Iomega: 25 Years of Storage Technology Leadership
Iomega Corporation, a global leader in data storage products for consumers, and small and medium-sized businesses, celebrates 25 years of business in 2005.
The Iomega story began in 1979 at an IBM facility in Tucson, AZ, where four engineers came up with a radical new approach to an old problem: how to keep the read/write heads of a magnetic storage device from crashing into its rotating platter and causing data loss. IBM turned down their development proposal, believing it to be unworkable, so Tony Radman, Renee Radman, David Bailey and David Norton got permission to take their idea and form their own company. Iomega was born on April 2, 1980, and its crash-proof technology became the basis for the first signature Iomega product, creating the industry’s first high-capacity removable storage.
Bernoulli: The idea that launched Iomega
After two years of development, the Iomega Alpha-10 Bernoulli drive launched in 1982 as the first magnetic storage product to offer built-in protection from disk crashes. Iomega’s founders employed an aerodynamic principle known as the “Bernoulli effect” to pull the Alpha-10’s flexible disk up to the drive’s read-write heads, where a cushion of air protected the heads from hitting the magnetic storage platter. The design was essentially crash-proof, and although the eight-inch diameter, 10-megabyte removable disks were massive by today’s standards, it was an impressive technological leap.
Bernoulli drives had the capacity of a hard drive, the portability of a floppy disk, and offered two revolutionary advantages: the ability to add unlimited capacity by utilizing more Bernoulli disks, and the ability to transport large files and store them away from the computer for security. These advantages – which are still core features in Iomega products today – helped Bernoulli drives invent a new storage category and attract an immense following of professional users and computer enthusiasts. Later models reduced the form factor and boosted capacity, eventually peaking at a then-amazing 230 megabytes per disk.
Iomega’s success with Bernoulli drives led to an initial public offering in July 1983. The company’s stock traded on the NASDAQ as IOMG until November 1996 when it moved to the New York Stock Exchange and began trading under its current symbol, IOM. In 1983, the company located its headquarters in Roy, Utah, north of Salt Lake City, and since then the company’s engineers have designed a succession of new and exciting products in the labs on Iomega Way in Roy, establishing Iomega as a world leader in magnetic storage.
Portable Storage for the Masses
By the mid-90’s, the hard drive was commonplace and floppy disks were receding as a practical means of backup. Users were outgrowing the floppy disk: file sizes were increasing, multimedia files were more commonplace, and e-mail attachments and the fledgling Internet were making file downloads more common than ever. Computer processing power was also increasing, and with the debut of the Intel Pentium processor in 1993, the slow transfer rate of the 1.44 megabyte floppy was becoming more noticeable. It was time for a change.
In 1994, Iomega engineers starting working in earnest on a new removable storage drive. Code-named “Vitamin C,” the prototype was an elegant little box about the size of a paperback book. The design team took advantage of intensive focus group feedback to make a series of design improvements, which included changing the product’s color from computer beige to blue (a simple decision that has shaped the look of computer peripherals to this day) and replacing the top-loading clamshell design with a slot-loading disk mechanism. Beneath the skin, the engineering mandate was to make the drive faster than tape, higher capacity than the 44-megabyte and 88-megabyte Syquest drives of the day, and cheaper than Iomega Bernoulli drives. The company also set an aggressive target price of U.S. $200.
Iomega’s engineers produced a marvel. They designed a reliable drive with Winchester drive heads guided by an ingenious linear actuator. The disk was a small, flexible magnetic platter in a rugged plastic shell with an amazing 100 megabyte capacity. Project “Vitamin C” gave birth to the Iomega Zip® drive, which not only offered rugged, high-capacity portable storage, but also met ease-of-use goals and the magic price of U.S. $199.95.
On March 24, 1995, Iomega shipped the first Zip drive and changed the course of computing history. Zip drives were an overnight sensation. Computer users around the world clamored for them, retail stores were overwhelmed, and suddenly Zip drives were everywhere – in the workplace, at school and in the home. The demand was so great that at times Iomega simply couldn’t produce enough units to keep up. The Zip drive became one of the fastest selling, most successful peripherals in the history of computing.
A second-generation Zip 250MB drive was released in December 1998, and together with the 100MB drive, helped the Zip product line generate $1.2 billion in sales annually from 1997 through 1999. Iomega followed up with the Zip 750 drive in August 2002, and along the way added Zip drives for every popular interface and computer configuration, including a full range of external drives as well as desktop and laptop internal drives built into new systems. Today, the Zip drive celebrates its tenth anniversary as a rugged, reliable choice for portable storage. Since the launch of the Zip drive in 1995, Iomega has sold more than 55 million Zip drives and 350 million Zip disks to consumers and business users around the world.
Storage In All Flavors
With the meteoric launch of the Zip line, Iomega began to build a product portfolio that today includes virtually all categories of computer storage. In 1995, Iomega announced its next proprietary technology: the 1GB Jaz® drive and disk. High capacity and hard drive performance made the Jaz disk format very popular among graphics and design professionals for multimedia or data-intensive files. Iomega followed up with a 2GB Jaz model three years later, and altogether has sold more than five million Jaz drives and 15 million Jaz disks.
When CD-RW drives appeared on the scene and the appeal of burning CDs spread through the computing world, Iomega introduced its first CD-RW product, the Zip 650 CD-RW Drive, in 1999. In addition to Zip, Jaz and optical products, Iomega added other consumer storage lines, including external hard drives, USB flash drives, and even external floppy drives – all designed to meet the storage needs and preferences of computer users.
There were other Iomega products that did not find a market. The 40MB Iomega Clik! disk, unveiled in 1999 and later re-launched briefly as the PocketZip disk, was designed for digital cameras, laptop computers and handheld devices. A PocketZip drive was prominently featured in Iomega’s HipZip digital audio player in the fall of 2000. Another product, the FotoShow digital image center, let users download digital camera images to a Zip disk for slide shows on a family television. These products met limited market acceptance and were eventually discontinued.
Software as Part of a Total Solution
From the beginning, Iomega has enhanced its products with software ranging from installation drivers and third-party software applications to innovative, homegrown Iomega titles. The goal is to make Iomega products easier to use than anything else on the market.
In 2000, Iomega introduced its first commercial software utility, QuikSync™ 2, for automatic backups. This product later became the award-winning Iomega Automatic Backup. Today, Iomega Automatic Backup Pro gives users a powerful range of easy-to-use features for automatic file backup to many of the products in the Iomega portfolio. Another recent Iomega software innovation is Active Disk technology, which powers a new generation of software applications that can run automatically from a Zip disk or USB flash drive. For users of optical storage products, Iomega HotBurn Pro software provides fast and simple two-step CD and DVD creation.
Today, Iomega products are recognized not only for their durability and dependability, but also for their ease of use. Well-designed software and hardware combine to give users complete solutions to their storage needs. This is one of the requirements for all Iomega products – and one of the great differentiators, too.
The Next Revolution in Storage
When Iomega’s engineers started designing a removable magnetic storage platform for the 21st century, they took direct aim at the tape market and the backup and archiving needs of small and medium-sized companies. Once again, they saw an opportunity that contradicted the conventional wisdom about removable storage.
Previous removable disk designs had always allowed air flow – and microscopic dust particles – inside the disk, reducing reliability. The breakthrough at Iomega was the creation of a virtual “clean room” environment inside a removable cartridge, providing equivalent data integrity to standard sealed hard drives
In April 2004, Iomega successfully launched the Iomega REV™ 35GB drive, the highest capacity removable storage platform in its history. Designed for small and medium-sized businesses and for vertical markets such as broadcasting and video surveillance, the REV disk holds a whopping 35 gigabytes, is smaller than a pack of playing cards, offers the speed and ease of use of a hard drive, and provides the removability and portability of tape.
REV drives are a revolution in storage technology. They provide random access to data within milliseconds, unlike the interminable waits associated with linear-access tape technology. REV drives can back up data at rates of up to 25MB/sec, eight times faster than a comparable tape solution. REV disks are more durable than tape with an estimated million rewrites, and REV drives have none of the maintenance requirements and storage inconveniences inherent to tape. The included Iomega Automatic Backup Pro adds compression features that can squeeze up to 90 gigabytes of compressed data on a single REV disk, giving businesses and advanced home users a complete solution for backing up, protecting and archiving large amounts of data.
With numerous industry awards worldwide, the REV drive is more than just the latest in rotating magnetic storage – it also represents the return of world-class Iomega engineering. The REV system—in its USB 2.0, ATAPI, SCSI, FireWire, and SATA interfaces – forms the centerpiece in the Iomega portfolio of professional storage products. Combined with a growing line of network attached storage devices (NAS) ranging in capacity from 160 gigabytes to 1.6 terabytes, Iomega provides small and mid-sized businesses with everything they need to fulfill their corporate mandate for data protection and disaster recovery.
2005 and Beyond
Iomega’s 1982 success with the Bernoulli Box was the first demonstration of the engineering talent and can-do spirit that motivate Iomega employees today. Iomega is one of a select group of computer technology companies that have reached the 25-year milestone. Its groundbreaking products have helped shape the computer revolution, and it approaches the future with one of the broadest portfolios of storage solutions and services anywhere: REV drives, optical drives, NAS servers for home and small business, desktop and mini hard drives, network hard drives, Internet storage, Mini and Micro Mini USB flash drives, Zip drives, data recovery services, a growing software portfolio and world class customer support. In the future, Iomega products will continue to manage and protect workplace files, and innovative new Iomega storage solutions will meet the diverse data needs of tomorrow’s digital home.
Iomega has come a long way since 1980, building a record of excellence in dependable, durable, easy-to-use data storage solutions. Today Iomega has approximately 450 employees based in San Diego; Roy; Nacogdoches, Texas; Geneva, Switzerland; Singapore; Taiwan and Toronto. With an expanding array of products and a sales force that reaches around the globe, Iomega enters its second quarter century committed to delivering innovative storage solutions to help its customers manage, protect, share and enjoy their digital lives.