Iomega Zip 100 drive logo
Zip 100 drive
The Zip drive is a removable floppy disk storage system that was introduced by Iomega in late 1994. Considered medium-to-high-capacity at the time of its release, Zip disks were originally launched with capacities of 100 MB, then 250 MB, and then 750 MB.
The format became the most popular of the superfloppy products which filled a niche market in the late 1990s portable storage market. However, it was never popular enough to replace the 3.5-inch floppy disk. The final versions of the disk reached 750 MB, the capacity available on rewritable CDs, which was far surpassed by the later rewritable DVDs. USB flash drives ultimately proved to be the most popular rewritable storage medium among the general public due to the near-ubiquity of USB ports on personal computers and soon after because of the far greater storage sizes offered. Zip drives fell out of favor for mass portable storage during the early 2000s. The Zip brand later covered internal and external CD writers known as Zip-650 or Zip-CD, which have no relation to the Zip drive.
The Zip drive is a superfloppy disk drive that has all of the 3.5-inch floppy drive's convenience, but with much greater capacity options and with performance that is much improved over a standard floppy drive. However, Zip disk housings are much thicker than those of floppy disks.
In the Zip drive, the heads fly in a manner similar to a hard disk drive. A linear actuator uses the voice coil actuation technology related to modern hard disk drives. The Zip disk uses smaller media (about the size of a 9 cm (3.5-inch) microfloppy, but more ruggedised, rather than the Compact Disc-sized Bernoulli media), and a simplified drive design that reduced its overall cost.
The original Zip drive has a maximum data transfer rate of about 1 megabyte/second (comparable to 6× CD-R; although some connection methods are slower, down to approximately 50 kB/second for maximum-compatibility parallel "nibble" mode) and a seek time of 28 milliseconds on average, compared to a standard 1.44 MB floppy's typical 500 kbit/s (62.5 kB/s) transfer rate and several-hundred-millisecond average seek time. Typical desktop hard disk drives from mid-to-late 1990s revolve at 5400 rpm and have transfer rates from 3 MB/s to 10 MB/s or more, and average seek times from 20 ms to 14 ms or less.
Early-generation Zip drives were in direct competition with the SuperDisk or LS-120 drives, which hold 20% more data and can also read standard 3.5-inch 1.44 MB diskettes, but they have a lower data-transfer rate due to lower rotational speed. The rivalry was over before the dawn of the USB era.
Zip drives were produced in multiple interfaces including:
Parallel port external Zip drives are actually SCSI drives with an integrated Parallel-to-SCSI controller, meaning a true SCSI bus implementation but without the electrical buffering circuits necessary for connecting other external devices. Early Zip 100 drives use an AIC 7110 SCSI controller and later parallel drives (Zip Plus and Zip 250) used what was known as Iomega MatchMaker. The drives are identified by the operating system as "IMG VP0" and "IMG VP1" respectively.
Early external SCSI-based Zip drives were packaged with an included SCSI adapter known as Zip Zoom. The Zip Zoom is a relabeled ISA Adaptec SCSI host controller. Also, originally sold separately was a PCMCIA-to-SCSI adapter for laptop compatibility, also a relabeled Adaptec.
|ATAPI||SCSI||LPT[note 1]||USB||FireWire[note 2]|
NB 1: Requires a driver older than 5.x.
Higher-capacity Zip disks must be used in a drive with at least the same capacity ability. Higher-capacity drives can read lower-capacity media. The 250 MB drive writes much more slowly to 100 MB disks than the 100 MB drive, and the Iomega software is unable to perform a "long" (thorough) format on a 100 MB disk. (They can be formatted in Windows as normal; the advantage of the Iomega software is that the long format can format the 100MB disks with a slightly higher capacity. 250 MB disks format to the same size either way.) The 750 MB drive has read-only support for 100 MB disks.
The retroreflective spot differs between the 100 MB disk and the 250 MB such that if the larger disk is inserted in a smaller-capacity drive, the disk is immediately ejected again without any attempt being made to access the disk. The 750 MB disk has no reflective spot.
Zip drives initially sold well after their introduction in 1994, owing to their low price and high (for the time) capacity. The drive was initially sold for just under US$200 with one cartridge included, and additional 100 MB cartridges for US$20. At this time hard disks typically had a capacity of 500 MB and cost around US$200, and so backing up with Zip disks was very economical for home users--some computer suppliers such as Dell included Iomega internal Zip drives in their machines. Zip drives also made significant inroads in the graphic arts market, as a cheaper alternative to the Syquest cartridge hard disk system. The price of additional cartridges swiftly dropped further over the next few years, as more companies began supplying them. Eventually, the suppliers included Fujifilm, Verbatim, Toshiba and Maxell, Epson and NEC. NEC also produced a licensed 100 MB drive model with its brand name.
The growth of hard disk drives to multi-gigabyte capacity made backing up with Zip disks less economical. Furthermore, the advent of inexpensive recordable CD and DVD drives for computers, followed by USB flash drives, pushed the Zip drive out of the mainstream market. Nevertheless, during their prime, Zip disks greatly eased the exchange of files that were too big to fit into a standard 3.5-inch floppy or an email attachment, and there was no high-speed connection to transfer the file to the recipient. However, the advantages of magnetic media over optical media and flash memory, in terms of long-term file storage stability and high erase/rewrite cycles, still affords them a niche in the data-storage arena. In such applications, Zip used to compete primarily with USB external hard drives and the Hi-MD version of Sony's MiniDisc, which stores up to 1 GB on a disk that is smaller and less expensive than a 100 MB Zip disk.
In 2006, PC World rated the Zip drive as the 15th worst technology product of all time. Nonetheless, in 2007, PC World rated the Zip drive as the 23rd best technology product of all time despite its known problems.
Zip drives are still used today by retro-computing enthusiasts as a means to transfer large amounts (compared to the retro hardware) of data between modern and older computer systems. The Commodore-Amiga, Atari ST, Apple II, and "old world" Macintosh communities often use drives with the SCSI interface prevalent on those platforms. They have also found a small niche in the music production community, as SCSI-compatible Zip drives can be used with vintage samplers and keyboards of the 1990s.
Zip disks are still in use in aviation. For example, Zip disks are used by Jeppesen (a Boeing Company) for navigation database updates and avionics companies such as Universal Avionics supply TAWS, UniLink and Performance databases, which remain available via Zip Disk, for uploading into an FMS (Flight Management System) via SSDTU (Solid State Data Transfer Unit). "Updates are available for download from Universal Avionics web site or are provided on 3.5-inch disks, 100 MB Zip Disks (SCN 603-604 and 703-704) or 512 MB USB Flash drives."
Iomega also produced a line of internal and external recordable CD drives under the Zip brand in the late 1990s, called the ZipCD 650. It used regular CD-R media and had no format relation to the magnetic Zip drive. The external models were installed in a Zip-drive-style case, and used standard USB 1.1 connections.
The company released an open standard CD-R drive and CD-RW media under the same ZipCD name
The ZipCD 650 is able to record onto 700 MB CDs but can only burn data up to 650 MB. There is third-party firmware that forces the ZipCD 650 to be able to write data CDs up to 700 MB but makes the drive unstable.