Skip to main content
Icons of Progress
 

The Floppy Disk

No product, idea, or achievement is possible without our most critical asset—the collective thought capital of hundreds of thousands of IBMers. The expertise, technical skill, willingness to take risk, and overall dedication of IBM employees have led to countless transformative innovations through the years. Meet team members who contributed to this Icon of Progress.

  • Alan F. Shugart 

    Alan Shugart
    Alan F. Shugart was “an engineer and entrepreneur whose career defined the modern computer disk drive industry.” –New York Times

    Alan Shugart graduated from the University of Redlands with a degree in engineering physics. In 1967, he was direct access storage product manager at IBM. He assigned David L. Noble to lead the development of a reliable and inexpensive system for loading microcode into the IBM System/370 mainframes using a process called Initial Control Program Load (ICPL). From this project came the first 8-inch floppy disk. Shugart left IBM and worked at Memorex for a short time before founding Shugart Associates, where he developed the 5-1/4 inch floppy disk. He continued to contribute to the disk drive industry throughout his career, and in 1997, he received the IEEE Reynold B. Johnson Information Storage Systems Award.

  • David L. Noble 

    “Dave Noble … is the real father of floppy disks.” - Al Shugart

    David L. Noble was given responsibility for finding a new way to load microcode into the System/370 mainframes. At first, he considered a new type of tape storage, but this was not successful. Eventually, Noble and his team developed the first floppy disk: a read-only, 8-inch, flexible diskette they called the "memory disk.” Al Shugart considers David Noble “the real father of floppy disks.” In 1974, he received an Outstanding Contribution Award for developing the IBM Diskette.

  • Herbert Thompson 

    Herbert Thompson

    Herbert Thompson earned his degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Colorado in 1957. With Ralph Flores, Thompson developed the cleaning jacket for the 8-inch floppy disk. As he recalls in the 2005 Oral History Panel on 8-inch Floppy Disk Drives from the Computer History Museum, “So, I run down to the local Safeway store and bought a roll of pink wipe and pink wipe is a material that looks like a roll of tissue paper we use today. But in those days the pink wipe was used in the household to clean, dust and that sort of thing and it picked up dust quite well. So, I bought a roll of that and went back and we got a file folder, manila file folder and cut it to size. We glued some pink wipe on it, cut the holes in for the head and the center clamping and all of that and we put that on and lo and behold the problem disappeared, clean as a whistle.” The pink wipe was soon replaced with a different wipe that is still in use today. Thompson ended his career with more than 30 patents to his name.

  • Ralph Flores 

    Ralph Flores was assigned tasks on the recording components of the disk, and was responsible for performing a number of experiments. These experiments led Flores and Herb Thompson to design the special cleaning jacket that protected the 8-inch disk from damage. They received a patent on this "Magnetic Record Disk Cover" in 1972.

  • Warren L. Dalziel 

    Warren L. Dalziel graduated from Oregon State as a mechanical engineer in 1962 and started working at IBM that summer. He was assigned to Noble’s team and became the lead inventor of the floppy disk drive. He later moved on to Shugart Associates where he continued to work on disks and disk drives. In 1980, Dalziel started his own consulting company through which he worked on a wide variety of products, including hard drives, printers, tape drives, tape libraries, optical drives, optical switches and medical equipment.