Flash Memory Summit
Why Attend
Why Attend

Program At-a-Glance
View Program
At-A-Glance

Register
Proceedings

Press Room
Press Releases


Samsung

Lifetime Achievement Award - 2015

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

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.

  • Dan Auclair: SVP of Engineering (Bob Norman’s boss)
  • Eli Harari: CEO and Co-Founder
  • Bob Norman: Dir. of System Engineering
  • James McNamara: GRiD Sr. Hardware Engineer
  • Jeff Hawkins, GRiD VP of Research
  • (crouching in front) John Mangan: Firmware Engineer

The first SSD

SSD front
SSD PCBt

  • 1991 SunDisk Press Release about a PCMCIA SSD (completed a few months after the ATA SSD), and it includes the signatures of Bob Norman, Eli Harari and others
  • US Patent No. 5,297,148
    • Bob Norman is an inventor on this patent (as are Eli Harari and Sanjay Mehrotra)
    • Fig. 1A from the patent illustrates the Lifetime Achievement Award since it shows a Controller managing Flash Memory (within dashed lines at upper right) in a computer system (the remainder of the image)
    • The first sentence of the patent's Abstract states that the invention describes how flash memory can be used to emulate a disk drive
    • The priority date of this patent is April 13, 1989
Patent Figure 1A PaTNED ABSTRACT