Santa Clara University


Tribute to Dr. Al Hoagland:

“Pioneer of Modern Information Storage Technology”


Dr. Albert S. Hoagland, one of principal driving forces behind the development of magnetic storage technology, will retire from Santa Clara University by the end of this summer. A distinguished member of the Electrical Engineering faculty for the past twenty-one years, Hoagland is internationally recognized as the “godfather” of modern digital storage technology.

He received his B.S., M.S., and doctorate degrees all in Electrical Engineering from U.C. Berkeley. He worked as a consultant for IBM while a graduate student, and then later joined their staff. With key magnetic head design and recording responsibilities for the Random Access Method of Accounting and Control (RAMAC) disk drive, the first disk drive, he made major contributions to magnetic disk storage technology and the design of magnetic disk drives.

In 1982, IBM asked Hoagland to organize a consortium of disk drive companies that would agree to fund one or two data storage centers in academia. In 1983-84, he worked to establish one at U.C. San Diego and the other at Carnegie Mellon University. However, people in the industry were disappointed that there was no “center” in Santa Clara valley, the heart of the disk drive industry. Since IBM, the largest disk drive company, was situated in south San Jose, Hoagland decided that SCU would be the ideal location.

In 1984, Hoagland founded the Institute for Information Storage Technology (IIST) at SCU. “The IIST mission was essentially to provide the current professionals in the disk drive field a set of graduate courses, short courses, symposia, workshops, etc. so they could keep abreast of the leading-edge technical advances as well as educate new graduates for positions in this field,” explains Hoagland. “IIST support primarily derived from industry in two ways: gift grants from companies and the registration fees generated from our offerings and coming via the technical professional that we served.”

In 2001, Hoagland established the Magnetic Disk Heritage Center (MDHC) to preserve the history of the field. “Magnetic disk storage is the most important technical achievement ever in San Jose. I discovered the original building still existed at 99 Notre Dame, and suddenly saw that an incredible opportunity existed for San Jose: to establish a technology museum featuring magnetic disk storage in the original building where RAMAC was created.” Through his efforts, MDHC succeeded in making the site a City Landmark, achieved an agreement by the city to preserve the original building, and convinced the current lessee, the Superior Court, to approve the placement of large posters in the lobby reflecting the early magnetic disk work that occurred in that building.

In addition, Hoagland is an IEEE Fellow and a past president of the IEEE Computer Society and the American Federation of Information Processing Societies. He has served on the IEEE Board and is a member of the Magnetic Recording Conference Administrative Committee and also the Storage Committee of the Computer History Museum. He is the author of Digital Magnetic Recording and other numerous publications, including an IEEE award-winning paper on magnetic data recording theory and head design. He has received several awards for his work in the field, including the IEEE Centennial Medal and the IBM RAMAC Pioneer Award.

Through the efforts of MDHC the IEEE recently made the RAMAC an IEEE Milestone. A special event celebrating this major honor was held on May 26 at the San Jose City Library. For more details, go to:

Hoagland has been an Electrical Engineering faculty member at SCU since 1984, and will be retiring in September 2005. Nevertheless, he is not planning to spend his retirement relaxing. “My plan when I leave the University is to pursue the RAMAC restoration project as well as try to bring about a technical museum featuring magnetic disk storage at 99 Notre Dame...Beyond that, I have for some time intended to write a book covering the first 50 years of magnetic disk storage…” For more information on Dr. Hoagland, please visit: