Robert "Bob" Norman is the recipient of the 2015 FMS Lifetime Achievement Award. He was the key system architect of "System-Flash," the hardware and firmware that has made both NAND and NOR flash a practical medium for data storage throughout the computer industry.
System-Flash uses a processor and firmware to manage the flash cells using techniques including wear leveling, error correction, low-stress write/erase and the Flash Translation Layer. By implementing these in a device having a standard storage interface, flash-based devices became plug-compatible replacements for disk drives. System-Flash remains the foundation for the flash industry by enabling mobile computing and ubiquitous access to personal data.
Eli Harari, co-founder of SanDisk and retired CEO, said "In 1988, I recruited Bob Norman as our first engineer beyond the founders because he was one of the best disk drive controller architects in the industry. Bob taught current CEO Sanjay Mehrotra and me about disk drives, and we taught Bob about Flash Memory. Bob captured our combined efforts into a document that was the blueprint for the world’s first Flash SSD. Today’s award is a long overdue and well-deserved recognition of Bob Norman’s enormous contribution to our industry."
Bob Norman also pioneered other important advances in disk drive controllers, error correction and servo control while working at SanDisk, Micron, StorageTek, Texas Instruments and AMD. With 199 issued patents and many more pending, Bob remains a prolific inventor.
SunDisk Team 1991
This 1991 SunDisk (now SanDisk) photo shows Bob Norman (the blond-haired engineer with glasses in the middle of the photograph). This group photo was taken when Sundisk was delivering their 20MB 2.5 inch ATA SSD to GRiD for use in their GRiDPad pen computer. This was the world's first Flash Memory SSD. Jeff Hawkins (at the far right) was GRiD's VP of Research at the time, and he went on to found Palm Computing and Handspring. Shortly after their contract with GRiD, SunDisk landed a contract with IBM to deliver 10,000 SSDs.