The Iomega Corp. has increased the capacity and decreased the price of its Bernoulli Box, which is good news even for people who are thinking, "What's a Bernoulli Box?"
A Bernoulli Box is a device for storing large amounts of data on a removable cartridge. The cartridge itself is essentially a hybrid of a floppy diskette and a hard disk, the size of about four conventional 5.25-inch floppy diskettes in a stack. Not everyone needs one, but they are certainly a blessing for some people.
"The main reason to buy one of these things is removability, because you want to lock up your data at night, or to save time and grief in swapping projects on your computer," said Robert H. Katzive, vice president of Disk/Trend Inc., a Mountain View, Calif., market research and consulting company. "It's also useful for sending large amounts of data from one point to another. If you don't have those problems, you won't have these needs."
Another reason to consider a Bernoulli drive is reliability. Bernoulli drives are not subject to head crashes, the bane of conventional fixed disk drives and destroyer of untold megabytes of information.
Bernoulli drives have been around for many years, long enough to demonstrate impressive reliability, but the price per megabyte of storage has been quite steep compared with that for conventional hard drives.
Also, the early Bernoulli drives we tested were significantly slower than regular hard disks. Both of those issues have been solved, or at least addressed satisfactorily.
Iomega's transportable Bernoulli 90 drive, with a suggested list price of $1,149, can store 90 megabytes of data, more than 90 million characters, on a single cartridge.
It comes with a free 90-megabyte cartridge; extra cartridges cost $229 each. Connector kits are required, too: $265 for IBM PCs and compatibles, $49 for the Apple Macintosh. The previous Bernoulli system had a capacity of 44 megabytes and cost $1,400, including one cartridge. The connectors were the same price.
The ability to keep large volumes of data on a single Bernoulli cartridge is a boon for people who need to back up and restore hard disks frequently and for those who need big archives.
I recently had to do an emergency backup of about 60 megabytes of data and the prospect of flipping floppies all night was not appealing. I had the Bernoulli set up and operational within half an hour, and the drive comes with Central Point's backup software.
As for archiving, most of us who run small businesses can fit a year's worth of data onto regular floppy disks, but floppies are impractical for larger companies.
Some companies like the idea of being able to take their data out of a computer and lock up the information at night. It is much more convenient to put a Bernoulli cartridge in a safe than it is to cart away the entire PC or disconnect an internal hard drive.
Another advantage comes with data-hungry projects. One with multimedia application, involving data, color graphics, sound, video and animation, can quickly gobble up a hard disk. With a Bernoulli drive, each program can be on its own disk.
Daniel Bernoulli was an 18th-century Swiss scientist best known for his work on air flow and fluid dynamics. The makers of the Bernoulli drive were inspired by his principles and developed a disk that floats within a cushion of air, where it is immune to mechanical crashes that can harm data.
The Bernoulli drive, even with its improvements, faces competition from a rival technology used by several companies, including the International Business Machines Corp.
IBM recently introduced a "rewriteable optical drive" in some of its PS/2 computers that can store 128 megabytes of data on a single 3.5-inch cartridge. The drive is a $1,795 option, and cartridges cost $70.
The drawback to these new optical disks is that they are much slower than the Bernoulli and conventional hard disk drives. However, researchers said the speed is sure to improve.