Although many researchers in the 1960s hoped to use LSI techniques to batch fabricate magnetic read/write heads for data storage, building these devices entailed a much different set of requirements than LSI was addressing in circuit chip fabrication. Electroplating through a mask proved to be the way to pattern the magnetic elements and copper conductors of a thin film head, but this technology had to be integrated with a host of additional inventions to manufacture the device. This paper outlines the key inventions that had to be made as the head evolved from a laboratory demonstration to a manufactured product. The basic processes that were used to build the first thin film heads are still used to fabricate the heads in today's magnetic storage systems. The technology has also found its way into such diverse microelectronic applications as MEMS, NEMS, electronic packaging, semiconductor chip fabrication and, more recently, solar devices. The success of electroplating as one of the key processes in manufacturing the head has put a new focus on electrochemistry in both academia and industry. © The Electrochemical Society.