Interviewed by Ron Dennison on 2018-02-27 in Mountain View, CA X8519.2018
© Computer History Museum

This oral history records Doctor Gordon Hughes’s contributions in the field of magnetic recording technology at Xerox and at Seagate, and as a successful researcher and educator at the Center for Magnetic Recording Research, a joint university-industry research center at the University of California at San Diego. He is credited with advancing the technology development of hard disk drives and their early product development at the start of Seagate Technology in the early 1980s, where he made major contributions to Seagate’s success. He is also the author of a personal adventure novel relating events in his career, especially those at Seagate Technology, entitled “Hard Drive! As the Disk Turns.”
Born in West Los Angeles, to an attorney father and a mother that managed the personnel department of a department store, and Gordon went to public schools in West Los Angeles, Hamilton High School, and to Caltech, and so lived in Pasadena through his undergraduate and graduate years. He has a Bachelor of Science in Physics and a PhD in Electrical Engineering both from CalTech.
Gordon had the good fortune to attend the school during the years when both Linus Pauling and Richard Feynman were on the faculty and tells a number of anecdotes about them.
His first job after graduate school was with North American Rockwell where he worked on the minuteman missile system. His work involved an early hard drive with only 32 KB of memory that used perpendicular recording! He then left the defense industry to continue work on hard disk drives at Xerox-Librascope which was making a 2314 plug compatible drive. He designed the recording channels, the electronics, and the disks and recording heads for these products. His experience at Xerox with very early thin film plated cobalt disks and recording channels led ultimately to a job offer at Seagate Technology as Director of Magnetic Recording Technology.
Gordon worked with Doug Mahon, Al Shugart, Finis Conner and Tom Mitchell at Seagate and again tells a number of interesting and insightful anecdotes about these industry luminaries.

Gordon and his team were responsible for the integration of Grenex and its thin film disk technology into Seagate products. The result was that Seagate was the first to market in volume with thin film disk based hard disk drives. These disks essentially allowed doubling of the recording density and thus doubling of the drive capacity for the same number of heads and disks. This move established Seagate as a market and technology leader. Gordon later in his Seagate career also helped make the company one of the early adopters of Partial Response Maximum Likelihood recording channel technology.

Tiring of the boom and bust cycles of the high technology industry, Gordon next moved to a position at the University of California San Diego’s Center for Magnetic Recording Research. There he worked with Shelly Shultz, Neal Bertram and Jack Wolf among others. One of his major projects there was improving the level of reliability prediction afforded by the Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology (S.M.A.R.T.). He also worked on Bit Patterned Media (BPM) and Secure Erase.

Gordon has had a long standing relationship with Jim Lemke which may have resulted in several of his job offers, but certainly resulted in his becoming a private pilot with over five thousand hours and many, many enjoyable trips with his wife in their turbo Mooney. light, single engine airplane.

Gordon’s advice to young technologists is to go into data storage; it’s a great career.

* Note: Transcripts represent what was said in the interview. However, to enhance meaning or add clarification, interviewees have the opportunity to modify this text afterward. This may result in discrepancies between the transcript and the video. Please refer to the transcript for further information – http://www.computerhistory.org/collections/catalog/102738750

Visit computerhistory.org/collections/oralhistories/ for more information about the Computer History Museum’s Oral History Collection.

Lot number: X8519.2018
Catalog number: 102738751

More info on Oral History of Gordon Hughes

  • Langston Hughes - Wikipedia

    James Mercer Langston Hughes (February 1, 1901 – May 22, 1967) was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist from Joplin, Missouri.He moved to New York City as a young man, where he made his career. He was one of the earliest innovators of the then-new literary art form called jazz poetry.Hughes is best known as a leader of the Harlem Renaissance in New York City.

  • The New York Times - Search

    Sports. Former Flyweight Champ Johnson (Knee) Medically Suspended. Former UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson was indefinitely suspended by the California State Athletic Commission on Tuesday after reporting a knee injury.

  • Oral Histories: Search Our Collection - Association for ...

    Welcome! It’s easy to search our collection . . . Use the search bar on the upper right to retrieve: Moments in Diplomatic History, Fascinating Figures, Books and Publications and other material. And don’t forget Poor Richard’s Podcasts. For an Advanced Search of transcripts of over 2000 oral histories, see below. For tips on how to combine search terms click here.

  • Our Group | ICU Delirium and Cognitive Impairment Study Group

    This educational website provided by the Vanderbilt University Medical Center and VA GRECC ICU Delirium and Cognitive Impairment Study Group is for medical and non-medical readers who want to know more about the problems that critically ill patients experience with thinking and cognition due to delirium (acute brain dysfunction) both during and after the ICU experience.

  • Ten Most Wanted History Pictures — FBI

    A compilation of the photos and profiles of wanted individuals from across the history of the FBI's Top Ten Most Wanted Program.

  • Freedom Movement Bibliography - NAACP

    Freedom Movement Bibliography. See also: Books Written by Freedom Movement Veterans Book Titles Grouped by Subject Film, Videos & Audio Movement-Related Web Links

  • Transistor Museum Construction Projects Point Contact ...

    photo essays and transistor museum original research articles on technologies, companies and people important to the early history of transistors: the transistor museum is currently developing a series of photoessays on germanium computer transistors.

  • Oral Roberts University - Wikipedia

    Oral Roberts University (ORU), based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in the United States, is an interdenominational, Christian, comprehensive liberal arts university with 4,000 students. Founded in 1963, the university is named after its founder, evangelist Oral Roberts, and accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. The school fronts on South Lewis Avenue between East 75th Street and East 81st Street ...

  • Social Security History

    This is an archival or historical document and may not reflect current policies or procedures.

  • Professor Gordon Howarth | Staff Directory

    Professor Howarth is the coordinator for the Laboratory Animal Science course that was introduced in the B Sc (Animal Science) program in 2007. Professor Howarth is a work experience student coordinator at the University and at the Women's and Children's Hospital. He also supervises groups of 3rd ...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *