Mason L. Williams

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Mason L. Williams
Mason L. Williams
Associated organizations
Fields of study
Magnetic recording


Mason Lamar Williams has made significant contributions to the understanding and development of digital magnetic recording. His key accomplishments include the creation of a critical model that identified factors limiting hard disk drive storage capacity and guided the development of thin-film disk drives. His insights were key to progress in areal density (bytes per square inch on the disk), including spin-valve read-head technology and perpendicular recording.

Within the first six months of his career, while working at IBM, Dr. Williams teamed with R. Larry Comstock, an IBM engineering manager, to develop the Williams-Comstock formula – to this day, a critical design tool for magnetic recording systems.

Despite more than 30 years of rapid progress and change in magnetic recording technology, the Willams-Comstock formula’s estimate of “transition length”—often referred to as the “a-parameter”— remains valid and continues to be used as a basic parameter in designing recording systems. Areal density progress in the industry has resulted in disk drives being used in set-top boxes and portable digital audio player as well as computer systems.