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May 28th, 2001

Are Zips Dead?

Back when Steve Jobs introduced the iMac, people around the world (myself included) were amazed that a floppy drive wasn’t included. How in the world could anyone get along without a floppy? I immediately pooh-poohed the iMac and said that the lack of floppy would make people think twice. While floppies weren’t available in some other recent Macs, this was the big test: would consumers miss a floppy drive?

The answer is proving to be a resounding no. Again, I’m not counting techheads in this one. For Joe Consumer, there’s very little reason to get a floppy or even need one. CD-RWs have really become a great option and, although they aren’t easily changed once closed, that’s why we’ve got email attachments.

With that in mind, I can’t help but wonder if the ubiquitous Iomega Zip drive is following the floppy’s footsteps. The last time I used a Zip was for print production purposes… but that was many months ago. If I need to transport a file between work and home, I email it to myself. If I need to bring a lot of data over, I burn a CD. Easy.

I think Iomega had an inkling of this. 100MB quickly became a relatively small amount of space, given the proliferation of MP3s and movie files. The Zip 250 was introduced to combat that, but let’s face it, 250MB is pretty small nowadays. Backups would be mighty difficult… especially when a CD-ROM holds 650MB. (Writeable DVD-ROMs, whenever those get sorted out, will hold multiple GB.) Iomega even went so far as to put the Zip name on its line of CD burners… but I think it was too little too late.

So what do you think? There’ll always be someone that needs a floppy, somewhere, particularly those not running Windows or OS X. And there’ll always be someone who needs a Zip. But for the mainstream user, email and CD-ROMs seem to cover all the bases. Do we miss those Zips? -pm

Posted in Technology

FROM: Terry M.
DATE: Monday May 28, 2001 -- 10:24:53AM
I built myself a new computer on Saturday (1.2 GHz Athlon, Debian Linux), and I didn't even bother putting on a floppy drive, and certainly didn't miss it through the install process, and don't really plan on ever missing it. OTOH, I bought a network card over the weekend where the device driver came on a FLOPPY - the horror!

Actually, for the past three years, I was a very big user of ZIP drives. I stored all of my critical data on them. I finally bought a CD-R just a few weeks ago and quickly converted my backups to that, and retired all of my ZIP drives except one (which gets zero use). I agree that CD-R's are far superior than ZIP's in every way. I agree that ZIP's are dead, and don't really understand why someone would choose them over a CD-R.

P.S. I am an Iomega stockholder. At one point, I actually thought the technology would become widespread. However, I long ago gave up all hope that the stock would ever reach it's 1998 level, and it's not even worth selling because it's so worthless.

FROM: Paul
DATE: Monday May 28, 2001 -- 5:02:01PM
Zips seemed to really be a bridge between floppies and rewriteable CDs. I can still recall when WORM drives were well into the thousands of dollars; now they're, what, $60? $70? Amazing.

FROM: Brian
DATE: Wednesday June 6, 2001 -- 9:46:36PM

FROM: Paul
DATE: Friday July 20, 2001 -- 10:43:46AM
Indeed, Brian, indeed.

Of note: Iomega is cutting its staff and relocating. I think they're nearing the end, frankly; Iomega wasn't able to adapt to CD-R/CD-RWs.

FROM: Ryan
DATE: Friday July 20, 2001 -- 10:59:45AM
Does this mean I'm going to have to start hoarding Zip 250s for my digital 8-track recorder?

FROM: Paul
DATE: Friday July 20, 2001 -- 1:05:50PM
I would if I were you. Scope out CostCo or Sam's, man.

FROM: Terry M.
DATE: Friday July 20, 2001 -- 10:05:35PM
I wouldn't horde Zip disks. In a few years those things (and the drives) will be a dime a dozen in thrift stores. I'm kind of surprised that they aren't showing up already.

The interesting bit of info in that news article is that Iomega is a 20 year old company. I had no idea; I hadn't heard of them before Zip. What did they do before?

FROM: Paul
DATE: Saturday July 21, 2001 -- 1:03:03AM
Tape backup units. They were out there, I think, when Colorado was still around... before they were gobbled up by HP.

FROM: Marcus
DATE: Tuesday July 24, 2001 -- 6:47:36PM
Iomega's main problem was never the acceptance of the Zip, it was the reliability of the mechanisms. Paul and I both attended Columbia College Chicago, and the heralded graphic design lab (which spends more on computers sometimes than some graphic production firms) up on the 8th floor went through Iomega Zip drives (internal and external) like candy. The disks were prone to the click of death.

Now, drives like the Jaz drive (which I owned two [one was a refurb I paid nothing for when sending my old unit in] of and never replaced) could've transitioned into something like their new multiple gig Peerless drive; however... they were also even more prone to failure (The Jaz was for all intents and purposes a hard disk platter removed from the spindle that reunited on cartridge insertion).

I could see a well done, more evolutionary cartridge format taking off, but only if it was used for extremely large capacities (if possible) while still remaining compact. Iomega might have something with the Peerless if it is, indeed, portable; however... then again, USB and Firewire hard disks are relatively inexpensive and many are coming out that are actually "SMALLER" than the Peerless (no doubt based on laptop ATA drive mechanisms). Considering you can hook a large array of Firewire or USB devices on a chain, the needs for removable capacity drives of size of the Peerless are rather redundant (and reliability is a "HUUUUUUGE" concern still).

However, back when the in-dash MP3 player craze was hitting, I often thought of how cool it would be for someone to take one of the larger capacity cartridge drives (I was thinking along the lines of an ORB drive) and modify one to fit in-dash. This was fueled by the EMPEG in-dash car stereo (now RIO car stereo viewable from ) which uses large capacity hard disks (and a Linux-based OS running on StrongARM processors) and a "pull-out" format (bulky, big, unattractive).

I figured using something like Orb disks (now up to 2.2 gig, not quite single-side DVD size, but definitely a lot cheaper and flexible than DVD-RAM) would easily allow carrying large amounts of music with you portably, and perhaps even supporting a Firewire input on the dash-mounted controller could allow the external addition of, let's say... a generic Castlewood Orb drive to plug in as well. ;) Clever, and still imminently possible today. However, Kenwood's in-dash capable MP3/CD player units (they read CD-R and CD-RW disks) actually make this idea a little more redundant. Especially if you can get an external CD-changer from them that reads MP3's. After all, at about 70 10MB songs per disk, and if you figure Kenwood has a 6 or 10 disk changer, figure out how many tracks that comes to, and you should be able to hold a song collection bigger than the norm.

Is Zip dead? Well... I have a Zip drive and about 20 Zip disks of which I rarely use. I actually lent out a few to a friend of mine who was backing up his PC and who doesn't have his own CD-RW drive yet (his dad's PC however does; that's why he borrowed the Zip disks). That however will probably be coming in the near future.

However, let's face it... at about $1-2 per Zip disk in comparison to $.60 per CD-R which holds 700MB vs. 250 MB and is actually quite more reliable and flexible (most every computer has a CD-ROM/DVD-ROM) than the Zip; I can just about say... stick a fork in it. I wouldn't buy a new Zip drive with any machine I purchased (just network my old machine to the new one and keep my Zip on the old machine; and even at that... I have a CD-R on my current machine, and all new Macs ship with at least a CD-RW in most cases, so why bother?!?), however I still get some usage out of mine when I need to clear off space to download something. Then again, most of the time I just archive stuff to CD and leave it at that.

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