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The IEEE, the world’s largest professional association for the advancement of technology, named Mason L. Williams on Dec. 27 as the recipient of its 2007 Reynold B. Johnson Data Storage Device Technology Award.

The international award recognizes Williams’ contributions to the modeling and design of high-density magnetic recording technology in areas such as disk properties, fly height and disk thickness.

Williams recently retired from Hitachi Global Storage Technologies in San Jose, Calif., after working for 32 years for IBM.

The award recognizes outstanding contributions to the advancement of information storage, with emphasis on technical contributions in computer data storage device technology. It will be presented to Williams on Jan. 8 at the 10th Joint Magnetism and Magnetic Materials (INTERMAG) Conference in Baltimore.

During his career, Williams played a key role in advancements in areal density (bytes per square) of hard disk drives, including spin-valve read-head technology and perpendicular recording.

More than three decades ago, he provided a simple model of the factors limiting this storage capacity and helped guide the development of thin-film disk drives. Today he holds several patents for write head designs.

Williams’ many contributions to magnetic recording include development of the transition length model, analytic description of “roll off curve,” bubble-memory architectures, understanding of the fundamental and practical density limits of magnetic recording readback with inductive heads and, most recently, planar write head design. He is widely published, holds several U.S. patents and was named an IBM Master Inventor.

At IBM in San Jose he worked in a variety of research and development positions. Only six months into his career, he teamed with Larry Comstock to develop the Williams-Comstock formula, a critical design tool for magnetic recording systems.

Despite more than 30 years of rapid progress and change in magnetic recording technology, the formula’s estimate of “transition length”–often referred to as the “a-parameter”–which depends on the properties of the media and fly height, continues to be used as a basic parameter in designing recording systems.

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When he joined Hitachi Global Storage Technologies in 2002, Williams conducted fundamental research and performed modeling of magnetic recording physics and system integration. He retired from Hitachi in 2005.

Williams, an IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) Fellow, holds a bachelor of science degree in engineering from the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., and master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

The IEEE, based in Piscataway, N.J., is the world’s largest technical professional society with 365,000 members in 160 countries. It is a leading authority on a variety of areas ranging from aerospace systems, computers and telecommunications to biomedical engineering, electric power and consumer electronics.

The IEEE publishes 30 percent of the world’s literature in the electrical and electronics engineering and computer science fields, and has developed more than 900 active industry standards. The organization also sponsors or co-sponsors nearly 400 international technical conferences each year.

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