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A Look Back At The Fading Glory of Iomega

by Sean P. Aune | January 28, 2010January 28, 2010 1:40 pm PDT

There was a time before external hard drives were plentiful that one company ruled the external storage market, and that company was named Iomega.  However, long before you could get a terrabyte drive for about the price of a cup of coffee at Starbucks, the company’s glory had already begun to fade.

Iomega was founded in 1980, and in 1982 it launched the Alpha-10 Bernoulli drive, the first magnetic storage device to offer crash protection.  The device went on to great success, but considering computers were nowhere nearly ubiquitous as they are today, they weren’t exactly sitting in homes everywhere.

iomega-logoAs the computer boom of the 1990’s began, and more people were filling up their hard drives with data, 1.44MB 3.5-inch floppy disks were just no longer practical as a backup method, and something bigger was needed.  Iomage began researching possible solutions, in 1995 they released the Zip Drive.  While it still used the same type of magnetic platter as a floppy, it was able to store up to 100MBs of data.  People rushed to use it because it was the only sensible way at that time to protect all of your data.

This rush became part of the problem for the company.  The Zip drive became extremely popular and that was when problems with the drives and disks started to crop up, earning it a reputation as a very fragile medium for data.  As the problems seemed to accelerate, Zip owners became increasingly frustrated with the company as they didn’t have enough customer support staff to handle the crush of calls they were receiving.  While they did eventually add more operators, it couldn’t stop a class action suit that went forward over what came to be known as “the Click of Death”: a sound the drives would make when even the drive or the disks were failing.  Iomega eventually lost the class action suit and had to give its customers a rebate in the form of discounts on future products.

ziplogoAs hard drives increased in size, the Zip Drives began to become too small to sufficiently back them up.  While the company did start releasing larger capacity options, the price of CD drives and recordable CDs and DVDs were rapidly dropping.  The sales of the Zip Drive continued their massive drop in popularity as external hard drives became affordable, and the company began to fall out of favor as a back-up option.

By 2008, EMC Corporation announced its intentions to buy Iomega, and by June of that year the purchase was completed.  The company now focuses on home office and small office business equipment solutions.

While the company had far more products than the Zip Drive, and it is still fully operational today, albeit under different ownership, it’s just interesting to look back at a company that was one synonymous with being the ultimate solution for backing up your data.  Now you have Western Digital, Seagate and Maxtor filling that roll, but how often do you ever hear anyone mention Iomega as their preference for back up solutions?

Perhaps there is a lesson to be learned here of making sure to keep your customers your number one concern.  Or perhaps it is an example of how you should always keep your company’s products changing with the mercurial nature of customer needs.  Whatever the case may be, Iomega was one the be all, end all of data storage, and you have to wonder how many people who clicked on this story even wondered who they were to begin with.


Sean P. Aune

Sean P. Aune has been a professional technology blogger since July 2007, but his love of tech dates back to at least 1976 when his parents bought...

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