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Even 25 years later, the Iomega Zip is unforgettable



  An Iomega Zip drive with a half-inserted drive.
Iomega

The year is 1

995. You are stuck with slow diskettes that only contain 1.44 MB of data. But there is an exciting new technology: Zip drives, which can hold 100 MB and can free you from diskettes!

Now, 25 years later, we look back on Iomega & # 39; s Zip technology and its history. Did you know that some industries still use Zip drives?

Why Zip Drives were Exciting

Again, in 1995, compared to the standard diskette, the Zip drive felt like a revelation! This allowed people to back up their hard drives and easily transfer large files. At launch, it cost around $ 199 (about $ 337 today, when adjusted for inflation), and the disks were sold for $ 19.95 each (about $ 34 today.)

Zip drives were originally available in two versions. One used the parallel printer port of a Windows or DOS PC as an interface. The other used the higher-speed SCSI interface that is common on Apple Macintosh computers.

Zip proved phenomenally successful during the first year on the market. Iomega even struggled to keep up with demand for both disks and disks.

To celebrate his 25th birthday, let's look at what made Zip so fast, how the brand changed over time, and what ultimately killed it.

A stylish design

  A 100 MB Iomega Zip drive with a disk half inserted.
Iomega

Compared to the standards of the day, the industrial design of the original Zip drive felt cool and modern. The deep indigo color stood out in a world of beige PCs and Macs. Small and light, the disc was about 7.2 x 5.3 x 1.5 inches and weighed less than a pound.

The design of Zip was packed with smart details, including two sets of rubber feet, so that people could position the disk vertically or horizontally. You have placed the plug at a right angle. It followed a deep channel to the rear of the device to prevent accidental disconnection while the drive was reading or writing data. You could see the label of a disc inserted without ejecting it thanks to a window on top of the disc.

Iomega later introduced an internal version of the ZIP drive that fits into a standard 5.25-inch drive position, but the external models (shown above) remained more popular.

The original zip disks

  Three Iomega 100 MB zip disks.
Iomega

After formatting Zip & # 39; s original 100 MB disks (in MS-DOS or Windows), approximately 96 MB of data is saved. With dimensions of 4 x 4 x 0.25 inches, they were only slightly larger than the 3.5-inch floppies. They had a hard, robust shell with a spring-loaded metal shutter.

Like the 3.5-inch floppy disk, each Zip disk contained rotating magnetic magnetic media inside. But unlike the floppy disk, this disk was running at a very high 2,968 RPM, enabling much higher data transfer rates.

Three sizes of zip

  The 100 MB Zip drive, the 250 MB Zip drive and the 750 MB Zip drive.
Iomega

During the lifetime, the Zip brand had three disk sizes. After the first 100 MB disk, Iomega released a 250 MB (above, right) in 1999 for $ 199. In 2002, the company launched the Zip 750 (top, middle) for $ 180. This disk used 750 MB disks, but remained backwards compatible with the 100 and 250 MB disks.

With the 750 MB disk, Zip disks exceeded the 650 MB capacity of a CD-R for the first time. This attracted attention in the press, but it was too late to make a big difference in the market.

PocketZip

  The Clik! PocketZip Drive and the Clik! Deck drive.
Iomega

In 1999 Iomega introduced Clik! – a small removable pocket-sized storage system. It used very small (approximately 2 x 2 x 0.7 inch) magnetic floppy disks and equally small disks, including one that fits into a standard PCMCIA card slot. Each disk contained 40 MB of data.

After the "click of death" on the 100 MB Zip drives across the media, Iomega changed the name of the Clik! format to PocketZip in 2000.

The format was intended for use with small personal electronic devices, such as digital cameras & portable music players. However, due to competition from robust, compact flash media cards with no moving parts, Iomega's small size never got off the ground. to build on the Zip technology and the brand, and to diversify its product line. One of the most striking items remains the HipZip (2001). This pocket-sized portable MP3 player used 40 MB PocketZip discs as media. But the lackluster interface software and the fierce competition from hard drive-based players did not make it successful.

FotoShow (2000) – a glorified 250 MB Zip drive with a composite TV output that displays slide shows with still images from Zip disks – was another interesting attempt. It was intended for business presentations and people who wanted to show their family photos on TV. Although it was a smart idea, the clumsy, slow software stopped it.

A graphic design app

  A zip drive on an Apple Power Mac G3.
Apple

In the late 90s and early 90s, various Apple Power Mac G3 and G4 desktop computers included an option for an internal Zip drive. Not long after launch, Zip drives found a great application with graphic designers (who often used Macs). The discs became the de facto standard for transferring illustrations in high resolution between machines or to printers.

After most of the world had forgotten Zip disks, graphic designers still used them often.

ZipCD

  A vintage advertisement for the Iomega ZipCD drive.
Iomega

The price of a single recordable CD-R dropped from $ 100 to $ 10 in the & # 39; 90. By the end of the decade you could get one for just a few cents. Each CD-R contained 650 MB of data – 6.5 times more than the standard 100 MB Zip disk.

Because the competition flared up for cheap CD-R drives, Iomega decided to market its own CD-R drive under the Zip brand.

ZipCD 650 (2000) initially sold well, but soon gained a bad reputation for unreliability. Iomega later sold several other ZipCD and CD-R drives under different brand names, but none could ever conquer the 100 MB Zip drive market.

Which killed Zip drives?

  A CD-R next to a Linksys router
Imation, Linksys

The introduction of widespread, inexpensive CD-R drives and media – which could be read by any standard CD-ROM drive – started it market share of Zip for removable backups. Companies were also starting to install more and more local networks (LAN & # 39; s). LAN & # 39; s enabled large file transfers between machines without any removable media.

Compared to these new options, a proprietary removable floppy disk drive was much less attractive. Additional competitors emerged in the 1970s, including DVD-R discs, broadband internet access, and removable USB sticks. At that time, Zip disks had already become largely irrelevant for most people.

Amazingly, Zip is not completely dead even 25 years later. According to Wikipedia, some airlines still use Zip disks to distribute data updates for aircraft navigation systems. For a while, vintage computer enthusiasts (Atari, Mac, Commodore) often used SCSI Zip drives to transfer data quickly, although it has now largely been replaced by flash media interfaces.

While few people still use Zip media, the format shone in the nineties. So, happy birthday, Zip!

ZIP reminders

Have you used a ZIP drive before? What did you use it for? We would love to hear about your ZIP memories – good, bad or otherwise – in the comments below.


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