Perpendicular magnetic recording, developed by Tohoku University Professor Emeritus Shunichi Iwasaki at the Research Institute of Electrical Communication in 1977, has been recognized as an IEEE Milestone.
The award honors technical achievements that have benefitted humanity through their impact on industry and society.
"An IEEE Milestone is a very great honour. There are only 238 of them in the world now and Tohoku University has three of them, so this is a very important, very good recognition," said Thomas Coughlin, President-elect of IEEE, at the plaque presentation ceremony in Sendai on October 9.
"Perpendicular magnetic recording is very deserving of an IEEE Milestone because most of the world's information is stored on hard disk drives, and all the hard disk drives use perpendicular magnetic recording," he added. "So basically, all the data that feeds the Artificial Intelligence models, all the data that is collected by science and engineering work, most of that end up on hard disk drives."
Iwasaki's invention, which allows for a more efficient, high-density recording on hard disk drives, was commercialized in 2005 and soon became hugely popular. "It was actually a difficult time and we faced many challenges during our research," Iwasaki said. "But I had a vision of a data society, so we persevered."
In his speech, Tohoku University President Hideo Ohno said that the Milestone award underscores the importance of "practice-oriented research and education," a tradition at the university which has guided its researchers for more than a century.
"The research on perpendicular magnetic recording is widely acknowledged as a pioneer in open innovation, where this groundbreaking work at Tohoku University initiated a wave of innovation in both academia and industry," he said. "After many years of dedicated research and development, we have reached a point where all magnetic data storage uses perpendicular magnetic recording. It has become the foundation of our current digital data society, significantly enhancing the quality of life worldwide."
Following the plaque presentation ceremony and celebratory lunch, guests were treated to lectures by the chairman of the IEEE Japan Council History Committee Isao Shirakawa, Western Digital Japan's Hisashi Takano and Tohoku University Professor Yoichiro Tanaka. Both Takano and Tanaka were former students of Iwasaki.
IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) is the world's largest technical professional organization dedicated to advancing technology. Its Milestones programme was established in 1983 to honor significant technical achievements and innovation, and to raise public awareness of the engineers who created them.
To be eligible as a Milestone, the achievement must be at least 25 years old and must have involved a unique solution to an engineering problem.
Tohoku University has received three IEEE Milestone honours, the most among academic institutions in Japan. Plaques commemorating each of the three Milestones - the Yagi-Uda antenna, self-complementarity in antennas and the perpendicular magnetic recording - are on permanent display at the Tohoku University Archives.
- Professor Emeritus Shunichi Iwasaki (oral history):
Research Institute of Electrical Communication