Storage Soup

Apr 10 2012   11:49AM GMT

Toshiba takes bow for inventing NAND flash, wasn’t always so


Written by: John Hilliard

Toshiba America Electronic Components Inc., is giving itself a self-high-five for the invention of NAND flash 25 years ago – a technology that, among other uses, allows customers to store critical data in bananas or cake-worthy celebrations of industrial design.

But Toshiba isn’t giving any kudos to the man credited with the invention, perhaps because he represents a part of the story the vendor would rather forget.

In the company’s press release, Scott Nelson, a Toshiba vice president, called NAND flash a “game changer” and boasted “The cost/performance of NAND flash continues to stand the test of time. NAND flash is leading the way to thin and light hardware, has made the mobility of content possible, and is enabling ‘green’ storage in the data centers.”

According to market research firm IC Insights, NAND flash sales are expected to hit $32.8 billion this year, an 11% hike from 2011, and it may top DRAM sales for the first time.

But many anniversaries include awkward memories that everyone wants to forget, and this has one for Toshiba. Toshiba’s awkward memory here is its relationship with one of the experts credited with the invention of the technology, Fujio Masuoka. And no, Masuoka is not mentioned in Toshiba’s announcement.

According to, Toshiba tried for a while to not take credit for inventing flash storage, gave the credit to Intel and downplayed the work of Masuoka in developing NAND flash.

“For his work, Masuoka says, he was awarded a few hundred dollars from Toshiba and only after a Japanese newspaper gave his new type of memory an award of invention of the year in 1988,” Forbes reported in 2002, also noting that Toshiba “disputes” Masuoka’s account (the company said he was promoted).

The dispute landed Toshiba and Masuoka in court. Masuoka sued Toshiba in 2004 for about $9 million, according to Business Week, and the case was settled a few years later for about $750,000.

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