-represented in sales, and that fits into -- if you work in the industry -- the stereotypes you usually learn about Asians, from the industry.

Comparing census data with earlier studies I did using the exact same data set shows the enormous increase of Asians throughout in both professional positions and production positions. To a large degree this reflects the employment preferences of the employers. It's perceived that people of Mexican background are more likely to be organized and strike, and give their employer problems and the Asians are much more likely to be docile. So employers prefer Asian employees in the production levels as well as a lot of the professional positions.

Not only are there a small number of blacks living in Silicon Valley, but Silicon Valley has chosen not to spread into areas where there are large numbers of Blacks. That's why you see high- tech firms starting to move behind the East Bay Hills but you never see them moving above Fremont, towards Oakland, which is perceived as a largely Black area and Blacks are considered trouble-making workers. There are a whole set of cultural values that the employers hold which lead them not to want to employ Blacks. The best test of that is the fact that high-tech has stayed out of East Palo Alto, which is in the middle of Silicon Valley. They've never made much of an effort to go in there other than under rather extreme "sweep everybody out" urban renewal kind of situations. So, the growth of Asian workers is another important showing from this data.

A third set of information from the census data proved to be very valuable for me. If you work in the industry you know that all Asians are not alike. Asia is a large continent and people from Asia come from very different countries with different cultures, and they come here for different reasons. It turns out that the census gave me the ability to dis-aggregate the information on Asians, so that you see the Filipino men are down with the women in terms of income, and the Japanese men actually make more than white men. In general, the workers at the bottom of the heap are Southeast Asians and Mexicans and a small number of Blacks. North Asians, and because of their role and training in engineering, Indians, are near the top. There aren't a lot of South Asians in the Valley but those that are involved as software engineers tend to make a lot of money in their group near the top. So, whereas the previous data on Asian income has shown Asians being more average, if you break it down into different sources of Asian backgrounds you get big differences.

So that's the essential findings of playing with the data. All the data really does is reinforce what those of us who've worked in the Valley already know and it gives us a way to put it in the newspaper perhaps. Basically you have an industry which, rather that providing a new age meritocracy, is really based on race and gender discrimination.

Now, when you publish this kind of data you hear these arguments from managers and other apologists for the industry that will say, "Well, of course, there aren't that many women engineers, there aren't that many women who are trained to run high-tech companies." The studies that I've seen, and there are a number of them, show that a good portion of the reason for lower income for women is that they haven't had the training. Another half of it is discrimination. Both are factors and both have to be dealt with. That doesn't eliminate the fact it's not just one or two women who are earning less money, it's systematic, it's part of the system.

If you believe in any form of equality -- equality of opportunity, equality of result, no matter how you phrase it -- you have to address both the problems of discrimination and the problems of education. There's no question that there aren't that many Chicanas who are trained in computer science. So does that mean that it's okay that it remain that way? Or do you develop programs which are designed to overcome the cultural, financial, and political obstacles, which have prevented that training? And since studies have shown that women who are equally trained and experienced still don't get paid as much as men, then you do have to deal with the discrimination.

But the heart of the problem as I see it has to do with all those people at the bottom of the economic ladder. As you expand beyond high tech industry to the janitors, the food-service workers, the landscapers -- people who are part of the high-tech economy in Silicon Valley, but not actually doing high-tech work -- you first end up with more Hispanic workers. The over-representation of Asians that you find in assembly work doesn't exist in these other services. Most of the janitors are in fact Hispanic. As you move into that area you get a larger group of people. These people are not reaping the benefits of the Valley's economic success.


My findings are that the Valley consists of essentially two worlds or two Valleys of people who may work at the same area but live in worlds that are financially, culturally and geographically distinct. Although you'll have some engineers who will commute from as far away as Mantega, you basically have a situation where the lower-paid workers live in San Jose or Gilroy or the East Bay and commute great distances; and engineers are the ones who've been able to live close to the plant. (This is a pattern that was established before everybody realized what a toxic threat a semiconductor plant represented.) You have a situation where, with increased commuting costs, the cost of housing is driven up by the influx of professionals from all over the world to the Valley. People who don't have that money have to commute further. This is a finding that I've been repeating for years.

Historically industry has been concentrated in Northern Santa Clara County: Palo Alto, Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara, Cupertino. Those communities have to serve the companies during the day, and the better paid more high-tech workforce at night. They have a tax base shored up by property taxes paid by the companies and sales taxes paid by the companies. When a company like Apple sells computers, depending upon where they list the point-of-sale, they pay an enormous amount of sales tax, and it turns out that the tax base in the north county cities is much greater than those for San Jose which has to serve the lower income community.

There are mechanisms in place to try to equalize the impact on education of the differentials in the tax base. They don't work fully, and definitely for San Jose those mechanisms aren't even in place. You have a situation in which the income differentials that you see in the census data has an impact geographically. You have poor areas of people who work in the same industry, not getting the benefits of the value added at the companies where they work because of the historic pattern of concentration near the center of the Valley. It is not as simple as it was when I started to study it. You've got certain new firms building up in Fremont. You've got people commuting from Mantega, as I've said. But you have an urban pattern which is different than your traditional urban patterns in the United States, where the white collar workers were the ones who commuted the greatest distances and lived in the wealthy suburbs. The wealthy suburbs are in fact where the factories are located and the big city, San Jose, is the one that suffers economically.

Ted Smith, the head of the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, was complaining that Silicon Valley, despite all it's wealth, doesn't have enough money to keep music programs in its schools. Ted lives in San Jose, not a really poor area of San Jose, but they cut to the music program in the school. I live in Mountain View, which isn't that wealthy, but it's part of the high school district that includes Los Altos and it definitely has a number of high tech companies. I said, "But my daughter was just in a concert where they had elementary school kids, middle school kids and high school kids playing strings together, and those high school kids sounded like professionals." That in a very concrete sense illustrated this problem with the differential of income. It's not just the individuals, it's translated into whole physical areas of the community.


So what's the response? As I mentioned, first you try to influence urban planning. I've been arguing that Moffitt Field, with the Navy pulling out, should be made for housing for people who work in the industry to live nearby. I'm fighting for all kinds of re- zoning issues to try to make a higher density, less sprawl-type housing available so that production workers can actually live near where they work. That's an important way to address the problem. But the key element is the distribution of income. The guy from the SEIU says, "the best community development bank for a place like San Jose is a union for the people who work for the companies." Whether they work directly for Apple or Hewlett- Packard or Sun or they work for Selectron or Shine (which is the janitorial contractor for Apple) or any of the subcontractors, to spread the wealth that high tech has earned in Silicon Valley, the workers at the lowest level need to be organized. That's very hard.

Organizing in the Valley has to be industry-wide because of the safety valve that the companies rely on is the mobility of the workers. If people are unhappy they switch jobs. This is true at all levels. Any organizing has to have significant resources and has to deal with problems like at Versatronex, where the workers got organized and then the company shut down. Workers are in a competitive marketplace and they're trying to sell sweatshop labor at sweatshop prices.

The approach that the janitors' union has taken, however, seems to work, and this is an approach that the other unions, including those in manufacturing and food service, need to take up. You go to Sun, you go to Hewlett-Packard, you go to Apple and you say "you claim you treat your workers well, we want you to take responsibility for the conditions for the workers who work for your subcontractors. You are farming out the 'dirty work.'" The subcontractors can't simply shut down, because they've been told by the main company -- the one that's visible in the newspapers, the one that's susceptible to consumer boycotts, the one whose corporate image matters -- that that company is willing to pay the price of solving those kinds of problems. This is what happened at Apple with the janitors' campaign there. Hewlett-Packard saw it happen at Apple and they signed on with the janitors quickly, and with Oracle, more recently, where Oracle has agreed to collect union representation cards, and, if necessary, recognize the union. Although Oracle claims they have nothing to do with the people who clean their offices since they don't own their buildings, they really have. Legally it's true, but in a real sense it's kind of strange to say that the people who come into your office as soon as you leave during the day and clean up, that you have nothing to do with them.

So the idea is to export that model to other segments of high tech. To go after the "name" companies, put pressure on them, while working in the community with the various ethnic groups, bring in Asian organizers, Vietnamese-speaking organizers to work with the Vietnamese. It's an exciting time, and I think it's an approach that has a lot of chance of success. It's not going to be easy, it's going to take a lot of resources, but if you look at the workforce, as I profiled it, it's absolutely necessary.

Maybe at some point there will also be an effort to organize the direct employees of some of the firms. You don't want to ignore people just because they aren't at the very bottom. Though obviously the people who need organization most have been handicapped by the structure of the industry, and that's where the effort has to be centered at this point. As they get organized other groups may follow along.

One of the areas that may follow along is contracting. I used to do contract technical writing at Apple. When I signed in, I'd sign in with the people from Shine, who were the janitors, and the people from Austin who were doing the testing, the software quality assurance. The interesting thing about the testers, and I could count customer support/customer service personnel the same, is that these are growing areas (although I guess Apple just laid off a bunch of them) within the computer industry. The bulk of employees at places like Microsoft are not software engineers, they're people in these mid-level software positions, people whose training, very often, is that they've been using computers for several years, and don't necessarily have any advanced degrees, but they know computers.


These are jobs which, if you look at the testing needs of the computer industry, have to increase. Every time you introduce a new piece of hardware, a new software application, you try to make sure it's compatible with everything else. That's a growing task. Every time you use something new you've got to test it. With the growing number of people using computers, to do more and more things, there's more need for customer service. Those are areas where there's a growing employment, it's the new mid-level. There are a lot people on the top and lot of people on the bottom of the industry, but very few people in the middle. There are very few skilled blue collar workers such as you might find in an auto plant or an aircraft factory where you've got people being paid $15 to $20 an hour to do blue collar work.

This mid-level software work is the new area for mid-level income. It's not national. It's only going to occur in areas like Silicon Valley or Seattle, where you've got a concentration of the software business. It's an area where, in educational planning, there's a need to make sure that these kinds of jobs are available to girls and to kids of color. If they don't get computers -- I don't think computers will solve the education crisis of our country -- but if these kids don't get the same access to computers in the schools that white boys have gotten historically, they aren't going to move into these positions in any significant numbers. To some degree the Chinese and Japanese fit with the whites in this category. So that's something small that can be done in terms of educational policy that will help the kids of some of these low-pay production workers improve their income level. The question I have is that, to what degree are these mid- level positions being "proletarianized"? Are people who are doing customer service/support and software QA finding that in their work that they no longer have a sellers' market like the engineers? That their pay is being driven down and they're being forced to work as temporaries, less job security? And if so, can they also be organized? Not necessarily into unions, maybe not a majority of them are likely to be upset. But conceivably a guild or some sort of association of these mid-level software people will help address some of their employment needs that associations have done traditionally for engineers in other fields.

So that's a question about the mid-level people in the industry. I tend to think, although I hear a growing number of stories about older engineers not being able to get jobs; that engineers, physicists, scientists, managers tend to still be in the seller's market, and that there is a great demand in Silicon Valley for these skills and experience. The people who work with us, such as in CPSR, are people who are supporting unionization or other movements out of a social conscience, rather than because they're poorly paid or facing those kinds of problems. At the top income levels, people don't have to worry. At the mid-level, there may be some openings to do some organizing with people at the bottom.


The last thing I want to say, it's jumping around, but I think it's real curious what happened around Oracle. I talked to the guy with SEIU who did the actual work beforehand, and it actually worked better than I had anticipated. I assume most of the people here are plugged in to email. We tend to do a lot of our communications via email and have access to a lot of people that we don't know, via email.

The janitors at Oracle were trying to get union recognition by Service Medallion, the cleaning service firm that cleans the buildings Oracle operates out of. With the help of a small number people on the inside of Oracle, who were somewhat sympathetic to the janitors, we found the email addresses of key Oracle employees, and started to send email messages, and encourage friends, people with email addresses from campuses around the country, to start sending in basically letters of complaint, via email to the very top managers at Oracle. And the top managers at Oracle got hooked. They sent answers via email to everybody in the company. And they had no idea how many people we were sending to, or, as far as we know, they didn't monitor that, but we probably had the capability to send it to a lot of people.

They started answering, "We are not beating our janitors" and it turned out that they were beating them, really. Once they started with those answers then people started to ask questions and it created a climate of heightened awareness of what the janitors were doing, though it was not easily visible. You weren't walking by hundreds of people picketing outside everyday. In this case the janitors have the advantage that it doesn't cost Oracle much or Medallion much to make sure the janitors get paid more -- there aren't that many janitors. The costs of bad publicity, of morale being influenced by email are major, and the cost of paying $1 more per hour to less than 50 people wasn't that great. I don't know to what degree the email campaign had an impact, but for people like us who live in that world to sense the communications opportunity that exists right now -- that email can be used to penetrate barriers that exist for more conventional communications -- was rather exciting. Maybe after a while they'll set up filters and they'll get to keep all of our messages out, but we'll be engaged in a lot of measures and countermeasures to keep communicating in that fashion.

So.. that's something that, as we move into organizing in high- tech localities, is a new tactic. I think it's a rather creative way to use the technology of the industry to undermine the social relationships that have been built into it. So, I'd like to hear questions or comments about what I've had to say. I can keep talking about this forever, but...


+ Sid Shniad writes: Our bargaining committee at the TWU here in Vancouver is trying to figure out a way to bargain access to the phone company's internal electronic communications system for purposes of communicating union information -- email, bulletin boards, etc. Do you know of any organization that has already bargained such access? I'd appreciate any information and/or personal contacts you could send my way. Thanks. (Email Sid at -- or contact c/o CPU).

+ Michelle Quinn of the New York Times, San Francisco Desk, would like to talk to 'computer professionals' who have been laid-off and are still looking for work. Call her at (415) 362-3912.


1. Computers, Freedom and Privacy, March 23-26, Chicago, IL. Sponsored by ACM and The John Marshall Law School. Contact:

2. 5th Conference On Women Work And Computerization. "Breaking Old Boundaries: Building New Forms". July 2-5, UMIST, Manchester, UK. Abstracts by 10/1/93. Contact:


Dan Wallach writes a FAQs on computer health issues and maintains a thorough FTP archive of typing-related information up on ( Look in the directory pub/typing-injury to find keyboard reviews, files on tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome, back issues of the RSI Network newsletter, shareware programs for break reminders and one-handed typing, computer voice commanders, some GIFs showing new keyboards etc.

CPU asked Dan what it was that got him started on his list, how long he'd been at it and if he thought there a rising incidence of typing-injuries. He responded:

>Two years ago, while working at NASA at a summer job, I got a 
>really nasty case of tendonitis. I went through some initial 
>grief with my contractor, but the NASA folks were quite 
>supportive. Everybody had heard of this or that alternative 
>keyboard, but nobody had really seen one. NASA said if I could 
>find one, they'd be happy to up-and-buy it for me. 
>I started doing some research and put together a fairly 
>comprehensive list. Of course, people on the various computer 
>newsgroups kept asking the same questions, so I eventually made 
>it into a monthly net posting, and created the 
>ftp archive (NASA had a wonderful color scanner, so I digitized 
>all the brochures I could find). 
>Now-a-days, I'm pretty much recovered from my initial injury. I'm 
>not now, nor will I probably ever be, at "100%", in that I'll 
>never be able to be as reckless about my computing habits. 
>Now, I'm a grad student at Princeton. To customize my own 
>environment, I'm using a Kinesis keyboard (I was one of the first 
>people to buy one, when they first went on sale) with my X 
>terminal, I forcibly removed the arm-rests from my chair, and 
>I've got a computer desk that allows me to separately adjust the 
>height of my keyboard and monitor. 
>I can't really gauge whether incidence of typing injuries is 
>increasing. I'm fairly certain that awareness of the problem is 
>increasing, although most people still ask if I have carpal 
>tunnel, or some other mispronunciation of it. Many of the folks  
>around here have reacted favorably to my Kinesis. Initial 
>reactions are generally "What happened to your keyboard? Looks 
>like it melted!" 
>Many people who run into me on the net (like yourself) tend to 
>ask for recommendations on chairs, keyboards, or occasionally how 
>to work around slimy management. 
>Coming soon (I hope): I'm working on making most-if-not-all of my 
>archive accessible as WWW hypertext (world-wide-web). This would 
>make the whole business easier to browse, although I'm not yet 
>certain how much it would help spread the word that you can 
>replace a keyboard. I'm also looking into having my FAQ made 
>available to users of Compu$erve and other on-line services. 
>It's difficult, because I don't have the time or inclination to 
>pay money to join these things (and, there isn't an X client for 
>Prodigy or America On-Line, yet :-) 

Dan may be reached at



DO NOT GO GENTLY INTO THAT DARK NIGHT: Among the 2,500 employees let go by APPLE since July of this year is Bill Fernandez, the software engineer who became the company's first employee in 1976. "I have attended many of the seminars given at the career resource center," he wrote in an email message to the remaining APPLE employees, "and have met many 5- to 12-year Apple veterans who also were laid off...Apple seems to be getting rid of its institutional memory" (_NYT_ 10/1/93)... Another of those laid-off is choosing not to go quietly and with options on $6 million odd in APPLE shares and 1992's three-quarters of a million plus in compensation he can afford a lot of noise. Albert Eisenstat is suing over his severance, charging breach of contract and age discrimination (_WSJ_ 9/27/93)... Not one of the 2,500, having left of his own volition (though Eisenstat tells it otherwise in his papers before the court), is former APPLE boss John Sculley -- the man who recently likened the fate of his more senior employees to that of 30-year-olds in the film "Logan's Run" (_SJMN_ 9/15/93). John has a new job at SPECTRUM INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY. Speculation was rife as to why he'd go work at what Wall Street considered a flaky outfit, but the recently revealed compensations of stock warrants on 18 million shares giving him a 'paper profit' of $60 million just one month after joining his new company and a 'wage' of $1 million a year explains everything. Not waiting on a Steve Jobs repeat, former chief executive and founder Dana Verril along with some of his executive colleagues have already bailed. Meanwhile, cut-backs and possibly layoffs are promised at a SIT subsidiary (_SF Chron_ 11/9/93).

IBM WAGE CUTS: An east-coast CPU reader submitted the following: "IBM (FRANCE) LOWERS WAGES (_L'Humanite_ and _Liberation_). IBM France, which has given its 23,000+ workers one month's pay as a 'bonus' since its founding has decided to suspend this 'bonus.' The unions involved, which probably do not have a contract but do have certain (strong) legal rights even without one, are challenging this move saying IBM France has to bargain over this issue. Supposedly this pay cut will eliminate the need to lay off 2,000 workers. When I mentioned this to two American IBM CEs this morning, they said it wasn't too bad -- saving jobs and taking a 7 or 8% wage cut. I thought they would be more upset but they seemed to consider wage cuts as a wave of the future. Given that they are still working for IBM, they are probably right."

SOFTWARE PUBLISHERS URGE APPROVAL OF NAFTA: Chief executive officers from the leading U.S. software publishers have endorsed the "great sucking sound" a.k.a. NAFTA, based on its unprecedented copyright protection for computer software (_SJMN_ 11/3/93).

SHIFTING THE BURDEN: A _SJMN_ story of 9/15/93 reports: With traditional pension plans, company experts take charge of the investment of pension funds and the company usually contributes all funds. Workers are guaranteed a certain level of financial security in their old age, and they are rewarded if they stay on until retirement. Pensions are still common at America's largest companies. But in Silicon Valley, things are done differently when it comes to looking after an aging workforce. Companies will help employees save but it's by contributing to 401(k) plans. These plans must be fed by employees' own savings and guided by individuals' own investment choices. Benefits experts question the way most companies have handed off these enormous new responsibilities to employees. Only a few firms offer basic education programs to explain well-known investing principles to employees and to give them the tools to invest wisely. Without education, the average employee has proven to be a poor retirement investor -- putting the vast majority of 401(k) money into conservative investments that don't have high enough yields to outpace taxes and inflation. Over time, employees with these conservative investments stand to lose money in real dollars rather than to grow an investment nest egg. Audrey Freedman, a labor economist in New York, said the move away from pensions is part of a much larger trend by employers to shed any long-term responsibility for workers.

LAYOFFS: AST RESEARCH will eliminate 1,050 jobs, mostly in California, and create 850 new ones, mostly in Texas and Ireland (_NYT_ 11/10/93)...
CONNER PERIPHERALS said it will layoff 290 U.S. workers. The company said it will have about 9,300 employees world-wide after the layoffs, down from 12,000 in January (_WSJ_ 10/14/93)...
Sunnyvale based AMDAHL has said that it will eliminate 1,800 jobs. This follows a cut of 1,100 from its 8,500 member work force back in May (_NYT_ 10/30/93). 250 of these redundancies are to be made at the manufacturing plant in Dublin, Ireland (_The Irish Emigrant_ 11/1/93. Send sub. requests, etc. to


>From New Scientist, 28 August 93, Feedback column:

The National Westminster Bank admitted last month that it keeps personal information about its customers--such as their political affiliation--on computer. But now Computer Weekly reveals that a another financial institution, sadly unnamed, has gone one better and moved into the realm of personal abuse.

The institution decided to mailshot 2000 of its richest customers, inviting them to buy extra services. One of its computer programmers wrote a program to search through its databases and select its customers automatically. He tested the program with an imaginary customer called Rich Bastard.

Unfortunately, an error resulted in all 2000 letters being addressed "Dear Rich Bastard". The luckless programmer was subsequently sacked.

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