You may have heard the term “Startup Nation” to describe Israel’s status as a high-tech hub. Among the innovators who helped establish that reputation was a guy who was so fed up with floppy disks, he was inspired to invent something you may use everyday: the USB flash drive.
Dov Moran, of Ramat Gan, has been described as having an “unsatisfied personality by nature.” He also showed an early aptitude for science, and a fascination for computers. At age sixteen, in 1971, he wrote his first computer program — writing the code with pen and paper. After obtaining a Bachelor’s of Science from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, Dov joined the Israeli Navy for seven years, serving as commander of its advanced microprocessor department, before starting his own computer hardware company, M-Systems.
Still, Dov was unsatisfied. Specifically, he was frustrated with the difficulties of sharing computer files. Floppy disks — the high-tech data-sharing method of its era — could take hours to copy data, had limited storage capacity and not every computer was even equipped with a slot to use them. But after Toshiba invented flash memory in 1987, Dov and his company had a flash of brilliance.
Over the course of a decade, Dov and his team tinkered with flash memory technology. Meanwhile, other tech companies simultaneously began to develop a “universal serial bus” (USB) that could connect devices to computers through one standardized port. By 1999, Dov and M-Systems had succeeded in uniting the two technologies, and filed the first patent for a “USB-based PC flash disk.” In other words, the thumb drive.
The invention revolutionized the computer industry. Compared to floppy disks and their CD successors, USB flash drives were smaller, faster, with far more data storage capacity — and unlike their fragile predecessors, they couldn’t be destroyed by a magnet or a mere scratch. Soon, everyone from IT specialists to college students were using the technology. The floppy disk became obsolete, and Dov became the face of Israeli R&D. In 2006 SanDisk corporation bought M-Systems and its technology for $1.6 billion. Since then, Dov has continued to found new companies, including a mobile phone company whose technology was bought by Google, and operates a venture capital fund.
The next time you pull out your flash drive, take a moment to give thanks to Dov’s “unsatisfied” personality and his resulting drive to solve the unsolvable — which sounds a little like a metaphor for Israel itself. And say a quick “thank goodness” that you don’t have to use a floppy disk!