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IEEE Milestone Event Award

IEEE Milestone in Electrical Engineering and Computing Award

I was invited to attend the award ceremony for this IEEE Award on August 20, at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA.  This Milestone Award was for “The Floating Gate EEPROM, 1976-1978” which was developed at Hughes Microelectronics in Newport Beach.  The award states that the “practicality, reliability, manufacturability and endurance of the Floating Gate EEPROM – an electrically erasable device using a thin gate oxide and the Fowler-Nordheim tunneling for writing and erasing – was proven”.  It goes on to state that this technology was the foundation of flash memory, fostering new classes of portable computing and communication devices.

Dr. Eli Harari

Dr. Eli Harari at the Award Ceremony

The award was presented to Dr. Eli Harari who led the development work at Hughes and then went then on to co-found SanDisk where he led the development of the System Flash architecture.  The System Flash architecture combines a processor, firmware and flash memory to fully emulate a disk drive.  Thus the EEPROM technology developed at Hughes was essential to the development of flash memory which was essential to Solid State Drive (SSD) memories and the Flash Drives that everyone carries around today.  The industry based on these developments is expected to exceed $33 billion in sales in 2012.

In addition to the award presentation to Dr. Eli Harari, everyone in attendance was treated to an in-depth review of Eli’s illustrious history as a physicist, inventor and entrepreneur.  An excellent video was shown tracing Eli’s work from the early development at Hughes through his highly successful developments at SanDisk.  Dr. Gordon Day, IEEE President, described the Milestone Program which includes such notable milestones as the invention of the internet and laser technology.  Following the formal presentation, Eli was interviewed about his work in creating the industry’s first commercial floating gate EEPROM at Hughes through his work with Flash Memory and SSDs at SanDisk.  We were all treated to Eli’s insight in the direction of both the technical and business aspects of these major developments.  Eli was co-founder and former CEO and chairman of SanDisk Corporation.  He retired from SanDisk in 2010.


Dr. Tom Toombs

Dr. Tom Toombs at the Award Ceremony

Dr. Tom Toombs was also present at the presentation.  Tom was the director of the Hughes Research Center at Hughes, Newport Beach during the time of Eli’s work there.  He had the foresight to provide an environment in which Eli could develop his work.   Frank Bohac, CSS Design Director and CSS co-founder, and I were also with the Research Center during that time.  Frank and I started our involvement with EEPROM in the Research Center and continued that work at the Hughes Microelectronics Division in the same facility.

The following pictures were taken on the patio of the Computer History Museum prior to the award ceremony where an excellent buffet was provided.  This provided an excellent opportunity for old friends to meet and discuss experiences.


Dr. Harari & Keith Shelton


Dr. Harari with Keith Shelton at the Award Ceremony


Dr. Toombs & Monty Hoskins


Dr. Toombs Talking with Monty Hoskins at the Award Ceremony

(Monty was also at Hughes during Eli”s work)