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Even 25 years later, Iomega Zip is unforgettable

Even 25 years later, Iomega Zip is unforgettable

It’s 1995. You’re stuck with slow diskettes that contain only 1.44 MB of data. But there is an interesting new technology: Zip drives, which can hold 100 MB and free them from floppy disks.

Now, 25 years later, we look back at Iomega Zip technology and its history. Did you know that some industries still use Zip drives?

Why Zip units were interesting

Again in 1995 compared to floppy disk standard, Zip unit felt like a revelation! It allowed people to back up their hard drive and easily transfer large files. At launch, it retailed for about $ 199 (about $ 337 today, when adjusted for inflation), and the recordings sold for $ 19.95 each (about $ 34 today).

Zip units were initially available in two versions. One used a parallel printer port on a Windows or DOS computer as an interface. The other used the higher-speed SCSI interface, common on Apple Macintosh computers.

Zip proved to be a phenomenal success in its first year on the market. In fact, Iomega has struggled to meet the demand for both drives and discs.

To celebrate 25 years, let’s take a look at what made Zip so lively, how it changed the brand over time, and what ultimately killed it.

An elegant design

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

Compared to the weather standards, the original industrial design of the Zip unit felt fresh and modern. Its deep indigo color stood out in a world of beige and Mac PCs. Small and light, the disc measures approximately 7.2 x 5.3 x 1.5 inches and weighs less than a kilogram.

The Zip design is full of smart touches, including two sets of rubber feet so people can position the unit vertically or horizontally. Insert the plug at a right angle. A deep channel behind the unit followed to prevent accidental disconnection when the unit was reading or writing data. I could see the label of an inserted disc without removing it thanks to a window on the top of the drive.

Later, Iomega introduced an internal version of the ZIP drive that falls into a standard 5.25-inch compartment, but external models (shown above) continued to be more popular.

Original zip disks

Three 100 MB Iomega Zip disks.

After formatting the original 100 MB Zip disks (in MS-DOS or Windows), they stored approximately 96 MB of data. Measuring 4 x 4 x 0.25 inches, they were only slightly larger than 3.5-inch floppy disks. They had a hard, sturdy case with a metal arched shutter.

Like the 3.5-inch floppy disk, each Zip disk contained a rotating magnetic holder inside. But unlike the floppy disk, this disk rotated at a very high 2,968 RPM, allowing much higher data transfer speeds.

Three sizes of zipper

100 MB Zip drive, 250 MB Zip drive and 750 MB Zip drive.

During its lifetime, the Zip brand had three disk sizes. After the initial 100 MB drive, Iomega launched a 250 MB drive (top right) in 1999 for $ 199. In 2002, the company launched Zip 750 (top, center) for $ 180. This drive used 750 MB disks, but was still compatible with 100 MB and 250 MB disks.

With the 750 MB drive, Zip disks have for the first time exceeded the 650 MB capacity of a CD-R. This caught the attention of the press, but came too late to make a big difference in the market.


Click!  PocketZip Drive and Click!  Coverage unit.

In 1999, Iomega introduced Clik !, a small, removable pocket storage system. It used very small magnetic disks (approximately 2 x 2 x 0.7 inches) and similar sized drives, including one that would fit in a standard PCMCIA card slot. Each disk contained 40 MB of data.

After » death click «As the 100 MB Zip drives spread through the media, Iomega renamed Clik! formed in PocketZip in 2000.

The format was intended for use with small personal electronic devices such as digital cameras and portable music players. However, due to the competition of robust compact flash memory cards with no moving parts, the small form factor Iomega did not take off.

Zip rarities

Zip Drive Oddities: HipZip and FotoShow

Iomega has tried several times to take advantage of the Zip brand and technology and to diversify its product line. One of its most notable elements remains HipZip (2001). This pocket-sized portable MP3 player used 40 MB PocketZip discs as media. But its lightless interface software and stiff competition from hard drive players have made it unsuccessful.

FotoShow (2000) – a glorified 250 MB Zip drive with composite TV output that offered still image slides on Zip discs – was another interesting attempt. It was intended for business presentations and for people who wanted to display their family photos on television. Although it was a smart idea, its slow and inappropriate software stopped it.

A killer graphic design app

A Zip drive in an Apple Power Mac G3.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, several Apple Power Mac G3 and G4 desktops included an internal Zip drive option. Shortly after its release, Zip discs found excellent use with graphic designers (who used to use Macs). Discs have become the de facto standard for transferring high-resolution illustrations between machines or printers.

After most of the world forgot about Zip discs, graphic designers still used them regularly.


An old advertisement for the ZipCD Iomega unit.

The price of a single recordable CD-R dropped from $ 100 to $ 10 during the 90s. By the end of the decade, you could get one for a few bucks. Each CD-R contained 650 MB of data, 6.5 times more than the standard 100 MB Zip disk.

As competition for discounted CD-R drives increased, Iomega decided to market its own CD-R drive under the Zip brand.

The ZipCD 650 (2000) initially sold well, but quickly gained a bad rap for its reliability. Iomega later sold several other ZipCD and CD-R drives under other brands, but none of them managed to capture the market for the 100 MB Zip drives it once had.

What Zip units were destroyed?

A CD-R next to a Linksys router.

The introduction of cheap and widespread CD-R drives and media, which could be read with any standard CD-ROM drive, began to consume the Zip portion of the removable backup market. Companies have also begun to install more and more local area networks (LANs). LANs have allowed large file transfers between machines without removable media.

Compared to these new options, a removable floppy disk drive was much less attractive.

In the 2000s, additional competitors emerged, including DVD-R drives, broadband internet access, and removable USB flash drives. By this time, Zip disks had already become irrelevant to most people.

However, surprisingly, even 25 years later, Zip isn’t really dead. According WikipediaSome airlines still use Zip disks to distribute data updates to aircraft navigation systems. For a time, fans of classic computers (Atari, Mac, Commodore) also used Zip SCSI drives to transfer data quickly, although now this has been largely replaced by flash media interfaces.

While few people still use Zip media, the format shone brightly in the 1990s. Happy birthday Zip!

ZIP memories

Did you use a ZIP drive that day? What did you use it for? We’d love to hear about your ZIP memories, good or bad, in the comments below.