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Shugart Associates

Shugart Associates was a computer peripheral manufacturer, famous for introducing the floppy disk to the microcomputer market. They were later purchased by Xerox and the brand name was discontinued in the mid-1980s.

Alan Shugart was an IBM manager destined for great things in 1969 when he was transferred from IBM's San Jose, California disk research center to IBM headquarters in Harrison, NY and promoted to director of engineering. Within two weeks he quit, and was hired within a few days by Memorex where he could remain in California.

As many as 200 IBM engineers decided to follow Shugart to his new post, where they went on to develop the 800kb 8-inch floppy disk in 1971. After a few years at Memorex, Shugart decided to strike out on his own, and in 1972 he gathered up some venture capital and started Shugart Associates. After two years the seed money was gone and Shugart had no product to show for it. Official company documents state that Shugart quit, but he tells the story another way, that he was fired by the venture capitalists. Shugart went on with Finis Conner to found Shugart Technology in 1979, whose name was changed to Seagate Technology in response to a legal challenge by Xerox.

In 1976, Jim Adkisson, a Shugart engineer, sat down for lunch with a customer who complained that the 8-inch drive was too big for the personal computers then emerging in the nascent S-100 market. When Adkisson asked what the size should be, the customer pointed to a napkin on the table and said, "About that size." Adkisson returned to the Shugart lab with the napkin and designed the 5.25-inch minifloppy drive, introduced in 1976 as the 110kb SA-400. The SA-400 and related models became their best selling products, with shipments of up to 4000 drives per day. The company turned to Matsushita in Japan to make the drives, starting that company on its way to becoming the largest floppy drive manufacturer in the world.

In 1979, Shugart introduced SASI (Shugart Associates System Interface) to the computing world. Work to submit SASI as a standard to ANSI began in 1982; the interface was subsequently renamed SCSI (Small Computer System Interface), since ANSI standards can't contain corporate names. The first standard process completed in 1986 with ANSI standard X3.131-1986 (popularly known as SCSI-1) as the result. There is some anecdotal evidence that SASI was actually invented in 1973 or 1974 while Alan Shugart was still part of the original Shugart Associates. Several of the engineers who worked on SASI left in 1981 to form host adapter maker Adaptec, a result of Shugart management not wanting to build SASI controllers for their SA-1000 hard drive.