A hard disk crash isn’t the worst that can happen
Al Shugart, an engineer on the first commercial disk drive (see Happy Birthday, Rotating Rust!) and later founder of Shugart Associates, a leading floppy drive maker, and still later, disk titan Seagate, died Tuesday.
He founded Seagate with Finis Connor in 1979. Connor later went on to found Connor Peripherals, the early leader in 3.5″ drives, that Seagate bought to help them get into the 3.5″ drive market. Seagate is one of the few disk drive makers to survive form factor transitions – the leading cause of failure for drive makers over the decades.
Al was fired from Seagate in 1998. The single best article on Al I found is Al Shugart Dies: We’ll Miss the Genuine Silicon Valley Article.
Update: Werner Vogel, Amazon’s CTO, had a good note about Al that I just discovered. Much better than mine, so I’m quoting part of it:
We also have to remember that it wasn’t just the love and fun that brought Al Shugart to the absolute top of the computer industry. Al was a fearless leader, very, very smart, with a deep understanding of the storage industry and the needs of its customers. He created a company that took the number one position from IBM in the eighties and maintained that ever since. In the fiercely competitive storage market that must mean something. Anyone worth its grain of salt in storage wanted to work for Al, as he would seriously invest in you to make you grow. Al strongly believed in roaming the engineer’s workspaces to keep in contact with the real world. Many Seagate customers still carry his personal phone number to “call any time with any question”. In the end there was the “revenge of the MBA’s” and Seagate was streamlined into a fast and efficient production machine, with Al looking on from afar.
Read the rest here.
First time I met Al was during very early 80’s … in a small two room hotel suite at Anaheim, proudly showing off a couple of non-working prototypes, mounted with see-through plastic tops. This was in conjunction with a trade show and they did not have a stand.
There was Al & Finis, both in casual attire … only a couple of other visitors, and some ‘help yourself’ beer in the kitchen sink. It was a humble but a very memorable event , the product made obvious sense and one could sense the future. The main issue then was IBM … as a possible competitor. I am proud to have been one of his early customers.
Next time I saw Al was a few years later, at the Golden Nugget reception, in conjunction with Comdex. This also was a party to remember, with Al proudly circulating among a couple hundred of ‘distinguished’ guests…. the history was very much in progress…. and IBM was still working on their products … I think.
Al, thank you for the vision and great products.
Thank you for sharing those memories. Al was a giant of our industry, a true original. Alas, I never met him.
Was Al’s departure from Seagate in 1998 related at all to the Veritas thing?
I have no idea. As I recall, Seagate did OK from the Veritas deal. I suspect it had more to do with the general roller-coaster nature of the disk business and, as some writers have intimated, that Al wasn’t at his best handling a multi-billion dollar business. Growing, yes, managing, not so much.
Anyone who knows more feel free to chime in!