In the 1970s and early 80s, Patty Des Berg became the most notorious high tech groupie in the United States. BasedÂ in Silicon Valley, she gravitated to wherever the party was – New Mexico, Bellevue, Washington and even New York. Her autobiography, I’m With The Engineers & Programmers, was recently published by Knopf and includes excerpts from the journals she kept during the heady early days of Apple, Xerox, Microsoft and even Atari.
What follows is a selection of her most poignant entries:
April 4, 1975 – Candy and I hitched out to New Mexico because she said she knew some hot guys. I didn’t believe her at first but I have met the greatest computer engineers alive. First off, I will make Bill Gates my lover, he is such a doll. Paul Allen is SEX. I took one look at Bill with his lean slender body and kind of large head and his doe-like eyes and knew it was fate that brought me there, to the men of Microsoft.
August 2, 1975 – George Laurer and I counted all the way up to good old number 69 tonight, if you know what I mean. I was panting hot and heavy, aflame with desire. He took me to a tattoo parlor and I got a tiny UPC code on my ass. Happiness is IBM.
Sept. 24, 1975 – Palo Alto time! It is all too excellent. So many love orgies. Everybody loves everybody. I was with Doug at PARC and he set me up with a Xerox Alto. I’m not supposed to tell anyone and I won’t. I put it in the dining room where I’m crashing with Candy.
Oct. 12, 1975 – Heavy necking with Nolan in his Nova, then he wanted to go back inside to play Pong with the boys. I called the next day but he had already left. What a drag.
March 4, 1976 – Mobo and I ran into Candy on Alma and she told us Nolan is a millionaire. Warner Com. bought Atari for $28 million. Big party at Folgers Mansion. I’ve never seen true insanity until now. Nolan took a full bottle of beer and threw it at Candy’s head and when she screamed that it wasn’t very nice of him, he said, “I know. I take full responsibility.” I split that scene and went to the game room where Al Alcorn was putting on a Pong display. Al Alcorn! I really grooved with him.
April 4, 1976 – I like the PARC guys but they are obsessed with the future and GUI. I met a guy from Stanford, Dean Hovey, who gave me 152,000 goosebumps telling me about his ideas for experimental pointing-devices. Just to be a part of this scene makes me want to scream and cry. I asked Dean if he thought his ideas would one day go nationwide and he said, “THE COUNTRY IS READY!”
July 31, 1976 – Bill Gates is coming to town today. I don’t know whether I want to be with him or not. Why is he so perverted? Or maybe he’s not? Maybe that’s just a rumor…
August 2, 1976 – I’m in the limo while Bill picks up our order at In-N-Out. Here he comes!
August 8, 1976 – We got carried away into some enchanted fairy land. Our bodies were meant to be one. He held my face and said, “This is all I want to look at, besides OS, for the rest of my days.” Yes yes yes, Mr. Gates!
November 1, 1976 – No word from my demented prince for days and days. I ate so much hash while trying not to think of Bill. Mobo and I went to the Commodore party and the STEVES from Apple were there. I was dancing in my low-cut dress and I could feel his (SJ’s) eyes on me and when the song ended he came over and said, “Hello, lovely lady,” and bowed and kissed my hand. Oh, those lips!
January 10, 1977 – I can’t resist Steve J. much longer. He invites me to his bed day after day and I try to be true to my DOS Prince, but to no avail when he won’t even return my phone calls. I was aching for Steve last night. He said, “I really dig you, you know.” What is Bill doing right this minute?
February 23, 1977 – SJ flew me in for the NY press conference to roll out Apple II. Color graphics! Open architecture! Steve is truly amazing, brilliant, spiritually evolved. He was wearing jeans and tennis shoes – it was the most sensual thing I’ve ever seen. The Woz came up to me afterward and saidÂ he’s never seen SJ so happy as when he’s with me… and that he approves! Will my last name be J-O-B-S some day?
August 4, 1977 – Got really high and ate pizza at Nolan’s Chuck E. Cheese. Jasper T. Jowls came alive and tried to swallow my head and I screamed and fell down, dissolving into a puddle on the floor and no one could help me. I cried for hours and Nolan held my hand. I truly thought I was dying. I slept for 14 hours in my dress and lace-up boots.
January 2, 1978 – Bill is in town and hasn’t called. DOES NOT COMPUTE.
March 14, 1978 – Gary at Xerox gave me a private demo of the 9700. He wanted to give me his ID bracelet and he said, “I love you, but quietly.” I can’t tell him that when I look at him I still see SJ and Bill. Never have I known such indecision. I cry ten gallons of tears.
March 23, 1979 – Flew to Bellevue to confront Bill but he was in meetings with execs from IBM so I sat with Paul in his office. He caressed my cheek and kissed me and said, “I’ve wanted to do this for a long time.” I’m tortured and thrilled at the same time. Never got to see Bill so I said, “What the hell?” and slept with Paul. We made TV dinners, watched “The Dukes of Hazard” and made lots of love. Paul really gets me OFF.
April 17, 1979 – SJ invited me to tour PARC with him. I’ve been there a zillion times but he never has. I acted surprised by all we saw but it was dead to me. I pretended not to know Gary Starkweather so SJ would not be hurt. At the end of the tour SJ wanted to do some blow and I had to tell him that I’m having a baby. “Whose baby?” he said. I said I’m not sure and he looked at me so sad. No matter how much code I learn, how many scans I run on my motherboards or how many poems I write about direct and indirect manipulation, I feel him slipping away.
*Much gratitude to the book I’m With The Band by Pamela Des Barres for inspiration and guidance.