BY JENNY GOLDSBERRY
David Norton remembers the day Sputnik I launched into space in 1957. Above all, he remembers President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s remarks 20 days later. The President spoke at a ceremony, presenting the first Atoms for Peace Award.
“The rapid growth of science,” Eisenhower said, “now gives men unprecedented power for discovery in the realm of outer space and mind and spirit.” During his presidency, NASA began, and Dr. James. R. Killian became the first Presidential Science Advisor.
David heard a call to college in the president’s words. He studied mechanical engineering at Utah State University. Then, he went on to get a master’s degree in the same subject. He also received his doctorate just before starting a job with IBM in Tucson, Arizona. At the time, he worked on what came to be known as the Jaz drive. A man named David Bailey also worked on the same project. The two Davids became fast friends, because Bailey was also a USU alumnus. Bailey had bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering.
IBM terminated their project after some time. As a result, Bailey approached Norton and asked him if he’d ever thought of starting his own company. Together, they launched what was originally called Databyte for about a month, but which later became Iomega in 1980. Their first order of business was developing computer storage; however, they also needed funding.
Iomega made a pitch to David Dunn. He is an accomplished venture capitalist, even today. He saw potential in the new company and agreed to be among their first investors. There was one condition, though: Dunn did not want the company to be headquartered in Utah. Since he had a bias against members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he thought it would be “too much of one thing.”
On the other hand, Norton was adamant about bringing Iomega to Roy. A third friend who joined in the venture, Rod Linton, also agreed. So, David Dunn caved in on his ultimatum but asked that the company do their best to recruit hires outside the Latter Day Saints faith to promote diversity. Under those circumstances, they made a deal and founded Iomega on the corner of 4000 S and 1900 W. Dunn became the Iomega Board Chairman.
Iomega’s first product was a continuation of their abandoned project, the Bernoulli Box; this was a high-capacity disk drive named after an 18th-century Swiss mathematician, Daniel Bernoulli. At the time, the only high-capacity disk drive available was a five-and-a-half-inch, hard-disk drive known as Winchester. Winchesters were vulnerable to minute particles of dirt. If any particle of dirt lodged itself between the magnetic head that reads the data and the disk that holds it, the disk would “head crash” causing total loss of information. Bernoulli’s physics, however, enabled Iomega engineers to design a spinning disk that remained infinitesimally close to the magnetic head, which could bend away from a threatening dirt particle, let it pass by, and keep the head from crashing into the disk. Moreover, the Bernoulli disk was flexible, and more data could be squeezed onto the disk.
The design was revolutionary, and that was just the start. They also created the zip drive. By 1983, the company went public, raising $21.7 million in an initial public offering and generated $7 million in sales. Soon, it was Utah’s largest high-tech firm earning billions. Iomega merged with Lenovo, and both Davids went on to start more businesses.