Archive for the ‘Past Events by Others’ Category

ZOOMING in on Data Storage and the HDD

Friday, July 24th, 2020

Just discovered

A Western Digital tutorial in 2016 by Dr. Roger Wood, WD Fellow, which takes a look at storage in general starting with a tape drive now beyond the solar system and zooming by orders of magnitude down to the atomic level of modern hard disk drives.  Along the way his tutorial passes above the IBM San Jose facility where the first hard disk drive was invented.

Click here to view

HDD history as presented at Flash Memory Summit

Saturday, September 2nd, 2017

A presentation on the history of the hard disk drive[i] at the August 2017 Flash Memory Summit identified “key figures” in the hard disk drive industry and their “breakthroughs” – the key figures were mainly PhD’s from IBM which is not surprising given IBM’s dominance of the industry into the 1990s and the fact that the presenter was also a PhD who spent most of his career at IBM.  It wasn’t my list but it is certainly true that everyone identified made significant contributions in HDD technology, products and/or markets.

However, there were a number of incomplete facts or actual errors that need correction, including but not limited to:

  1. RAMAC 350 disk storage – The first production unit shipped in November 1957 (not 1956), it weighed less than 1 ton (not more than) and had a purchase price of $34,500 (not about $50,000) for a capacity of 5 million 6-bit characters (3.75 megabytes not 5 megabytes).
  2. Al Hoagland – Hoagland’s many accomplishments do not include responsibility for either the RAMAC head or the 1301 Disc Storage. There is no question that he was involved in both programs but according to the historical record Edward Quade[ii] was responsible for the RAMAC transducer and Al Shugart was responsible for the 1301[iii]. The RAMAC magnetic transducer was initially developed in 1953[iv] within IBM SJ’s Physics department then led by Quade.  Hoagland a professor at Berkeley did consult with Quade in the summer of 1954[v]; he became full time IBM employee in mid-1956.[vi]
  3. Al Shugart & Finis Conner – Both are well known storage executives. Shugart was not in the storage industry[vii] when it was recognized that “a hard disk drive could replace a floppy drive as a valuable, high capacity product for the emerging desktop computers.”  The first such drive, the SA1000[viii] was publically announced before Shugart reentered the industry with the founding of Seagate Technology in late 1979.    Finis Conner from his experience as a sales executive at Shugart Associates was well aware of the success of the SA1000 when he approached Shugart to found Seagate.
  4. John Squires – The actual founding of Conner Peripherals is different than presented.  Squires with the help of Terry Johnson[ix] in June 1985 formed CoData in Colorado[x] and developed the first low cost 3½-inch 40 Mbyte drive.[xi]  Advised to seek stronger marketing management, Johnson and Squires recruited the then unemployed Finis Conner[xii] which ultimately resulted in the 1986 merger of CoData into Conner’s shell corporation, Conner Peripherals, with Conner as CEO.
  5. David A. Thompson – Thompson is cited for his work in development of the thin film head which although important to IBM was less significant in an industry that continued to improve ferrite heads. Since ultimately, the thin film structure did become the writing element for magnetoresistive heads the omission of the MR head from the presentation[xiii] and Thompson’s indisputably significant work on the MR head[xiv]  was somewhat surprising.
  6. Zoned Bit Recording (ZBR) – The first ZBR products were introduced into the market in the 1960s[xv] long before 1987, the earliest filing date of the three patents cited. Apple introduced a variant on ZBR with its 400K Macintosh Floppy Disk Drive in 1984.
  7. PRML (Francois Dolivo) – The first PRML product introduced to the storage market was not the IBM disk drive in 1990 based upon Dolivo’s work, but rather the Ampex DCRS (digital cartridge recording system) in 1984 based on the work of Coleman et. al.[xvi]

Time was limited so the presenter was limited in the number of key figures he could identify.  I do think there were three key figures that should have been included:

  1. Jack Harker – Harker was actually mentioned in passing but IMO his continuing accomplishments from RAMAC to the 3380 merit individual recognition. Among them was the reduction to practice of the first air bearing head[xvii] for disk storage which was then used in the 1301 and all subsequent disk drives, albeit with further improvements.
  2. Mike Warner – Warner holds the patent[xviii] on the Winchester head, a breakthrough to a low mass, low load, close flying and low cost head which in the opinion of Al Shugart was “one of the four most significant events in the history of mass storage.[xix]” Arguably this concept remains true to date albeit with further improvements.
  3. Tu Chen – As an individual contributor and as a founder of Komag Dr. Chen was instrumental in the commercialization of sputtered media.

On the whole it was interesting to hear one person’s view of the hard disk drive industry’s history.  Of course, mine is somewhat different.

Tom Gardner


[i]Hard Disk Drives: The Giants of the Storage Industry” Flash Memory Summit, August 10, 2017, Session 302B

[ii] [Kean] “IBM San Jose. A Quarter Century of Innovation,” David W. Kean, IBM, p.64, footnote 25

[iii] [Bashe]. “IBM’s Early Computers,” Bashe et al, MIT Press, ©1986,  p. 307

[iv] Ibid., p. 286

[v] Ibid., p. 95, Footnote 18

[vi] Ibid., p. 305

[vii] “Before starting Seagate, Mr. Shugart took a five-year hiatus from the computer industry, …,”  Alan F. Shugart, 76, a Developer of Disk Drive Industry, Dies, J Markoff, NY Times, December 15, 2006

[viii] “Winchester technology invades floppy territory with low-cost 8-in. drive,” L Yencharis, ELECTRONIC DESIGN 19, September 13, 1979, p. 70-75

[ix] Founder of MiniScribe

[x] “Disk-drive firm thinking small,” Denver Post, August 25, 1985, §B

[xi] Other low cost drives at that time used open loop stepper motor control and were unable to reliably achieve 40 Mbyte in a 3½-inch form factor

[xii] Oral History of John Squires, Computer History Museum, July 2009, p. 41-42

[xiii] Four slides (15-18)  naming four individuals jump from thin film heads to Giant Magneto Resistive heads skipping MR heads.

[xiv]MAGNETORESISTIVE (MR) HEADS,” C. Bajorek, Computer History Museum, November 2014, p. 5

[xv] Bryant Series 4000 Disc File and General Electric MRADS as cited in “Disc File Applications,” Informatics Inc., Culver City CA, © 1964

[xvi] “High data rate magnetic recording in a single channel,” Coleman, et. al., Journal of the Institution of Electronic and Radio Engineers, Vol. 55, No. 6, pp. 229-236. June 1985

[xvii] Op. cit., Bache, p.303

[xviii] U.S. Patent 3,823,416,  Michael W. Warner, July 9, 1974

[xix] See:

July 28 IEEE CES Meeting: Game On! Origins of the Atari 2600

Friday, July 10th, 2015

IEEE Consumer Electronics Society (CES) was able to recruit  Joe Decuir –  one of the original designers for the chips used in the Atari 2600 (see bio below) and helped build the video game industry.  His talk will include a historical view of the Atari 2600 which changed the course of video game console design.


Speaker Bio:  

Joe Decuir, IEEE CE Society Distinguished Lecturer & Board Member was a  System Engineer for the Atari 2600 & Atari 800 products.

Joe is still having an interesting career.  He is an IEEE Fellow for contributions to video games and computer graphics (Atari and Amiga).  He has spent a long time since on wired and wireless communications standards, including dial up modems, USB and Bluetooth.  He is still working on the “Internet of Things” (aka “internet of threats”).  Joe is a distinguished lecturer for IEEE Consumer Electronics Society.  He is also on the CES Board of Governor.  He is the chair of the 2015 Global Humanitarian Technology Conference.

Admission Fee: Open to all – to attend

Date & Time-line:

July 28, 2015
6:30 – 7:00 Pizza + Soft Drinks, Networking
7:00 – 8:30 Talk and Questions/Answers

Meeting Place:   

NVIDIA -Marco Polo Room,Building E
2800 Scott Blvd., Santa Clara, CA

Please Register Here    (Please register in advance.  If you cannot register in advance, you can still show up at the door, but seating is not guaranteed.  Please allow extra time for NVIDIA security sign in.)
IEEE CES members – free
IEEE Student members – free
IEEE members – $5 (pay at door)
non-members – $10 (pay at door) You do not need to be an IEEE member to attend!

IEEE CES Upcoming Events are listed here.

History Session @ Flash Memory Summit, Aug 7th, Santa Clara, CA

Monday, July 28th, 2014

Session 302-C: An Interview with Simon Sze, Co-Inventor of the Floating Gate (History Track)
Organizer: Brian A. Berg, President, Berg Software Design

Thursday, August 7 9:45am-10:50am Santa Clara Convention Center


Simon Sze, Professor, National Chiao Tung University (Taiwan)

Session Description:

What was the origin of the “floating gate” transistor, the foundation for all of today’s nonvolatile memory? A small group at Bell Labs thought of replacing core memory with non volatile semiconductor memory that didn’t exist at the time.  A lunchtime conversation about layered chocolate or cheesecake spawned the concept of a “floating gate” layer.

Come hear Simon Sze, father of the floating gate, share details of this and many other interesting stories about how storage technology has progressed, including work by Intel, Toshiba, and many now-forgotten companies.

Intended Audience:
Marketing and sales managers and executives, marketing engineers, product managers, product marketing specialists, hardware and software designers, software engineers, technology managers, systems analysts and integrators, engineering managers, consultants, design specialists, design service providers, marcom specialists, product marketing engineers, financial managers and executives, system engineers, test engineers, venture capitalists, financial analysts, media representatives, sales representatives, distributors, and solution providers.


Read more, including questions/discussion issue list at:


Related Session:

Following this history session (at 11am),  Prof. Sze will receive the FMS Lifetime Achievment award as co-inventor of the floating gate transistor.  More information here.

New Event: From Mainframe to Smartphone: What an Amazing Trip It’s Been

Saturday, June 14th, 2014

THURSDAY August 21, 2014 at the Computer History Museum, Mt View, CA

From Mainframe to Smartphone: What an Amazing Trip It’s Been 
Speaker: Dr. Dileep Bhandarkar, IEEE Fellow and VP Technology at Qualcomm 

REGISTRATION is REQUIRED.  Please register at:

Lecture from 12pm-1:30pm: bring your own lunch and arrive early to network with your colleagues!

Venue:  Computer History Museum
1401 N. Shoreline Boulevard
Mountain View, CA 94043
Directions & Parking

More information on this event from the Computer History Museum is here.

Note: IEEE SCV co-sponsorship of this event is in support of the video that will be posted to the CHM’s YouTube channel

Disruptive technologies have caused dramatic changes in computing technology for decades.  This talk will show how a series of disruptions have set the course for a world that has evolved from the mainframe to the current smartphone revolution.

Dileep Bhandarkar. PhD has helped create technologies in areas including memory design, processor architecture, workstation and server systems, and data center infrastructure, and these have evolved in often unacknowledged ways to bring us to today’s mobile and cloud computing world that is used by billions of people around the world.  Dileep helped architect many important elements of these changes while at TI, DEC, Intel, and Microsoft. He is continuing his work on energy efficient designs at Qualcomm.  In this talk, he will paint a picture that puts this technology evolution into perspective.

Dileep Bhandarkar, PhD is Vice President, Technology at Qualcomm, where he is working on next generation computing platforms. As a Distinguished Engineer at Microsoft, he was responsible for Cloud Server Hardware and Datacenter Infrastructure. In the CTO Office of Intel’s Digital Enterprise Group, Dileep was Director of Advanced Architecture, a lead spokesperson for Intel servers, and an Intel Distinguished Lecturer.

Dr. Bhandarkar managed processor and system architecture for the VAX, Prism, MIPS, and Alpha architectures at Digital Equipment Corp. At Texas Instruments he researched magnetic bubble memories, charge coupled devices, fault tolerant memories and computer architecture.

Dileep holds 16 US patents, and has published more than 30 technical papers in various journals and conference proceedings. He authored the book Alpha Implementations and Architecture. He is an IEEE Fellow for contributions and technical leadership in the design of complex and reduced instruction set architecture and in computer system performance analysis. He was recognized as a Distinguished Alumnus of the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, where he received his B. Tech in Electrical Engineering. His MS and Ph.D. degrees in Electrical Engineering are from Carnegie Mellon University, and he has done graduate work in Business Administration at the University of Dallas.


IEEE History Committees; IT & Computer History Resources

Sunday, December 8th, 2013
Please note that there are two IEEE History  committees with similar names:
1.  IEEE History Committee- which approves worldwide milestones….
2.  IEEE SV Technology History Committee- which reports to IEEE SCV Excom and features panel discussions related to history of a specific technology
Prior to the approval of this committee, an unofficial event on the History of Intel was held on Oct 1, 2013.  It was graciously sponsored by IEEE CNSV.    Intel’s Transition to Success: From Memory to the Microprocessor
Here are a few IT history related websites and on-line resources: