Seagate revives Zip drive concept with GoFlex storage system

Seagate announces its new program to allow third-party companies to incorporate slots on their products to support removable GoFlex external hard drives.

Thanks to the flexible design, the Seagate's GoFlex portable drive can be easily turned into a storage module to be used in a more standard, slot-based application.
Thanks to the flexible design, the Seagate's GoFlex portable drive can be easily turned into a storage module to be used in a more standard, slot-based application. Dong Ngo/CNET

LAS VEGAS--You might not remember it, but the Zip drive was arguably the most popular external storage solution during the second half of the '90s. With the initial storage capacity of 100MB (which later increased to up to 750MB), it was a perfect replacement for the floppy drive.

The Zip drive is similar to a floppy drive, with the slot just slightly larger to accommodate the thicker Zip disks.

With the rapid increase of internal hard drives' capacity, though, the Zip drive couldn't keep up, and its popularity started to wane at the turn of the century. By 2005 it was obsolete. It was the time that the portable storage market fell into the hands of external portable drives that came in many different physical shapes, sizes, and types of connectivity, including USB, Firewire, and eSATA.

While external portable drives offer basically the same amount of storage that internal hard drives do, they are a little inconvenient to use, as oftentimes users need to fumble to find the cable or the port on the computer. Also, the external drives require a computer to support its type of connectivity to work. For example a Firewire external hard drive is useless with a computer that only has USB ports.

For this reason, Seagate, the maker of hard drives and many portable storage solutions, including the superflexible GoFlex family , wants to revive the concept of the Zip drive with its GoFlex storage system.The company announced today its new program to allow third-party companies to incorporate slots on their products to support removable GoFlex external hard drives.

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First introduced in May 2010, the GoFlex family includes both portable and desktop external hard drives that share a flexible design by having two separate parts: the drive and the adapter. The drive part is basically just an internal hard drive housed in a chassis with one side open revealing the internal drive's standard SATA female port. The adapter part has a male SATA connector and comes with a type of peripheral connectivity. When these two parts are put together, you have yourself an external hard drive.

Now, if you replace the adapter part with a slot on a computer that's connected to the motherboard, you'll find the new solution very much similar to the Zip drive. The only difference is the Zip disk is now the "drive" part of the GoFlex, and this means there's no discrepancy in regard to storage space between this solution and current internal hard drive; the drive part of the GoFlex is based on internal hard drive. This also means that the drive part can be used anywhere there's a GoFlex slot.

According to Seagate, the Certified GoFlex Storage System concept products are not limited to just computers, either, but extended to other devices ranging from media players and set-top boxes to televisions. At CES 2011, the company demoed the prototypes of these concepts with each incorporating a slot to accept an ultraportable GoFlex drive.

Seagate says that, this way, the Certified GoFlex Storage System provides a seamless method for consumers to share data on a wider range of devices. The Certified GoFlex Storage System is designed to quality and establish placement of both slot-based consumer electronics devices as well as certification of third-party external storage modules. Seagate says that its certification also endorses the soon to be established SATA--IO Universal Storage Module (USM) specification.

(The SATA USM specification is a standard specification to accept a complete, powered external storage device into consumer electronic devices. Modules designed according to the SATA USM specification will enable consumers to instantly access and seamlessly transfer content between devices.)

Seagate hopes that this program will help third-party manufacturers build GoFlex-certified products to accept a 2.5-inch ultraportable external hard drive and transform the GoFlex ultraportable drives from an external storage device to an easy-to-use, detachable storage module.

According to Seagate, currently there are several hardware vendors, including Antec, GIEC, Hi-Sense, Ionics, and Thermaltake, participating in the program and showcasing their Certified GoFlex Storage System concept products at CES 2011. These products include televisions, notebook computers, desktop PCs, plug computers, DVRs, and docking stations.

About the author

CNET editor Dong Ngo has been involved with technology since 2000, starting with testing gadgets and writing code for CNET Labs' benchmarks. He now manages CNET San Francisco Labs, reviews networking and storage products, and also writes about other topics from online security to new gadgets and how technology impacts the life of people around the world.

 

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