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Al Shugart has passed away

Discussion in 'Electronic Design' started by Mike Monett, Dec 13, 2006.

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  1. Mike Monett

    Mike Monett Guest

    The passing of a great man.

    Forwarded by Robert J Coombes/Seagate on 12/13/2006 02:41 PM

    Sent by : Seagate eMessaging Center
    To : All Inside Seagate Users (MAIL)

    Because so many of us knew Al, we want to make sure that you have
    the opportunity to share your thoughts and reminisce, if you wish.
    You'll find our Special Report message posted on Bill's Blog where
    you can choose to post your own message if you have something you
    want to say.

    We have also attached below a speech that Al gave several years ago
    at a Seagate company meeting, in which he recalled some highlights
    of his career and the founding of our company. We think you will
    enjoy it, whether or not you had the opportunity to meet Al.

    Steve Luczo and Bill Watkin

    Speech to Seagate Employees at Company Meeting

    I see so many new, young faces in the audience today. I'm sure that
    many - if not most - of you weren't even born when I began working
    on the industry's first disc drive. So I thought this would be a
    good time to round out your education, and give you a little
    first-hand history.

    I came into the computer industry quite by accident. I graduated
    from the University of Redlands in 1951 after four years and four
    different majors, and took a job with IBM in Santa Monica,
    California as a customer engineer (that's field engineer nowadays)
    because I could start the day after graduation. The pay was good,
    too: $275 per month. I was 20 years old, married, one kid, and dead

    I learned after one week at IBM that field engineers were the lowest
    on the totem pole when a field engineer in the office was PROMOTED
    to Salesperson. I'll never forget that early lesson, and I've held
    it against salespeople ever since.

    After having fixed all the troubles one could have with punch card
    accounting machines, in 1955, about when Scott McNealy was born, I
    transferred to a small IBM R&D lab in downtown San Jose, California.

    I won't ever forget the day that Don Johnson, one of the pioneers in
    disc development, invited me over to see how he created his discs.
    He was rotating this giant 24-inch platter. Then he poured a
    solution of iron oxide on the disc from a Dixie Cup. No clean room,
    equipment so crude that we rotated the disc with a foot pedal. And
    that dixie cup didn't look out of place at all.

    I certainly had no idea I was walking into the beginning of a
    technology and product development program that would have such a
    profound impact upon the computer industry.

    The First Disc Drive

    Using the accepted `big blue' approach, we made our disc drive big.
    Using these crude techniques, we produced a disc that supported a
    recording density of 2000 bits per square inch with 100 bits per
    inch and 20 tracks per inch. We stacked fifty of the 24-inch discs
    on a vertical shaft, and had a disc file that would store five
    million characters. And it weighed only One Ton! Average access time
    was a screaming 1-and a half seconds, and we spun the disc at 1200
    rpm. No fire code, no ECC, no address marks, no flags for spare
    tracks. It should have made the controller easy, but it didn't. We
    didn't even know how to clock data without a clock track. Oh, by the
    way, the electronics were all in vacuum tubes. No volumes of
    semiconductors to choose from.

    Who Could Use This Much Storage

    Now that we had this big drive, we had a bigger marketing concern.
    Who could ever use this much storage? Five million characters was a
    lot. Notice that I said characters. This was long before the days of
    the 8-bit byte. A character was six data bits and one parity bit.
    Dark Ages!


    Our magnetic head technology was equally crude. Although we had
    learned a lot from drum recording technology, the disc presented its
    own set of problems. To create an air bearing to separate the head
    from the disc, we routed compressed air through tiny orifices in the
    head carrier. We used this same air supply to load the head.
    Unfortunately, this required a big supply of external air. In fact,
    the thing required so much air that we could use a total of only two
    heads to serve the one hundred disc surfaces.

    To reach another disc, the two heads were unloaded, removed
    horizontally from the disc stack, then moved vertically to the
    desired disc, then horizontally again to the desired track, then
    loaded. This was a lot of mass, moving pretty fast, and the file
    really rocked in its shock mounts during accessing.

    Actually, it worked pretty well. After all, users thought in terms
    of seconds per function, not milliseconds and nanoseconds. And we
    gave the user five million characters of storage for a rental cost
    of about $750 per month. Of course, this didn't include the
    controller or the air compressor you needed to supply all that
    external air.

    I believe that IBM built about 5000 of these files. Most of them
    were used in a system called RAMAC or Random Access Method of

    A Better Air Bearing

    During these early production years of the RAMAC file, we were
    looking for a better air bearing. Then sometime during the late
    fifties, a set of articles in the IBM Journal of Research &
    Development discussed a very old principle - the self-acting air
    bearing or slider. These articles became the bible for anyone
    interested in disc files.

    The self-acting air bearing did not require an external air supply.
    This meant we could place a magnetic head on each disc surface.

    IBM Advanced Disc File

    What a breakthrough. IBM introduced another 24-inch diameter disc
    file called the ADF, or Advanced Disc File. Although it was about
    the same size as our first RAMAC, it stored ten times as much data -
    50 million bytes. And by eliminating head movement between discs, we
    cut the average access time to 165 milliseconds. Recording density
    was also improved by a factor of 20 - 25,000 bits per square inch
    with 500 bits per inch at a track density of 50 tracks per inch.

    Many people read the Journal articles, our bible, and it wasn't long
    before IBM had some competition. Two early competitors that I
    remember were Telex and Bryant.

    I do have to credit IBM management. They backed the disc as the
    random access technology of the future. In fact, they bet all their
    marbles on the new disc files. On the other hand, Univac chose the
    magnetic drum rather than the disc. It wasn't the only bad decision
    by Univac, but it ranks right up there with the worst.

    Disc Pack/Standard 14-inch disc

    In the early sixties, as IBM's first disc file with slider bearing
    heads went into production, we came up with another breakthrough.
    This was the removable disc pack. And for the first time, we see the
    disc size that was to become the standard - a 14-inch diameter disc.

    It began with a pack holding about 3 million bytes, then the real
    standard, a disc pack that carried 7.5 million bytes.

    Capacities Grew

    Capacities continued to grow. The next pack held 29 million bytes.
    The recording density was now 220,000 bits per square inch or almost
    100 times greater density than the first RAMAC file. This same
    general technology carried through to IBM's first track following
    servo, with an aerial recording density of 1.5 million bits per
    square inch.

    Technology Limits/The Winchester

    It's at this point that removable discs began hitting some
    technology limits. The height of the air bearing and the possibility
    of contamination were tough barriers for removable disc packs to
    overcome. The infamous head crash became an ever-present danger.
    This led to the development of the first hermetically sealed disc
    drive - IBM's Winchester.

    Winchester technology featured low mass, lightly loaded heads,
    starting and stopping in contact with the disc.

    More Improvements Needed/Fixed Discs

    But improvements were still necessary. The disc packs, now sealed in
    a data module, were still removable and still expensive, so discs
    became fixed to further increase the recording density. Linear bit
    density was increased to 6425 bits per inch, and an incredible
    aerial density of over 3 million bits per square inch was achieved.
    This was followed by an aerial recording density of 7.8 million bits
    per square inch.

    Compare this with the 2000 bits per square inch of the first RAMAC
    file. Density had improved by 3900 times.

    And Then There Was The Floppy

    As we reminisce about old times, we shouldn't forget about a
    critical parallel development in data storage - the humble but
    ubiquitous floppy.

    The floppy disc was actually the result of advances in semiconductor
    technology. Here's why:

    In the early sixties with the introduction of the IBM 360, control
    memory was employed to a great extent in both CPU's and peripheral
    controllers. This control storage was implemented in read only
    memory, because magnetic core and semiconductor memory were much too

    However, by the time the IBM 370 was developed, semiconductor
    technology had advanced. Now, control storage could be implemented
    in semiconductor memory. Since this memory was volatile, a loading
    device was necessary. Magnetic tape was considered but the need for
    loading diagnostics as well as the control program seriously
    detracted from the desirability of this approach. Why not a cheap
    disc that would provide the random access speed needed for
    diagnostic loading?

    With such a low cost disc, you would have an economical, random
    access, program-loading device. And once such a device was
    available, why not add a write capability for logging?

    So semiconductor technology and the big IBM 370 set the stage for
    the floppy, the data storage that in turn, helped to launch the
    small systems revolution.

    Many of us saw the great potential of this little disc. That's why I
    formed my first company, Shugart Associates, in 1973.

    On To Seagate

    I was lucky to have played a role in the early days of floppies at
    Shugart Associates, and it led to a much more long-lived role at
    Seagate starting several years later.

    The start of Seagate is sort of interesting, so I'd like to tell you
    about it.

    In late September 1979, the desktop computer market was going
    bananas. Millions of units were being shipped annually and most of
    them had a small auxiliary memory device called a minifloppy disc
    drive. These minifloppies were a reduced size version of the
    original floppy disc drive introduced in volume about 5 years early
    by Shugart Associates.

    I had been working around computers and disc drive memories for over
    25 years, and had discovered one fundamental that transcends
    computer systems of any size; and that is: A computer system's
    appetite for memory is insatiable.

    And that was and is true for even very small computers. As more and
    more applications were put on these systems, the memory requirements
    grew. And in late 1979, these additional memory requirements were
    being met by adding a second and third and fourth minifloppy disc

    And Then Came Finis

    Finis Conner, who joined me as a founder of Shugart Associates, came
    to me in late September of 1979 with the idea to build a fixed,
    rigid disc drive the same physical size as the minifloppy, with
    higher performance and higher reliability, and with 15 times the
    storage capacity at 3 times the cost. He said that if this were
    possible, he could sell to every desktop computer manufacturer that
    was shipping systems with more than one minifloppy; that is, our
    device would fill the memory need for more than one minifloppy.

    I thought this was possible so we decided to go into business. On
    October 1, 1979, Finis and I hacked out an 8-page business plan that
    predicated our nearly taking over the world, and very quickly - it
    was a very, very aggressive plan. It had to be. Finis and I had both
    run out of money and our personal habits needed recapitalizing.

    The Search For Venture Capital

    Each of us kicked in $10,000 and hit the road with our plan. We
    found a mechanical engineer, an electrical engineer, and an
    operations manager very quickly. It seems get-rich-quick schemes are
    easy to sell to poor people. We decided to let my daughter, Terry,
    who was in college, kept the books until we could afford a financial
    officer, since she worked cheap.

    Finding the money to finance the venture wasn't quite that easy. We
    reasoned that our idea was worth $2 million dollars, and that we
    would sell 25% of our plan for $500,000.

    Page Mill Group

    Our first stop was the Page Mill Group, a venture capital firm made
    up of very successful people from the electronics industry. They
    would surely see the wisdom in what we were doing. Bob Noyce, Lester
    Hogan, John Young, Ken Oshman, and several other equally famous and
    successful people.

    After my presentation, John Young, who, if you don't know, was the
    president of Hewlett -Packard, said: `Al, why should we pay half a
    million dollars for only 25% of a company that's only an idea in the
    minds of you and Finis?'

    I said: `John, perhaps you shouldn't.' And they didn't! (Finis said
    I needed to brush up on my marketing technique).

    Exxon et. al.

    But Finis and I decided that perhaps they didn't have enough money.
    So we set our sights on bigger bucks. We knew that the Exxon
    Corporation made venture investments, and Exxon seemed to have a
    good balance sheet and a lot of cash. So we made an appointment with
    the Exxon guy in New York who handled that sort of thing and we flew
    off to New York.

    We arrived early in the evening the day before the meeting, and went
    out for a really nice dinner. We decided to celebrate this big deal
    we were going to close in the morning, so we got a bottle of really
    fine (and expensive) wine. When we returned to the hotel, there was
    a message from the Exxon guy that said he had to leave town, the
    meeting was canceled, and he would call us in a few weeks. That was
    an expensive call.

    But we weren't discouraged. Following that, we got turned down by
    the Mayfield Fund, and Idanta Partners, and several funds didn't
    even return our calls.

    But we still weren't discouraged. And money wasn't our only problem.
    We needed a disc, and let me explain how important THAT was.

    We Needed A Disc - 3M

    In a rigid disc drive in those days, the data was magnetically
    recorded on an oxide coated aluminum disc. There was a great deal of
    technology, and a lot of tooling money involved in producing
    magnetic discs. We needed a commitment from a magnetic disc
    manufacturer to develop and manufacture a disc that was a different
    physical size from any in the industry. It would require a
    manufacturer to not only spend a lot of money on developing the
    disc, but an even greater amount in tooling for production. The
    total dollar requirement for this made our monetary needs seem

    So first we flew to Minneapolis to see the 3M Corporation. The 3M
    people were very interested in the project, but they couldn't do
    anything because our schedule was inconsistent with their view of

    But they were really nice people and agreed to help our effort to
    get the company off the ground by cutting down some larger discs to
    the required 5.25-inch size we needed. And even though the center
    hole of the disc was larger than we could tolerate in actual use,
    the disc should serve as a good visual aid.

    While we were waiting for the 3M sample discs, we called on Memorex,
    but they never called us back. Within several days, 3M
    hand-delivered 6 disc samples to me in California, just to help us
    get going.


    With the disc samples in hand, we called on Norm Dion, president of
    Dysan Corporation in Santa Clara, a magnetic disc manufacturer. I
    handed Norm one of the sample 5.25-inch discs and he just held it
    and stared at it for what seemed like hours (probably 15 seconds).
    Dysan was just getting into production of an 8-inch disc, having
    manufactured 14-inch discs for several years. Finally, Norm said:
    `You know, 8 inches was the wrong size.' I figured we had him at
    that point. He saw the tremendous future in what we wanted to do,
    and agreed to develop and manufacture the 5.25-inch disc.

    Then he asked us how we were doing on getting financed. Not wanting
    to show any weakness, I told him we expected to close something
    soon, trying to keep my voice from cracking. He said that was a
    shame since he thought it would make a good package for Dysan to
    fund our development effort as well as commit to the disc.

    We quickly saw the wisdom in this and, on November 14, 1979, six
    weeks after we put our plan together; Norm gave me a check for
    $10,000, as a show of good faith for his agreement to invest
    $500,000. We shook hands, and we had a deal.

    We had always planned to get the lawyers to document the deal, but
    we never got around to it, and it was never really necessary. The
    following June, we raised another million dollars in capital through
    venture capitalists - they DID need to document the deal. So the
    total venture capital put into Seagate was only $1.5 million. An
    unbelievably small amount of money by today's standards.

    We Needed Parts - Turn Left At Leo’s Liquors

    It was tough to find more believers at that time. We had 8 people in
    the loft of a suite in Scotts Valley, and we needed to place orders
    for parts; some big orders.

    We knew we had to get magnetic heads on order quickly so we called
    the manufacturer's representative. I told him we wanted to buy
    100,000 magnetic heads (at the time this was about a $2 million
    deal). He said he's come to see us. Where were we located, he asked.
    He had never heard of Scotts Valley.

    I gave him directions... come down out of the mountains, turn onto
    Santa's Village road, go a quarter of a mile, turn left at Leo's
    Liquors, cross a little bridge and go into suite C in the only
    building there.

    He repeated the directions and then said: `And you want to buy
    100,000 magnetic heads?' I expected him to say, `come on now, who
    is this?'

    Product Development

    We completed our product development in 5 1/2 months and showed our
    product in a hotel suite at the National Computer Conference in
    Anaheim in May of 1980. We got orders during that show including a
    $200,000 prepayment, and began shipments 6 weeks later.

    We shipped 50 units our first month, and by October we were shipping
    10 units a day out of a 1000 square foot lab.

    The ST506 disc drive stored 6.38 million bytes of data and sold for
    $1,500 in single quantities: down to $775 in quantities of 5,000.

    A Huge Market

    The market for this size disc drive was quite large. We projected
    that the worldwide market would grow from 1100 units in 1980 - which
    was our total production output - to one million units in 1983. And
    although our projected shipment grew at an astounding rate, we told
    people that we didn't predict being able to maintain the 100% market
    share we enjoyed in 1980. In addition to Texas Instruments and
    CII-Honeywell Bull whom we had licensed to manufacture and market
    the product as a second source, we did expect to see several
    competitors in the marketplace later in 1981.

    In our first full operating year we did about $12 million in
    revenues and made about $1.8 million net profit.

    Things moved so fast that we had an initial public offering of our
    stock only 22 months from when we started.

    What Makes The Great Opportunities Possible?

    So what really makes these great opportunities? The availability of
    capital? Certainly. But I really think it has more to do with
    changes in our society. Let me talk a little about that.

    When I was working at IBM, the corporation organized a science
    advisory board made up of a group of very distinguished scientists.
    This group met periodically with IBM management and senior technical
    people to give us the benefit of their wisdom and learning.

    I was quite fortunate when in the 1960's I was invited to a luncheon
    with the science advisory board in San Jose, along with other senior
    technical people from the lab I worked at.

    Following lunch, the IBM host asked the members of this advisory
    board if they would each comment on the terrible unrest that was
    going on in our universities, and the apparent change in behavior of
    all our younger people.

    If you don't remember or weren't around at the time, the 1960's
    found a lot of our young people in jail for acts against public
    policy. I recall one columnist writing that while he was driving
    down the road he saw a sign that said `free firewood,' and his
    immediate thought was: Who is this guy Firewood, and why is he in

    Anyway, each of the 6 or so distinguished scientists addressed the

    Norbert Weiner, the famous nuclear physicist and Nobel Prize winner,
    began and expressed great disappointment in our youth with their
    erratic behavior, and concluded that we were going downhill. The
    following speakers expressed the same disappointment, and offered
    theories on the behavior, and proposals for fixing it.

    The opinion was generally unanimous until the last distinguished
    scientist spoke. I can't recall his name but I can picture him
    clearly. He was a world-renowned mathematician, long since retired
    from his position at Columbia. This quite elderly, gray-haired
    gentleman said that what was going on with our young people was the
    result of a change in society that was underway - and that he was
    both pleased and excited about it. He mentioned individualism,
    opportunity, creativity, and a true thinking and nourishing of
    society. He said we could close our eyes and hide from the change,
    or open our eyes and participate in it - because it was changing
    anyway. And he had no fear of the future.

    (I thought at the time - `Easy for him to say; the old bugger is in
    his 80's and won't be around when these crazies are running the

    But you know, the man was absolutely right. We were seeing an
    expression of individualism as a result of a change in society that
    had begun, and is still in process, and will continue as long as
    people have ideas.

    The Information Society

    We've moved from a mass industrial society to an INFORMATION
    Society, with a much more profound impact than the 19th century
    shift from an agricultural society to an industrial society.

    We've moved to an age of the power of the individual. Where the
    strategic resource in the industrial society was capital; the
    strategic resource in the postindustrial society is Information and
    Knowledge. And that's not only renewable, but it's self-generating
    as well.

    I believe that this provides for tremendous entrepreneurial activity
    in the world today. Because the strategic resource is now what we
    have in our heads. Access to the system is much easier. We have seen
    an impressive increase in the creation of small businesses over the
    last 20 years, and large institutions have restructured to encourage
    entrepreneurial activity within decentralized organizations.

    In 1950, 65% of the people working in the country were working in
    the industrial sector, and only 17% in the information sector.
    Today, we've flipped that.

    The age of the individual has brought decentralization. We have seen
    large airlines collapse while new local and regional airlines have
    been established.

    Large circulation, general-purpose magazines have folded while
    thousands of special interest magazines are being published.

    Great umbrella organizations like the American Medical Association
    continue to weaken as the groups within it - pediatricians, plastic
    surgeons, and cardiologists - specialize and get stronger, along
    with county and local medical groups.

    And it's happening all over the world. This great new age of
    individualism and its subsequent decentralization has led to the
    great number of opportunities for new leaders today.

    Unfortunately, the age of individualism and special interest groups
    has also found a lot of jobs for a lot of lawyers, who are misusing
    our legal system. But that's a story for another time.

    Seagate is a leader in the new Information society. Seagate is in
    the Information business. We have not only survived, but thrived by
    preparing for, and embracing what we know is inevitable - CHANGE. We
    are leaders. So we will go out there again this year and do what we
    do best: `Find a parade, and get in front of it!'
  2. PeteS

    PeteS Guest

    Thanks for posting that


  3. Mike Monett

    Mike Monett Guest

    You are very welcome. Most people don't know the tremendous effect
    Al had on the PC computing industry. For example, when he developed
    the first 5.25" drive, the ST-506, he published the interface specs
    and invited anyone to enter the business and use the same interface.

    This encouraged over 220 companies to start manufacturing 5.25" hard
    disk drives. The resulting competition drove the price down and
    increased the performance. We all benefited, especially Bill Gates.
    Windows 3.1 came on floppies, but it needed a hard disk to run.

    Al really was a great person to work for. Here's a brief excerpt
    that shows the kind of person he was:

    Al Goes International

    Conner's old friend and competitor, Al Shugart, is busier than
    ever since he was ousted from the top slot of Seagate in July.
    He's got so much going on, he's a virtual walking gossip column.
    He now sits on the boards of seven companies: flash vendor
    Sandisk, Internet search company Inktomi, lithium/polymer battery
    maker Valence Technology, chipmaker Cypress Semi, 3D optical
    memory vendor OptiTek, digital camera chip designer Sierra
    Imaging, and digital TV IC designer Sarnoff Digital
    Communications. All those boards still don't keep Shugart busy.
    He's looking to join three more, but he's picky. "I've turned down
    a lot of offers," he says. "It has to be interesting."

    About Al's Dog.

    The word "interesting" has a whole different meaning for Shugart.
    His interests include involvement in "Friends of Ernest," a
    self-described political advocacy group named after his Bernese
    Mountain dog, who made a failed bid for Congress in 1996. In his
    spare time, Shugart is running Al Shugart International, a
    three-employee company whose goal is to look for potential
    investments and/or startups for Shugart to run. He looks at about
    five business plans a week. He has two company names locked up if
    he finds something he likes - Shugart Technology Inc. and Al
    Shugart Communications. Lest we forget, Shugart is also a "major
    investor" in a non-toxic bug spray company called Orange Guard, a
    French country cuisine restaurant called Fandango and a charter
    plane company run by his wife called Modern Airplane Co. Oh, and
    he's also working on two books: an autobiography titled "Turn Left
    At Leo's Liquors" and a business book called "You Don't Need Al
    Shugart's A to Z Guide to Success In Business and Life - But It
    Couldn't Hurt." Shugart's motto: If you want something done, give
    it to a busy person."

    In Passing

    You just gotta love a guy like Shugart. Bones had to call
    Shugart's assistant to give her some info, but Big Al picked up
    the phone. His assistant wasn't in but he was more than happy to
    write down a message for her. A CEO taking a message for his
    assistant. When was the last time that happened? "Lotza guyz in
    this industry claim they don't have egos, but Al's the real deal,"
    grinned Bones.

    Many books will be written on the incredible influence the PC has
    had on society. Al Shugart's contribution is a very significant part
    of this story, and we all have benefited.


    Mike Monett
  4. JoeBloe

    JoeBloe Guest

    That data storage technology had an impact across all industries.

    The hard drive drove this country for a while. After we bit it in
    the late seventies with Japanese steel being so much cheaper and so
    many industries had a rough time here, the computer and electronics
    industry held this entire global economy afloat.
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