SanDisk founder Eli Harari to get top US tech medal
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SanDisk founder Eli Harari to get top US tech medal

The world’s largest flash storage firm has roots in Israel, and one of its pioneers is recognized for his contributions

Ronit Karpel, SanDisk's Director of Personnel for Israel and the EMEA region, poses at Israel's Superland amusement park, where the company threw a 25th anniversary party for employees and their families last year (Photo credit: Courtesy)
Ronit Karpel, SanDisk's Director of Personnel for Israel and the EMEA region, poses at Israel's Superland amusement park, where the company threw a 25th anniversary party for employees and their families last year (Photo credit: Courtesy)

Flash memory has revolutionized the data storage industry, and one of the top pioneers of that revolution, Dr. Eli Harari, is to be honored by the US for his contributions to the fields of science and technology. Harari, founder and retired chairman & CEO of SanDisk, is to receive a National Medal of Technology and Innovation for his work in “bringing flash memory to enterprise storage and transforming the data center by helping enterprises achieve high performance, low-latency data access and scalability,” SanDisk said, after Harari and five other winners met with US President Barack Obama, who announced the winners at the White House last week. The medals will be presented at a gala event later this year, the White House said.

Harari, along with the other winners, has “expanded our understanding of the world, made invaluable contributions to their fields, and helped improve countless lives,” Obama said. “Our nation has been enriched by their achievements and by all the scientists and technologists across America dedicated to discovery, inquiry, and invention.”

First awarded in 1985, the National Medal of Technology and Innovation (NMTI) is considered the highest honor for technological achievement in the US, bestowed by the President of the United States on America’s leading innovators. Candidates can be nominated by anyone, and a committee of top tech officials makes the decision, forwarding it to the president for his approval.

SanDisk, now headquartered in California, was started by Harari and Jack Yuan and Sanjay Mehrotra 26 years ago, and most of its research and development was done in Israel. SanDisk was the first to come up with a commercial flash memory product, setting standards now in use across a wide range of digital devices, from computers to cameras to smartphones and tablets. SanDisk holds more than 5,000 patents worldwide, and has received just about every tech award and recognition out there.

SanDisk founder Dr. Eli Harari (Photo credit: Courtesy)
SanDisk founder Dr. Eli Harari (Photo credit: Courtesy)

Flash is an increasingly popular alternative for data storage and archiving, replacing the more traditional optical storage systems. With no moving parts, flash storage media are much less prone to breaking down, require less power, and can be scaled down in size to a far greater extent than the alternative. Without flash storage, it’s unlikely that smartphones, tablets, MP3 players, digital cameras, or any of the other consumer devices so common today would even exist. Although SanDisk did not invent flash, it was the first company to perfect its use for the many consumer and business applications it is now used for – and much of that early research and development was done at SanDisk’s R&D centers in Israel. Today, SanDisk has about 6,000 employees, 700 of them in Israel,

As such, SanDisk is an Israeli success – but it’s also an American achievement, a top company official said. “The history of how flash storage was invented, developed, and made available on a global scale is largely the history of SanDisk Corporation — an American success story that like many others began with one person and a vision. We’re now connected in ways that would not be possible without the technologies that Eli helped pioneer, and we’re well positioned to take on new market segments such as enterprise data centers,” said Mehrotra, co-founder, president and CEO of SanDisk.

Agreeing with Obama, Mehrotra said Harari is the man who made the flash revolution happen. “Eli has had a profound impact on the entire technology landscape, and in doing so, has truly changed the world as we experience it today,” he said. “His lifelong intellectual and technical achievements are well-deserving of the National Medal of Technology and Innovation.”

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