Tech Flashback: iomega ZIP 100 Parallel Port Drive (Mint in Package!)

My fellow readers who have been following for a while would know that I’m literally swimming in Zip disk gear. Amongst the things I’ve done include taking one apart, looking at the performance of the drive compared to its contemporary (the LS-120), taking apart a cartridge and looking at the LS-120 box, taking apart a dead ZIP 250, and looking at various marketing materials surrounding the ZIP 100.

Imagine my surprise when a colleague offered me this – a pristine ZIP 100 Parallel Port drive in box. It’s not my first ZIP 100 Parallel (which is quite slow and CPU-intensive), but it’s the first ZIP drive I’ve seen in its box, making it highly desirable for preservation.

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The drive itself is a very late model Zip drive, and it came around the time when CD-RW drives just started to take off. This drive was dated at 30th November 2000. The package itself was originally quite dusty, and torn on the top, as if someone hastily tried to open it without removing the tab. Aside from the date, we can tell this is a late ZIP drive as the software comes on a CD-ROM and no Zip-Tools disk is included (no doubt, a cost reduction measure). Unfortunately, late drives are less sought after when it comes down to construction quality, as the cost reduction measures had resulted in these models being slightly less reliable (anecdotally speaking).

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This unit was made for PCs using the parallel port interface. As no disks were included, they “tacked on” a little label that says “Buy yours now!” like that would save their “sinking ship”. How very funny.

As this drive was made just before the Christmas of 2000, one of the things we see is a competition label in the bottom right corner, whereby registering your product by the end of the year would grant you the chance to win “JVC DVD Players, AGFA Cameras, Magellan Handheld GPSs, Iomega HipZip (MP3s), Siemens Mobile Phones and Compaq iPac (sic) Pocket PCs.” It seems that sales of Zip drives had really begun to fall, and they were looking for almost anything to try and stimulate their sales. Interestingly, the Iomega HipZip was one of the few devices that used their Clik! 40Mb cartridges, later named PocketZip after the Click-of-Death issues, when Flash wasn’t quite there yet (due to cost) and miniature hard drives were expensive. I never actually saw or held one of these cartridges.

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The rear of the box gives you some idea of what you can do with your Zip disks and drives. A lot of white space, with a few subtle layout issues. It claims this unit is Assembled in Malaysia. Software bundled in included Iomegaware, RecordIt, 1-Step Backup, Iomega Tools, Guest and CopyMachine. It seems Iomegaware v4.0.2 is still available from download from mirrors but is really only useful for Windows 2000 or so (at the latest) – I’ve had issues with the installed drivers causing conflicts on newer versions.

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They took advantage of the bottom to continue their “marketing blurb”. Not like many will turn it over to read it.

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The marketing blurb continues on one side, and the other includes the system requirements and specifications. It claims the drive requires a 486 or higher, Windows 3.x, 95, 98, NT, a 2x CD-ROM drive, 8Mb RAM, 30Mb HDD. RecordIt requires a Pentium 100, Windows 95, 98, 8x CD-ROM, 16Mb RAM and sound card. ZIP specifications include 29ms seek time, 20MB/minute transfer rate (~333kB/s), size of 7″ x 5.25″ x 1.5″ with ~1 lb weight and power saving mode with 1 year warranty.

Sadly, it seemed this drive was late to be sold, with the inventory label claiming a date of 18th January 2001 – meaning the buyer would have missed out on the competitions on the front label. If anything says poor sales, it’s old inventory sitting around.

Inside the box, we find the drive, still in its anti-static pink bag.

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The top window, where the Zip cartridge label can be seen, still contains its protective cover label with basic instructions on using the drive – namely insert the cartridge after the drive is powered up.

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The underside confirms the same date of manufacture, and the label confirms that the drive has never actually been removed from the bag and used – it may have been bought at a discount or as a spare for a critical project. One thing that was missing was one of the foam packing surrounds – there’s only one of them in there, so the drive rattles around a little in the cardboard box.

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The drive comes complete with the original software, which is enclosed inside an envelope.

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Of course, opening the envelope entails agreeing to the license conditions. To save you from the complaint that “I couldn’t read it till I put in the disc and opened the seal” or “I didn’t realize there was a license and clicked next”, it is printed on the envelope in rather small font.

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It’s still sealed, and never opened. How shocking to think someone had paid good money for something and never actually even bothered to test it to see if it worked.

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A leaflet detailing the support numbers is also included outside the envelope. I did try the Australian numbers and they’re both disconnected, as expected. The iomega website is no longer existent.

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Unlike older ZIP drives, this one came with a switching power adapter, which is much lighter than the linear “brick” style transformer formerly supplied. This may be part of the “energy saving” features of the drive as well.

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A fully sealed parallel port cable is also found wedged in there. It’s pretty much a complete bundle.

Conclusion

It’s not everyday you come across an old piece of technology that’s still practically sealed and brand new. It’s a very interesting feeling to hold it in your hands and to look at it – the feeling that it is useless and that it’s time is up, while still being practically pristine and unused. It makes it a good piece for preservation purposes, and it feels a shame to even think about opening it (especially when I do have other working drives to do recoveries with, should the need arise). I will keep this one safe.

About lui_gough

I'm a bit of a nut for electronics, computing, photography, radio, satellite and other technical hobbies. Click for more about me!
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