Reynold B. Johnson: Father of the Disk Drive Dies


Palo Alto native Reynold B. Johnson, creator of the Hard Drive joined his creator on Tuesday, September 15, 1998 due to complications from Melanomic Cancer. He was 92.

He is survived by his wife Beatrice, sons Philip and David, his sister Signe Broberg, brothers Leroy and Donovan, and four grandchildren.

Main text

Hired by International Business Machines (IBM) back in 1934, he originally began work at their Columbia University and Endicott, New York laboratories. He was reassigned to the San Jose, California laboratory in 1952 in order to lead a 15 man team tasked to create more effective data storage devices for computers. The final product of this project was realized in 1956 when IBM shipped the first Disk Drive, the RAMAC, a data storage disk composed of 50 24-inch diameter double-sided aluminum magnetic disks,

to their client, Crown Zellerbach. It was this invention that totally changed the face of San Jose, California during the time. With the emergence of the RAMAC, punch cards and magnetic tape storage devices were rendered obsolete and allowed computers to be redesigned over time into the more familiar desktop PC and notebook platforms that we are familiar with today. Johnson retired his services from IBM in 1972.

Born in Minnesota, he completed his college education at the University of Minnesota with a Bachelor of Science degree in Educational Administration. His early career began in the 1930’s when the sprightly fresh graduate taught high school in Michigan. A career path that led him to invent the first pencil sensory standardized test form that could be read by an electronic testing machine. After IBM bought the rights to what became known as the IBM 805 Test Scoring Machine, the company then hired him to work in the New York office.

According to William B. Blankenship, ” For his outstanding work, Johnson won the 1971 Machine Design Award of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). The Award cited his “many outstanding contributions to the educational and data processing fields through his numerous ingenious inventions and innovations dating back to the development of the first electric test-scoring machine.”

Awarded the National Medal of Technology in 1986 by then-president Ronald Reagan, he was also inducted into the 1992 Silicon Valley Engineering Hall of Fame, he is listed as having been a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, aside from holding the title of IBM fellow. His other accomplishments as listed by the association includes his having received the 1970 ASME Machine Design Award, the 1986 National Medal of Technology Award, the 1988 IEEE Computer Pioneer Award, and the 1989 Magnetics Society Award for Information Storage.


At the time of his death, the prolific inventor held a total of 90 patents ranging from the familiar Talk To Me Toys that he helped create for Fisher-Price Toys, the VCR technology he invented in cooperation with Sony – Japan, and a host of other education and computer-related equipment. But to everyone in the world of computer technology, he will always be known as the visionary Father of the Hard Disk Drive.

Work Cited

Blankenship. William D. Rey Johnson: A Full Life, A Fuller Future. 1971. Web.

Fisher, Lawrence M. Reynold Johnson, 92, Pioneer In Computer Hard Disk Drives. 2008. Web.

Murray, Dan. Reynold Johnson, Inventor. 1998. Web.

“Mr. Reynold B. Johnson.” Silicone Valley Engineering Hall of Fame For 1992. Web.

“Reynold B. Johnson”. Wikipedia. 2008. Web.

Find out your order's cost