IT History Society Blog

Excellent Flash Memory Summit (FMS) History session with Eli Harari

August 15th, 2015 by Alan Weissberger

On Thursday, August 13, 2015, a FMS audience  enjoyed a marvelous “conversation” between FMS Technical Chair Brian Berg and SanDisk founder Eli Harari. PhD.  Eli’s narrative was stimulated and augmented by very informative slides Brian created.   Thanks also to Ken Pyle for video recording this special event.

Eli traced his career from his days as a PhD student at Princeton (1969-1973), to Hughes Microelectronics (where he had “tremendous freedom” dong research work for the US government), to Intel (EPROM inventor and fellow Israeli Dov Frohman hired him), to two start-ups he founded in the 1980s (Wafer Scale Integration and SunDisk).   SunDisk was incorporated June 1, 1988) and was later was SanDisk.  The company’s history is detailed here.

It was interesting that then Intel CEO Andy Grove turned down Eli’s request to do a “skunk works” flash memory project because it was deemed “too elitist.”  Also that Intel’s flash memory was really only good for instruction/program storage- not data storage.  That’s because it would “wear out/fail hard” after some number of writes into given memory cells.  As a result, Eli and his colleagues created, designed & developed a “Flash High Endurance Transistor” which became the core building block for Flash memories that had sufficient endurance and reliability for thousands of memory write cycles.

Another item that was interesting was the need for a “Controller” to manage the Flash memory arrays and also perform many auxiliary functions.  Eli recognized this early on and called the concept “System Flash.”  He hired Robert Norman as the systems engineer at SanDisk that would be responsible for systems design of Flash memory arrays.  Mr Norman received a Lifetime Achievement award at a ceremony that immediately followed this history session.

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Hopefully, the  Sept 30 IEEE SV Tech History/CNSV panel session with Eli (and 2 others) will explore some of these gems:

  1. The genesis of the Flash Endurance Transistor & a comparison to the MOS Floating Gate transistor (co-invented by Simon Sze, PhD at Bell Labs.
  2. More details about the systems functions of the Flash Memory Controller and the opposition some leading companies/leaders had in paying for it would also be very informative and interesting.
  3. How SanDisk was able to beat the competition and emerge as the #1 seller of Flash technology.  [A FMS speaker said today that SanDisk & Toshiba together produce 40% of all Flash memory shipped today.]

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Comment from Ted Hoff Jr, PhD (via email):

I really did enjoy the Eli Harari FMS history session–Brian, you did a great job!   One of the aspects that really impressed me was Eli’s understanding of the differences between storage of programs/instructions and data, and the impact that would have on the need for write cycles.  Remembering my days at Intel, it was really unusual for a semiconductor guy to have such systems understanding.  It also brings to mind Bob Noyce’s logic in hiring me–even in 1968 he realized that the trends in IC technology would lead to systems on a chip, and he approached Jim Angell of Stanford to suggest someone with a degree of systems experience.  I was on Jim’s list and got the job.
I remember one discussion with a chip designer who was working on an early DRAM.  I needed to know the power requirements, and soon learned that the proposed chip power dissipation was a function of the address applied–and certain addresses if maintained would result in chip overheating to the point of possible destruction.  The chip designer had assumed that the addresses applied would average out to 50 percent ones or zeroes on each line.  My response was, suppose a computer user decides to wait for an interrupt, and writes a short loop that resides in the high-dissipation address area–the memory would burn up while waiting for the interrupt.  That comment resulted in a major design revision.
Eli’s work was really a milestone.
Ted
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About Eli Harari, PhD:

Eli Harari invented the industry’s first practical floating gate EEPROM in 1976 while working at Hughes Microelectronics. In 1978 he published research work on the physics of conduction and trapping in highly stressed ultrathin films of SiO2 under Fowler-Nordheim write/erase tunneling that became the foundational physics for today’s NAND Flash. This 1976-78 work was recognized with an IEEE Milestone in Electrical Engineering and Computing for the Floating Gate EEPROM. Eli also worked at Intel, and founded SunDisk (later renamed SanDisk) in 1988, where he served as CEO and Chairman. He invented MLC (Multi-Level Cell) Flash, and co-invented System-Flash.

Eli holds approximately 150 issued patents, and has authored numerous technical publications. He received the 2004 Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Lifetime Award, the 2006 IEEE Reynold B. Johnson Data Storage Device Technology Award, the 2008 GSA (Global Semiconductor Alliance) Dr. Morris Chang Exemplary Leadership Award, and the 2009 IEEE Robert N. Noyce Medal for Exceptional Contributions to the Microelectronics Industry. He was inducted into the Consumer Electronics Hall of Fame in 2011, and is a member of the National Academy of Engineering.

He received the National Medal of Technology and Innovation from President Obama in 2014 for “invention and commercialization of Flash storage technology to enable ubiquitous data in consumer electronics, mobile computing, and enterprise storage.

 Reference:

Eli’s CHM Oral History


Help on a History of IBM

August 3rd, 2015 by James Cortada

Dear fellow members of ITHS, I am an historian, serve on the board of ITHS, and worked at IBM for 38 years. Some of you may have seen books I have written on the history of the IT industry over the years. I am now going to write a large, full history of IBM from the 1880s to the present and need your help in acquiring copies of notes, presentations, and any other records you may have that help me fill in details, especially on the following topics:

–How senior management responded to the Antitrust suit, 1969-1982 and also what were specific consequences/effects on IBM’s behavior in the years afterward
–History of the PC company–we know almost nothing about its internal operations in the 1980s-90s
–Early history of IBM services in the 1980s
–Copies of site newsletters
–Copies of your resumes
–Branch Office reviews and customer proposals
–Anything else you think relevant to the history of IBM
–Covering any country, not just the USA
Anything you send me I will eventually donate to the Charles Babbage Institute at the University of Minnesota for permanent preservation. Anything I write in which I mention or quote you I will run by you to make sure what I said is OK. I can be reached at jcortada@umn.edu. My mailing address is 2917 Irvington Way, Madison, Wisconsin 53713 USA.

Thanks in advance for your help.

James W. Cortada
Senior Research Fellow
Charles Babbage Institute
University of Minnesota
jcortada@umn.edu


April 23rd Stanford Hero Lecture + IEEE SV Tech History + 50th Anniversary of Moore’s Law

April 18th, 2015 by Alan Weissberger
1.  April 23rd Stanford Engineering Hero Lecture: Marcian “Ted” Hoff, PhD
 IEEE SV Tech Committee officer responsible for Electronics
 
You can attend in person or watch the live video stream –  7pm April 23rd: Stanford Engineering Hero Lecture: Marcian “Ted” Hoff
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2.  Confirmed IEEE SV Tech History future committee meetings:
  • April 28: How Did Hard Disk Drive Track Widths Get That Small? @ Western Digital, San Jose (waiting list)
  • June 1:  History of EDA/CAD for LSI Design  @KeyPoint Credit Union, Santa Clara

Meeting information at:  http://siliconvalleyhistory.com

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3. Three excellent sessions at CHM on Life of Gordon Moore on Friday, April 17th. The comments by Bill Davidow (VC and x-Intel executive) about tech effect on our social and economic life were provocative if not contentious.

A short movie on Gordon Moore was shown after lunch. You can watch it at: Gordon E. Moore | Chemical Heritage Foundation
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4.  URl’s for recent articles on the 50th Anniversary of Moore’s Law:

https://socialdashboard.com/news/at-50-moores-law-has-only-started-to-disrupt-everything-we-do-1

http://www.forbes.com/sites/roberthof/2015/04/17/at-50-moores-law-has-only-started-to-disrupt-everything-we-do/

http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/203677-silicon-valley-celebrates-moores-law-looks-forward-to-next-50-years

http://www.hihuadu.com/2015/04/19/today-five-years-later-moores-law-has-only-just-begun-to-subvert-everything-19364.html

http://www.wired.com/2015/04/50-years-moores-law-still-pushes-tech-double/

http://fortune.com/2015/04/19/moores-law-turns-50-but-will-it-soon-cease-to-exist/

http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2015-04/19/moores-law-50th-anniversary-future-disruption

http://www.wsj.com/articles/moores-law-runs-out-of-gas-1429282819

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/innovations/wp/2015/04/19/honoring-technologys-power-couple-moores-law-and-the-network-effect/

 

 


The SSEC First Electronic Machine on the Silver Screen

January 1st, 2015 by Allan Olley

The IBM Selective Sequence Electronic Calculator (in use from 1948-1952) pioneered some features of the modern computer such as self-modifying instructions and stood on the indistinct dividing line between the modern computer and the calculating machines that came before. It was also a pioneer in another sphere, the movie business. In the 1952 spy thriller Walk East on Beacon the SSEC plays a role as the new electronic calculator of Professor Albert Kafer. Kafer is working on a top secret project that has caught the attention of Soviet spies who seek to extort classified information out of the professor.

The SSEC

The SSEC as it appeared in Walk East on Beacon

Read the rest of this entry »


2014 Year End Review: IEEE Silicon Valley Tech History Committee

December 25th, 2014 by Alan Weissberger

The IEEE SV Tech History committee fulfilled its mandate by holding four technical meetings in 2014.  It was a close call as three of those meetings occured in the last three months of the year.

Our committee’s charter is to have at least four technical meetings per year that will educate, inform and raise the level of awareness of technology history indigenous to greater silicon valley.  In addition, we are open and receptive to holding joint meetings with other IEEE Societies, groups, committees as well as tech non profit organizations.   Our website complements our meetings and provides information on IEEE Milestones as well as upcoming tech history meetings in silicon valley.

Our website:  http://siliconvalleyhistory.com

All of our meetings since inception are listed below, in reverse chronological order:

Dec 2: Perspective of Stanford Archives & Process & Methodology for SV Tech History Research

Panelists: ​Leslie Berlin, Historian of Silicon Valley & author of biography of Bob Noyce​  & Henry Lowood, Curator at Stanford University; Manager-Silicon Genesis Project​​

Moderator: Alan J Weissberger, IEEE Sr Life Member

The link to the Silicon Genesis oral histories is here. In addition, a very small fraction of their holdings is listed here.

Invitation: tech artifacts/data-books/notebooks related to SV tech history may be donated to the Stanford SV Archives. Contact: lowood@stanford.edu

Video of this outstanding event is here 

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Nov 5:  Early History of Silicon Valley​ (4 time periods covered)

Panelists:  Ted Hoff, PhD (x-Intel) & Norm Pond (“Tube Guys”)​

Moderator: Paul Wesling, IEEE SF Bay Area Council​

->97 attendees were treated to a spectacular program!​

Video and snippets/segments are here

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 Oct 9:  History & Origins of Computer History Museum (CHM), Current Status & Future Directions

Panelists:  Len Shustek, CHM Chairman & John Hollar, CHM CEO/President​

Moderator:  Alan J Weissberger, IEEE Sr Life Member

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April  28: History of Wired LAN Competition
Moderator:  Geoff Thompson, former Chair of IEEE 802.3 Ethernet WG; long time contributor to IEEE ComSoc & IEEE member discussion group
Panelists:
  • Joe Skorupa (Gartner) – various “Route 128″ MA networking companies
  • Tom Slykhouse (SurveyMonkey)- FDDI advocate of the period
  • Dan Pitt – (Open Networking Foundation) Token Ring advocate of the period
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2013 Meetings (the committee was officially formed in Sept 2013):

Nov 2013:  Thin Film Memories (joint meeting with IEEE Magnetics)
Moderator:  Tom Coughlin, IEEE Region 6 Director Elect

Opening Remarks & Committee Objectives: Alan J Weissberger, IEEE Sr Life Member

Video is here

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Oct 2013  Intel’s Transition from Semiconductor Memory to Microprocessor Company (Hosted by IEEE CNSV thanks to Brian Berg!)
Panelists: Ted Hoff, PhD & Dave House, MSEE – Intel icons
Moderator: Alan J Weissberger, IEEE Sr Life Member
A standing room only crowd of ~85 people attended after the venue was changed the day of the event.
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If you’d like to volunteer for the committee, or have any comments, suggestions, or feedback on past or future meetings please contact: aweissberger@sbcglobal.net
If you’d like to be added to our email list, please contact: brianberg@gmail.com
Have a wonderful holiday season & happy new year!]
All best
Alan