Zip disks are a type of storage medium designed to work in a small, portable drive known as a zip drive. The purpose behind these disks and drives was to make backing up computer files for personal archival easier. Zip disks have been available since 1995, and when they were released, they were the most effective type of portable storage, since a 100-megabyte zip disk could hold the data equivalent of 70 floppy disks.

1. Function:
The zip disk is a proprietary disk type that is only compatible with zip disk drives. This technology comes from Iomega, though there are similar products available on the market from other producers. The purpose of the zip disk is to serve as a portable and rewritable form of media, allowing for a much greater storage capacity in comparison to other technologies at the time. Prior to the release of the zip disk, the most portable form of storage media was the floppy disk.

2. Size:
The original zip disk was available in a 100 MB size, though additional storage capacities were eventually introduced, including 250 MB and 750 MB capacities. The original 100 MB size became available in 1995, the larger second generation with a disk capacity of 250 MB came out in December 1998, and the 750 MB capacity disk came out in 2002.

3. Interface:
Zip disk drives are available in two different versions, a parallel interface version and a SCSI, or Small Computer System Interface. The parallel interface version makes it possible for you to chain a printer from the zip drive, allowing both to be simultaneously plugged into the parallel port on a computer. Earlier zip drives were available with FireWire and USB connection interfaces as well. The zip disk drive is an external drive rather than an internal drive like a CD-ROM or floppy drive which means that it operates outside of the computer.

4. Compatibility Issues:
Because the zip disk is a proprietary form of a storage media, it cannot be read by any other disk reading device. The same is true for the zip drive itself, which can read zip disks but no other disk types. The newer external drives, 250 and 750, are backwards compatible with older disk types, but the zip drive technology does not have forward-compatibility capabilities. So while a 750 drive can read 100, 250 and 750 disks, a 100 drive cannot read 250 or 750 disks.

5. Similar Devices:
There are a number of competing devices in the realm of removable storage devices. When zip disks were first produced in 1995, the largest rival at the time was the SuperDisk which offered a larger storage capacity, 120 MB rather than 100 MB. At the same time, Iomega, the company behind the zip disk technology also produced a drive known as the Jaz drive, which offered 1 GB and 2 GB storage capacities. There are many other competing devices that offer removable storage, including USB flash media devices and CD-R/RW and DVD-R/RW.

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