Reynold B. Johnson

National Medal of Technology and Innovation

Computer Science

Introduction and development of magnetic disk storage for computers that provided access to virtually unlimited amounts of information in fractions of a second and is the basis for time sharing systems and storage of millions of records. Over $10 billion in annual sales and over 100,000 jobs arose from this development.

Introduction and development of magnetic disk storage for computers that provided access to virtually unlimited amounts of information in fractions of a second and is the basis for time sharing systems and storage of millions of records. Over $10 billion in annual sales and over 100,000 jobs arose from this development.

VIEW STATISTICS +

Birth
July 16, 1906
Age Awarded
80
Country of Birth
USA
Key Contributions
All Disk Data Storage Technology
Awarded by
Ronald Wilson Reagan
Education
University of Minnesota
Areas of Impact
Communication & Information
Affiliations
IBM Corporation
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Reynold B. Johnson's first notable invention would be familiar to anyone who has taken a standardized multiple-choice test. In 1932, when he was a high school science teacher in Michigan, Johnson devised and built an electromechanical device for automatically checking and grading pencil-marked multiple-choice tests, but he had no initial success marketing the idea to manufacturers.

In 1934, I.B.M. reassessed Johnson's invention and hired him as an engineer—his first invention is now used everywhere for standardized testing. With IBM, he produced hundreds of inventions, many relating to the handling, punching and reading of key-punch cards, then the primary means of storing computer data.  IBM tasked Johnson and his research team with inventing more efficient ways of storing data. Johnson turned to magnetic discs, which he thought in time could be made smaller and more reliable. He developed the first computer hard drive with magnetic disk storage, which weighed a ton and stored 5 megabytes of data.

Johnson’s invention sparked a prolific industry. Today, more than 6,000 people are working at the 356-acre site of IBM’s San Jose Systems Development Division laboratory and Systems Manufacturing Division plant, where their main mission continues to be developing and producing direct access storage equipment for computers. 

By Jennifer Santisi

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