Set the Wayback Machine for 1995

Ars has a cute article on their writers’ favorite bits of orphaned technology. The very first item is Iomega’s Zip drive. It was a big-ass floppy you shoved into a ruggedly-built custom drive — and the early models held a whopping 100 megabytes. To put that in modern terms, that’s about 5 RAW pictures from Nikon’s prosumer-grade D7000. But in mid-90s, hardly anyone was taking digital photos. Ripping your CDs into MP3 files was still pretty bleeding edge stuff. We simply didn’t need endless gigabytes of storage.


Well, then there were freaks like me.

I had a Zip, mostly for sharing files (ahem: games) with other like-minded Zip users. But a year or so later, I upgraded to a Pentium Pro tower, with a wicked-fast SCSI HD and CD-ROM interface. And do you know what you could plug into one of those? The Iomega Jaz drive.

The original model could store a gigabyte on a single, removable disk. In today’s terms, that’s enough room to hold just one hi-def hour-long TV drama, encoded at a nice bitrate and 720p. But I think the hard drive in that Pentium Pro was all of 2GB. So I kept a few Jaz disks on hand for weekly backups. It was a helluva lot faster than backing up to tape, even if it was a little pricey. Silly me, I wasn’t smart enough to keep those backups off-site. Lucky me, I never needed them.

My next computer had some massive-for-the-time hard drive, and the Jaz was instantly obsolesced. But for a short time, there was really nothing like it.


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