Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 24th Mar 2017 00:27 UTC
In the News

You may recall that a couple of years ago we ran a piece talking about how Ada County, the most populous county in Idaho, was desperately looking for Zip disks and drives to help keep its aging voting machines running.

As it turns out, Ada County isn't alone. Apparently a lot of counties are in the same boat.

Once, while buying a PowerMac G4 from someone (factory-equipped with an internal Zip drive), I stumbled upon his huge collection of external Zip drives and disks, which he promptly handed over as a gift. Other than playing with them out of idle curiosity, I never used them for anything.

Instead of disposing of them years later, I guess I should've sent those 15 or so external Zip drives and 30-odd disks as emergency foreign aid to America. Underfunding democracy seems like a terrible idea.

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v It is convenient for the fascist party
by Poseidon on Fri 24th Mar 2017 06:39 UTC
Comment by daedalus
by daedalus on Fri 24th Mar 2017 09:26 UTC
daedalus
Member since:
2011-01-14

The company I used to work for, up until fairly recently, still issued software updates for its medical devices in Zip disks. At the time it was conceived, they didn't want to use CDs for some reason, floppy disks were impractical, and USB mass storage was at the stage where each flash drive required its own drivers. So Zip disks were chosen, and 15 years later we were still issuing Zips to customers. Eventually (around 5 years ago), the OS on these machines was updated to XP and they switched to USB, but retained the Zip drives in all machines.

Things move slowly in the medical devices industry.

Reply Score: 4

RE: Comment by daedalus
by Adurbe on Fri 24th Mar 2017 10:56 UTC in reply to "Comment by daedalus"
Adurbe Member since:
2005-07-06

upgraded to XP... 5 years ago?!

it completely and utterly died in 2014! I worry about the long term decision making of your medical devices..

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Comment by daedalus
by daedalus on Fri 24th Mar 2017 11:20 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by daedalus"
daedalus Member since:
2011-01-14

Indeed. Fortunately they run without ever being connected to a network, so that's something at least. But since changes to things like the OS or the controlling PC can take several years to get through all the regulatory stuff in every region, things move extremely slowly. There was a project started around 2008 to move them to Vista, but since that turned out to be a nightmare, the previous XP project was resurrected and completed instead, and they'll remain on XP until they're retired.

When you consider that some of the machines run on dual 386 boards and DOS 6, these units are positively modern! :p

Edited 2017-03-24 11:21 UTC

Reply Score: 3

ZipSlack
by mattias1 on Fri 24th Mar 2017 10:19 UTC
mattias1
Member since:
2014-12-15

I used to boot ZipSlack from it: Just build a kernel with statically linked Parport Zip drivers and builtin command line and you can boot of a Zip drive. This was terribly slow even by end of the 1990s standards.

In the mid 2000s I re-build a similar boot environvent with I think kernel 2.4 and a root filesystem built with uClibcs buildroot script collection.

At university at the end of the 1990s we had several Zip drives since they were faster than CDs (CD RW just made sense for data larger than 100MB) and much bigger then floppies and the then usual 32MB max USB thumb drives.

Reply Score: 2

RE: ZipSlack
by CaptainN- on Mon 27th Mar 2017 18:30 UTC in reply to "ZipSlack"
CaptainN- Member since:
2005-07-07

The thing I remember most about Zip Drives was the nightmare "click of death" problem, for which there was never a solution

Reply Score: 2

Pac drives?
by IndigoJo on Fri 24th Mar 2017 10:30 UTC
IndigoJo
Member since:
2005-07-06

I wonder if anyone out there is still using Tandon Pac drives. They were cool back in 1989 or so.

Reply Score: 1

In storage
by Adurbe on Fri 24th Mar 2017 10:57 UTC
Adurbe
Member since:
2005-07-06

I am fairly certain I have some old Jaz and Zip drives in storage. Might be worth a few pennies to the yanks!

Reply Score: 2

Comment by Kroc
by Kroc on Fri 24th Mar 2017 12:25 UTC
Kroc
Member since:
2005-11-10

I loved how they ejected across the room. In a time before USB sticks and when CD-Rs cost £10 a pop, the Zip disk was king ... for a short while.

I'm just kind of sad that super-floppy drives didn't catch on -- 32 MB on existing floppies.

Reply Score: 1

RE: Comment by Kroc
by darknexus on Fri 24th Mar 2017 12:54 UTC in reply to "Comment by Kroc"
darknexus Member since:
2008-07-15

I'm just kind of sad that super-floppy drives didn't catch on -- 32 MB on existing floppies.

Maybe it's better that they didn't. More storage is nice, but the reliability of the media in question... well, it wasn't.

Reply Score: 4

RE[2]: Comment by Kroc
by typeo on Fri 24th Mar 2017 16:08 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by Kroc"
typeo Member since:
2008-12-12

The reliability was awful, and the recovery tools useless. And if you had that dreaded ZIP Drive Click Of Death you could pretty much give up on recovering the data.

Reply Score: 3

RE[3]: Comment by Kroc
by Kochise on Sat 25th Mar 2017 11:13 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by Kroc"
Kochise Member since:
2006-03-03

At that time I was using Fujitsu 128MB then 230 MB MO drives. So fantastic and reliable. Even today I can read back my 20 yo data without problem. And even SCSI is still in use.

When USB stick appeared, the volume was at best 16 or 32 MB so I was not confident in the system capability to succeed, not counting in the flash memory failure rate. But that changed rather quickly for the better.

Not you can have a 64 GB micro-sd half the size of your thumbnail for a mere $30. With true 80 MB/s bandwidth, compared to 5 MB/s at best for MO drives (due to the way things are written on disk).

However, regarding reliability, I still have confidence into MO disks, less so in USB sticks or SSDs due to their flash memory or controllers. What is the best ? Don't push me ranting about CD-Rs or DVD-Rs that most of them become unreadable after half a decade (if not half a year).

Reply Score: 2

Oh dear god.
by Bill Shooter of Bul on Fri 24th Mar 2017 14:23 UTC
Bill Shooter of Bul
Member since:
2006-07-14

Not only is that an obsolete tech, it was/is a terrible storage mechanism.

Click of death anyone? I worked at a company that used them for software updates. The idea being none of the devices that had to be updated had USB or cd roms, but they did have parallel ports! Woo!

We kept having to throw out devices and disks, lest the flaw spread and kill all our drives and disks. Physical computer viruses, yuck. I seriously never let anyone borrow my drive or disks. Don't share. Don't care.


They supposedly fixed the issue in a later hardware revision, but we still saw the behavior.

Reallly scary that they are using it for elections. I think I just need to build election devices...

Reply Score: 3

RE: Oh dear god.
by meme on Sat 25th Mar 2017 22:24 UTC in reply to "Oh dear god. "
meme Member since:
2006-04-03

Did that happen with all types of drives? I think that I had click of death only with the first one (with parallel port). Later, when I had USB and ATAPI units, it didn't happen to them.

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: Oh dear god.
by ssokolow on Sun 26th Mar 2017 02:37 UTC in reply to "RE: Oh dear god. "
ssokolow Member since:
2010-01-21

The explanation I got was that a drive with "the click of death" would ruin a disk, which would then prompt other drives to click when attempting to read it, because the clicking had to do with repeatedly engaging and disengaging the heads.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Oh dear god.
by Bill Shooter of Bul on Tue 28th Mar 2017 17:59 UTC in reply to "RE: Oh dear god. "
Bill Shooter of Bul Member since:
2006-07-14

It happened with all of the drives I used which necessarily were parallel port (the hardware it interfaced with did not sport USB).

Reply Score: 2

Ooops
by Munchkinguy on Fri 24th Mar 2017 14:24 UTC
Munchkinguy
Member since:
2007-12-22

The first time I ever used a Zip drive, I accidentally broke it by putting in the disk upside-down.

Reply Score: 4

RE: Ooops
by torp on Fri 24th Mar 2017 15:31 UTC in reply to "Ooops"
torp Member since:
2010-08-10

I had one for like 2 months, then it stopped working. Removed it from the computer to find out it smelled like having recently burned. Never bought a replacement, but I still have 2-3 disks.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Ooops
by Wondercool on Fri 24th Mar 2017 15:52 UTC in reply to "RE: Ooops"
Wondercool Member since:
2005-07-08

Maybe you should get in touch with Idaho? What a great way to make some mullah out of stuff lying around?!

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: Ooops
by ssokolow on Sat 25th Mar 2017 00:40 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Ooops"
ssokolow Member since:
2010-01-21

Unless your plan is to manufacture muslim priests, I think you meant he could make "moolah".

Edited 2017-03-25 00:41 UTC

Reply Score: 3

RE[4]: Ooops
by Wondercool on Sat 25th Mar 2017 19:56 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Ooops"
Wondercool Member since:
2005-07-08

Touche! I wonder if the words are related?

Reply Score: 2

SyQuest
by Kancept on Fri 24th Mar 2017 16:31 UTC
Kancept
Member since:
2006-01-09

So glad I never got on the iOmega bandwagon. I was a SyQuest user. I had whole OSes installed on my SparQ disks. I remember swapping carts to change OSes.

I also had ez135 along with the SparQ, while my dad had the SyJet disks. I never had an issue, but I guess they had issues like the click of death. The BeOS icons I made that used to be at BeBits were made from photos I took of my SparQ cartridges.

Reply Score: 1

RE: SyQuest
by weckart on Wed 29th Mar 2017 11:08 UTC in reply to "SyQuest"
weckart Member since:
2006-01-11

I found the SparQ drives even less reliable than Zip drives sadly. Threw the last of mine out a couple of years ago. Almost invested in the Castlewood Orb drives but decided to cut my losses and suffered the slowness of LS120 until CDs dropped in price.

Reply Score: 1

Zippy zip zip
by samcrumugeon on Fri 24th Mar 2017 18:06 UTC
samcrumugeon
Member since:
2014-02-17

I have all my old Masters Degree work saved on a couple of iOmega zip drives. Haven't wanted to shell out the money on eBay to buy a zip drive just to get all this old data... maybe I should just visit my local board of elections?!?

Reply Score: 2

Comment by kompak
by kompak on Fri 24th Mar 2017 22:04 UTC
kompak
Member since:
2011-06-14

The company I work for still stores some vector graphic files on zip disks. Recently the eject button broke and I had to dismantle the drive and repair it. It came as a surprise to most that zip drives aren't sold or manufactured anymore. The computer runs Windows 98 and is still in daily production use.

Reply Score: 1

I have one
by allanregistos on Sat 25th Mar 2017 00:26 UTC
allanregistos
Member since:
2011-02-10

My company have one zip drive. I will check it if it is working.

Reply Score: 2

Comment by MarkHughes
by MarkHughes on Sat 25th Mar 2017 08:23 UTC
MarkHughes
Member since:
2013-11-14

I recall hankering after one of these drives back in my Amiga days, I went with external CD-ROM instead and it seems that was a good move.

I'll bet there are plenty of Amiga folk still got these drives tucked away somewhere though.

Reply Score: 1

RE: Comment by MarkHughes
by brostenen on Sat 25th Mar 2017 11:27 UTC in reply to "Comment by MarkHughes"
brostenen Member since:
2007-01-16

Naa....
Amiga owners did not use Zip drives that much.

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: Comment by MarkHughes
by daedalus on Mon 27th Mar 2017 07:57 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by MarkHughes"
daedalus Member since:
2011-01-14

I still have a Zip 250 drive in my Amiga. Not much use for it these days as I don't own anything else with a Zip drive, but it's still there and working perfectly.

Reply Score: 2

Plenty on eBay
by brostenen on Sat 25th Mar 2017 11:26 UTC
brostenen
Member since:
2007-01-16

Can I get this right? They are searching for something that are plentyfull of on eBay!?

Reply Score: 1

RE: Plenty on eBay
by Morgan on Sat 25th Mar 2017 11:53 UTC in reply to "Plenty on eBay"
Morgan Member since:
2005-06-29

Government employee here. Local governments tend to shy away from buying on sites like eBay and even Amazon. They prefer to find a vendor or three and send purchase orders.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Plenty on eBay
by brostenen on Mon 27th Mar 2017 19:11 UTC in reply to "RE: Plenty on eBay"
brostenen Member since:
2007-01-16

Yet they are cool with asking private people for the stuff as donations, and bitching about none to be bought at the same time? Sounds like a bunch of free-loaders. Zip media's are cheap as chips, and plentifull on eBay, so that explanation are only because they work with their heads op their ass... Yeah... Anyway. You know that things can be done in a different way. Though I guess there are a lot of old grey-haired dudes, that refuses to do stuff in a different way, unless of course they came up with the idea. Or they might just be suffering from a bad case of stubborn ignoratis.

Reply Score: 1

RE[3]: Plenty on eBay
by weckart on Wed 29th Mar 2017 15:23 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Plenty on eBay"
weckart Member since:
2006-01-11

Nope. Public administration in pretty much any country has rules over what suppliers it can use and that usually precludes auction sites like eBay.

Reply Score: 1

Personal anecdotes
by TasnuArakun on Sat 25th Mar 2017 11:59 UTC
TasnuArakun
Member since:
2009-05-24

My father used to work as a freelance artist and for a few years in the late 90's Zip disks were the standard way to transfer big files to customers and print shops. He had an external Zip-100 hooked up over SCSI. I've saved a small case holding two disks (one grey and one green). I find them both stylish and interesting historical artifacts.

By the time I got my first own computer, a Power Mac G4 in the autumn of 2000, it felt like the Zip was already on it's way out. It still existed as an option on the Power Macs until 2002, which annoyed me since the special Zip drive bay stopped you from installing a second CD drive (something that was quite common at the time). Incidentally, I ended up getting an Iomega Zip-CD (a.k.a. Zip-650).

It seems these days the Zip drive is mostly remembered for breaking easily. When I studied linguistics in 2004 the computer lab had a bunch of blue Power Mac G3s with internal Zip drives. Each had a sticker on the front that said "not a floppy disk drive" in large letters. I was told a horror story of a similar computer lab where one person had broken every single Zip drive in the room using a faulty disk. When the first drive failed to read the disk he went to the next one and then the next one and so on.

Reply Score: 1

RE: Personal anecdotes
by DeadFishMan on Sat 25th Mar 2017 14:46 UTC in reply to "Personal anecdotes"
DeadFishMan Member since:
2006-01-09

My father used to work as a freelance artist and for a few years in the late 90's Zip disks were the standard way to transfer big files to customers and print shops.


True that! I used to dabble in illustration and advertisement back then as well in what now feels like a lifetime ago and that statement did ring a bell and threw me way down on Memory Lane...

I probably still have my external parallel port Zip drive in the storage somewhere and a bunch of Zip disks, some probably brand new and still wrapped. It worked perfectly - if somewhat slow - in Linux with the ppa kernel module around the 1999-2004 timeframe during a time when CD-Rs weren't nearly as cheap as they are these days and you still could have burned a coaster or two before getting one right and thus I still have fond memories of it.

Ironically, I don't recall them as such an unreliable technology as everybody else here. Yes, I remember the 'clicks of death' issues, but it wasn't nearly as frequent as people made it sound. I've certainly seen more dead hard drives than zip drives back in the day. Maybe I was just lucky?

Edited 2017-03-25 15:00 UTC

Reply Score: 2

There is a click at the mind also...
by dionicio on Sat 25th Mar 2017 13:34 UTC
dionicio
Member since:
2006-07-12

When seeing Rambo using his "crocodile killer" knife as kitchen spoon. PC tech as is, not right for democratic exercises. Just the interest of politicians on fogging the process and the hubris of Tech messiahs keep this rolling on.

Reply Score: 2

Low tech
by Munchkinguy on Sun 26th Mar 2017 04:56 UTC
Munchkinguy
Member since:
2007-12-22

Allow me to suggest an even older technology that still works fine: pencil and paper ballot.

Edited 2017-03-26 04:57 UTC

Reply Score: 1

RE: Low tech
by darknexus on Mon 27th Mar 2017 16:40 UTC in reply to "Low tech"
darknexus Member since:
2008-07-15

Allow me to suggest an even older technology that still works fine: pencil and paper ballot.

Too bad about all the ink that faded, eh? Or those who can't read regular print for any reason? To the pits with them, right?

Reply Score: 2

Comment by Flatland_Spider
by Flatland_Spider on Mon 27th Mar 2017 18:07 UTC
Flatland_Spider
Member since:
2006-09-01

Underfunding democracy seems like a terrible idea.


Not having a longterm plan or hedging against obsolescence is a bad idea as well.

After a quick search, the EMUHDD pops up as a Zip disk hardware emulator. (http://embeddedsw.net/EMUFDD_Floppy_Hardware_Emulator_Home.html)

The more I think about it, they more I realize there isn't a great long term storage medium that doesn't require a computer with software, OS, drivers, and a drive to be mothballed with the medium. Tape is great, but LTO drives are N-1 for reading and writing media.

Reply Score: 1

RE: Comment by Flatland_Spider
by Alfman on Mon 27th Mar 2017 19:13 UTC in reply to "Comment by Flatland_Spider"
Alfman Member since:
2011-01-28

Flatland_Spider,

The more I think about it, they more I realize there isn't a great long term storage medium that doesn't require a computer with software, OS, drivers, and a drive to be mothballed with the medium. Tape is great, but LTO drives are N-1 for reading and writing media.


Using a NAS is not so bad. I've upgrade mine a few times, each time I do I copy everything over, so nothing's really gone as long as it was on the NAS to begin with.

I can't say the same for my old media (including our old tape media my parents bought), but I got into a habit of archiving files on disk/NAS rather than media anyways.

Edited 2017-03-27 19:16 UTC

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Comment by Flatland_Spider
by darknexus on Mon 27th Mar 2017 20:00 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by Flatland_Spider"
darknexus Member since:
2008-07-15

NAS units work well as long as they're storage you actively maintain, but they'd be just as bad for long-term archiving as most other media described here. Heck, using a NAS for archiving is the very definition of "mothballing a computer with the storage medium."
Don't get me wrong. I've used NAS a good deal, and have a Synology at home. I love them, for what they are. But I'd not archive something on them, put it away for twenty years, then bet on getting that data back without a headache. It might power up just fine and load all the drives. Then again, it might not.

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: Comment by Flatland_Spider
by Alfman on Tue 28th Mar 2017 01:39 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by Flatland_Spider"
Alfman Member since:
2011-01-28

darknexus,

NAS units work well as long as they're storage you actively maintain, but they'd be just as bad for long-term archiving as most other media described here. Heck, using a NAS for archiving is the very definition of "mothballing a computer with the storage medium."


That's kind of the point though, typically a NAS IS actively maintained, so it would naturally get the periodic maintenance and updates that would otherwise be problematic for long term archival.

Don't get me wrong. I've used NAS a good deal, and have a Synology at home. I love them, for what they are. But I'd not archive something on them, put it away for twenty years, then bet on getting that data back without a headache. It might power up just fine and load all the drives. Then again, it might not.


I see what you mean, but that's not how I use my NAS. It is regularly backed up and actively maintained. Redundancy is more expensive but it's an important part of any archival strategy anyways.

This has worked well for me, however there's been a different problem: no longer having the software and/or hardware that was originally used. I don't know if it would be worth archiving whole VMs, running these twenty years from now it could be a whole other problem.

Reply Score: 2

darknexus Member since:
2008-07-15

This has worked well for me, however there's been a different problem: no longer having the software and/or hardware that was originally used. I don't know if it would be worth archiving whole VMs, running these twenty years from now it could be a whole other problem.

Yeah, that's another can of worms. Even keeping a vm might not do you any good if you can't run said vm because the virtualization software doesn't exist.
This is where open formats come in, if we could convince people to use them. Unfortunately, some things we simply don't have equivalent open formats for.

Reply Score: 2

Flatland_Spider Member since:
2006-09-01

I'm talking cold storage on the century and millennium time scales.

If you buried the NAS in a sealed case in your backyard, would it be usable 100 years from now? The magnetic charge on the disks would last about 10 years, and I think it's less for shingle type disks.

Tapes would last about 30, but they would be worthless just by themselves.

SSDs would last under 2 years.

We can't create a digital version of a global seed vault with the technology we have now. If there there was a global catastrophe that wiped out civilization as we know it, we wouldn't be able to rebuild in 100 years, and our current technology level would be stuff of myths and legends.

We only know about human history from the civilizations which carved everything into stone, and we have no idea about other civilizations which used oral histories or animal hides, for instance. Cultural extinction goes on currently, by the way.

Reply Score: 1

Zip-a-dee doo dah
by saloonguy on Wed 29th Mar 2017 21:03 UTC
saloonguy
Member since:
2016-04-12

At the time Zip disks were hawt, I worked in a printing company that wanted to ramp up taking in digital files. So we, meaning me, the resident IT guy, equipped a few key workstations with Zip drives. We had to have Mac and PC versions separate of course. We had A single CD burner which cost $500. I was there with the owner at Microcenter helping pick it out. Blank CDs cost at least $3 each.

Later on, we added one LS-120 drive. No customer EVER used that one. I rather liked it since it would also do floppies. Nice product.

We added a Jaz drive, we had something else I can't remember. If you had files on a disc of some sort, we had a way to read it.

By the time I left in 2001, customers were just using burned CDs to bring in files. USB had not yet caught on -pretty sure my first thumb drive was years away. CD-Rs were the thing that killed Zip, especially once blank CDs became cheap as hell and the drives dropped in price.

My first burner drive was a 12x TDK I got in 2001 for about $250. It had burn proof, which was a huge innovation at the time. No more buffer issues. Great drive but too slow now.

Still own a parallel Zip drive and some disks but none of the computers I own even have a parallel port. It's kind of sad.

Reply Score: 1