Hard Drive! (As the Disc Turns)
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4 of 4 found the following review helpful:
Gordon's Way Mar 02, 2008
By Thomas M. Coughlin
"Hard Drive! As the Disk Turns" is a memoir of a hard working scientist/engineer. It is a modern story exploring the life, wry humor and inspirations of a man who played an important role in the industry both in his technical accomplishments and in his help and mentoring of others.
The book reminds me at times of "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" and "The Soul of the Machine." In this book we get a rare glimpse of the philosophical development of a technologist and the day to day opportunities and challenges at that proto-typical Silicon Valley company in the 1980's, Seagate Technology.
Many of the interesting stories in technology, like ancient mythology, have been passed down by word of mouth or an occasional short essay. Gordon gives the reader a feeling of being there in the thick of the day to day crises and short-term victories common to a fast moving young company.
Seagate's way was Gordon's way and in many ways a noble way. If more people would "sneak around behind someone's back...and when he isn't looking do him a favor. Help him in some way. If discovered give someone else the credit" there would be a lot less conflict and a lot fewer paranoid people.
The book is well worth reading for its interesting experiences, characters and unusual humanity and insight. Do read this and find out for yourself how our lives have changed...as the disk turns.
4 of 4 found the following review helpful:
The Start of the Information and Communications Revolution Feb 09, 2008
By Guy Longobardo
Hard Drive! (As the Disc Turns), is a delightful read, difficult to put down. Hughes' chapters are each an individual story, which usually has one important point to make. And Hughes makes those points clearly and succinctly. This adventure novel is a must read for economists, engineers, engineering scientists, PC users in general, and as a matter of fact anyone that enjoys a good adventure story or two.
In the book Hughes tells about the successes, and also the failures, of Seagate Technology, a Silicon Valley company which in 1980 invented the magnetic hard drive for personal computers. But this is not a technical book about hard drives. It is rather the a story of how Al Shugart, Seagate's charismatic founder, devised a different technological business model than those of older technological companies like IBM and Japanese companies, and so introduced mass commodity marketing of computer and information products. This led to the phenomenal price/performance improvements we have today and will carry on well into the future.
Earlier hard drives were 14" in diameter, made mainly for IBM or IBM-compatible mainframes. Seagate's 1980 product and its successively smaller successors were used on PCs and opened the age of "computers for all". There are billions of these small hard drives world-wide today, and they are found, ever smaller and smaller, not only in PCs but increasingly in consumer products, like video cameras, GPS for automobiles, even iPods. Drives today hold hundreds of thousands of megabytes, far exceeding Seagate's original 5 megabyte 5.25" drive.
The book also tells the story of a scientist/engineer/researcher/problem solver and business man, Hughes, who played an important technical role in Seagate's success. Hughes intertwines adventures in his personal life during his tenure at Seagate, like power boat trips up the Colorado River rapids in the Grand Canyon, flying his private plane, and his honeymoon to the Dolomites in Italy, where he and his wife skied down a narrow cleft in a Dolomitic massif, hundreds and hundreds of meters down to rocks below, where to see the trail was to look vertically down between one's skis, and the last words of his leader before tipping forward were "Don't fall here!"
Hughes describes Seagate's research/development/engineering/manufacturing philosophy as "Cowboy Company" mentality compared to the FUD mentality (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) of East Coast and Asian companies. The secret to success of that Silicon Valley cowboy philosophy was to simultaneously conduct product design and manufacturing, a risky business which might get products to market first, or instead quickly produce millions of dollars of scrap unworking drives. Many companies did not survive in that risky push to bring smaller and more powerful drives to market. The risks were enormous, product margins small, but the reward for getting to market first was great. This is true capitalism at work.
East Coast companies like the Digital Equipment Corporation, had a philosophy of careful and secret research, development, product design, hand-made prototypes, and finally a slow production ramp up in small volumes.
Hughes' comments on U. S. tax policy are devastating when he points out that lower labor costs were not why Seagate moved its factories to Singapore. Singapore's tax forgiveness allowed Seagate to drive industry profit margins so low that they forced every other drive company to move their factory out of the U.S. to Singapore, to survive.
Hughes calls for an internationally consistent tax policy that could help workers all over the world. He notes that Mercedes, Honda, BMW, Toyota and others manufacture cars today in the US using US workers. He notes that industry is leaving California (as they did my NY State years ago) because California has become unfriendly to manufacturing.
Dr. Guy Longobardo, Bronxville, NY
2 of 2 found the following review helpful:
Beautiful novel Sep 14, 2012
I bought and read the book back in 2009. I still remember the plot and sub-stories, the feeling of joy while reading, and the experiences. Yes, it felt like experiences even thogh I was just the... reader :) I beleive that being a hi-tech and technology person made me better relate to the stories and novel.
Today the book is sitting comfortably on my shelf, together with other top-notch books and articles. Highly recommended.
A pretty terrible read.... Sep 24, 2012
By Anthony Iannone
I really wanted to like this book.
I am fascinated with the history of computers, especially personal computers; I own piles of books on the subject, and was excited when I found this title.... what could be better than an engineer's inside view of hard drive technology and the companies involved through the 1980's and 90's? Alas, the book I purchased included none of the juicy bits (no pun intended) that I was hoping for, but was instead a completely disorganized, difficult to follow, and possibly partially fabricated auto-biographical mess.
The book itself is rife with factual inaccuracies, unannounced and difficult to figure out jumps around the time line, and chapters of wishy-washy metaphysical enlightenment garbage. Of the 300 pages in the book, only about 25 of them are actually about hard drive technologies, or the people and companies that brought us fast, cheap disk storage in the 80's and 90's. Instead, we read about how attractive the protagonist's wife is, how much he liked flying his private aircraft, how he 'found God', and a lot of stuff of almost no interest to this reader.
A good editor could have shortened this book by about 50%, and helped the author to include more interesting and factual information; it is clear that the author was in the right place at the right time to shed a lot of light about the storage technology developments and companies that made computer ubiquitious today. Unfortunately, instead of concentrating on the noteworthy, the author chose to spend most of his time on non sequiturs.
An 'Accidental Empires' this is not - I can't recommend this book at all, not even for the hard core technology historian / geek. I don't trash a literary work lightly, but I really do want my money back on this one.