Born in Los Angeles, he graduated from the University of Redlands, receiving a degree in engineering physics.
Shugart was married to Esther Marrs (née Bell), the mother of Shugart"s three children, from August 1951 until August 1973. Shugart died on December 12, 2006 in Monterey, California of complications from heart surgery he had undergone six weeks earlier. He began his career at International Business Machines Corporation in San Jose, California.
He worked on the International Business Machines Corporation 305 RAMAC, and rose through a series of increasingly important positions to become the Direct Access Storage Product Manager, responsible for its disk storage products.
International Business Machines Corporation"s most profitable businesses at that time. Among the groups reporting to Shugart was the team that invented the floppy disk.
Shugart joined Memorex in 1969 as Vice President of its Equipment Division and led the development of its 3660 (compatible with International Business Machines Corporation 2314) and 3670 (compatible with International Business Machines Corporation 3330) disk storage subsystems. His team also developed the Memorex 650, one of the first commercially available Floppy disk drives.
He founded Shugart Associates in February 1973 and resigned as Chief Executive Officer in October 1974.
The company was later acquired by Xerox. Then he and Finis Conner started Shugart Technology in 1979, which soon changed its name to Seagate Technology. With Shugart as Chief Executive Officer, Seagate became the world’s largest independent manufacturer of disk drives and related components.
In July 1998, Shugart resigned his positions with Seagate.
In 1996 he launched an unsuccessful campaign to elect Ernest, his Bernese Mountain Dog, to Congress. Shugart later wrote about that experience in a book, Ernest Goes to Washington (Well, Not Exactly).
He backed a failed ballot initiative in 2000 to give California voters the option of choosing "none of the above" in elections.
Married Rita Shugart. Children: Chris, Teri, Jill, Mia, Dana.