RIP Al Shugart
In all the romantic folklore ever put forth about the history of Silicon Valley–some of it even true!–one of the VAR Guy’s favorite personalities was disk drive pioneer Al Shugart. Sadly, Shugart passed away last week near his home in Monterey, California, after a short illness.
He was such a fixture in Silicon Valley even after he stopped running Seagate Technology, the company he co-founded in 1979, that it’s hard to imagine not being able to hear his gruff voice bark “Shugart” when he answered his own office phone. It could be 7 in the morning or 9 at night, and you had a damn good chance of getting Al on the phone to respond to a reporter’s inquiry.
If you could imagine somebody being impatient, profane, confrontational and as un-politically correct as you can get away with, and yet being a hell of a lot of fun to spend time with, then you knew Al. He hated lawyers and politicians, and he was known to chew out a reporter or two; I think he considered it good sport. He ran a campaign to elect his dog to political office to make a statement about taxes and “bad government,” and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.
Al made his bones in this business as the so-called “golden boy” of IBM’s groundbreaking disk storage development program in the early 1950s, then helped put Memorex on the storage industry map in the late 1960s. He co-founded Shugart Associates and helped make the OEM disk drive industry a veritable playground in the 1970s and 1980s, but after a clash with investors–Al was never a fan of authority figures–he left and ran a bar down in Santa Cruz.
But when he, Finis Conner and three others started the company that came to be known as Seagate, he did more than make a lot of people a whole bundle of money; he helped birth an industry. We’ll miss ya, Al.