Hard disk drives can store a million times more data today than the drives first introduced by IBM in the 1950s.
Advances in storage capacity since 2005, which are largely responsible for "the cloud" and social media, were made possible through perpendicular recording technology invented by Shunichi Iwasaki, and Carnegie Mellon University's Mark Kryder led the team who implemented that technology into the products we use today.
The Franklin Institute is recognizing their achievements with the 2014 Benjamin Franklin Medal in Electrical Engineering at a ceremony and dinner on Thursday, April 24 in Philadelphia.
"It took decades for the need for perpendicular recording to become clear because longitudinal recording, which was used in disk drives from the late 1950s to the early 2000s was a robust technology that was advancing quickly," Kryder said.
But in 1995 a professor in Kryder's Data Storage Systems Center at CMU raised a red flag when he pointed out that if they continued scaling magnetic recording the way they were, they would hit a limit where thermal energy would cause recordings to decay over time frames of less than five years.
The revelation alarmed the industry, and subsequently Kryder organized a workshop in San Jose, Calif., under the auspices of the National Storage Industry Consortium to figure out how to overcome this limit.
"In the two-day workshop, we decided that by changing the ratio of the width of a bit to the length of a bit from 20:1 down to 4:1, we could extend the area density limit to perhaps 100 gigabit per square inch from 36 gigabits per square inch, but we also projected that the introduction of perpendicular recording would enable much higher densities," he said.
With the area density of recording on hard disk drives increasing at a rate of 60 percent annually, Kryder had only a few years to find a new technology. He was hired by Seagate Technology in 1998 and started a new research center for the company in Pittsburgh.
As a result of the research, Seagate began producing disk drives based on perpendicular recording technology in 2005 and within a couple of years the entire hard disk drive industry had changed from longitudinal to perpendicular recording.
"Today, there are over 600 million disk drives made per year, and they all use perpendicular recording," Kryder said. "These disk drives are the basis for data storage in most laptop, desktop and enterprise computers made today."
Perpendicular recording also is enabling cloud computing. "Without it, all the social media that we have today would not exist," Kryder said.
A University Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Kryder joined CMU's faculty in 1978 and later founded the university's Magnetics Technology and Data Storage Systems Centers (DSSC). Under his direction, the DSSC became the world's largest academic research center in the field of data storage technology.
From 1998 to 2007, Kryder was senior vice president of research and chief technical officer at Seagate Technology.
Kryder has published more than 370 papers and holds 24 patents in the field of magnetic memory and storage technology. He is an elected member of the NAE and a fellow of the American Physical Society and the IEEE, which has bestowed three awards upon him. His other honors include the American Institute of Physics' George E. Pake Prize and the Public Service Medal of Singapore.
When Kryder and Iwasaki received their award they were joined by fellow Franklin Institute honorees — including CMU's Edmund M. Clarke, winner of the 2014 Bower Award and Prize for Achievement in Science.
The ceremony culminated a weeklong series of events and activities that connected laureates with students and the community. While celebrating the "Franklins" of today, The Franklin Institute hopes to inspire and influence the innovation of the "Franklins" of tomorrow.
CMU is home to eight Franklin Institute laureates, including President Subra Suresh who received the 2013 Benjamin Franklin Medal in Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science.