TO-Tech Blog Todd Ogasawara’s Tech Blog


The Legacy Storage Media Problem: 45 Iomega Zip Disks

I've been trying to clean up and organize my home office. In the process I found a bunch of old Iomega 100MB Zip Disks. I also found my old parallel port model Iomega Zip drive. The problem was finding something with a parallel port to plug it in to. It turned out that the PC I had upgraded to Windows Vista has a parallel port. Unfortunately. Iomega does not support Vista and the parallel port drives (not a huge shock). Fortunately, I have an old 2001 era HP notebook running Windows XP Pro with a parallel port that Iomega supports. So, I plugged it in and move all the files off the Zip disks. It turns out I had 45 disks in my collection. That's roughly 4.5GB of total storage or roughly the capacity of the 4GB USB flash drive sitting in front of the disk collection pictured above. About one-fourth of the disks were empty. And, of course, none of the Zip disks were at capacity. It turned out I had 12,061 files taking up 1.03GB on the Zip disks that were used.

I was lucky to have an old PC (notebook in my case) with a Parallel port still running an OS supported by Iomega (Windows XP). I'm already out of luck if I want to deal with 5.25 inch floppy disks. And even the 3.5 inch disks are getting more problematic. It was also fortunate that only 1 of the 45 disks (which are 10+ years old) was unreadable. And, even more fortunate was the fact that it looks like 95+% of the files I found had been migrated to other media over the years. Still, I found a couple of old photos and even two short video clips of my daughter that I don't recall seeing in my collection.

Paper photographs may be difficult to preserve. But, they are accessible by any sighted person without any special tools. What happens to digital family photos decades from now when the person who organized them is gone and the retrieval technology is difficult or impossible to obtain and use?

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