Am wondering what would be the easiest way to connect an Iomega Zip drive (parallel port version) to a modern PC.

I note there are USB to IEEE 1284 adapter cables, but would be very surprised if this is a complete solution.

Has anybody done this?

Edit: the wiki page says:

Parallel port external Zip drives are actually SCSI drives with an integrated Parallel-to-SCSI controller, meaning a true SCSI bus implementation but without the electrical buffering circuits necessary for connecting other external devices. Early Zip 100 drives use an AIC 7110 SCSI controller and later parallel drives (Zip Plus and Zip 250) used what was known as Iomega MatchMaker.

So it seems to make more sense to use the SCSI bus directly?

(I believe the drive in question is a Zip 100.)

More: parallel port cards also exist, but apparently they may only support printers, not disks.

Again: ideally I would want to connect it to a Raspberry Pi (or something along those lines), so neither parallel port on MB nor PCI would be optimal.

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    Using the SCSI bus would require you to find or make a not-quite-true-SCSI-bus to actually-true-SCSI-bus adapter with the necessary buffering circuits. Parallel ports never designed to support anything other than printers, but a PCI/PCI-Express parallel port card would be much more likely to work than a USB parallel port. If you want a 100% compatible parallel port you can still buy brand new motherboards with them. – Ross Ridge Jun 1 '18 at 15:10
  • @RossRidge: I know very little about SCSI, but the text on the wiki page seems to say those buffering circuits are for "connecting other external devices", which I do not need to do. Parallel port on MB would be good, but I also have an internal IDE version (IIRC), so obviously I would try to use that one first, with the MB. – Tomas By Jun 1 '18 at 15:35
  • You can get PCI/PCI-Express IDE cards so if you have an IDE Zip drive that would be your best bet. IDE support on modern motherboards is actually much harder to find than parallel support these days. An USB-to-IDE adapter might also let you connect it to a Raspberry Pi, but I don't now if it's likely for such an adapter to support Zip drives. Otherwise, to connect your Raspberry Pi to the parallel Zip drive you'll probably need to use the GPIO port, write your own drivers and maybe add some buffering circuits of some sort. – Ross Ridge Jun 1 '18 at 15:51
  • @RossRidge: I just looked on Ebay and there are SATA-IDE adapters for a couple of USD. Wouldn't that be easiest? – Tomas By Jun 1 '18 at 16:00
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    Many years ago I created a driver for using a parallel ZIP 100 drive on the Amiga. The code might not be of much use to you but it shows what hardware is required (8 bidirectional I/Os, 4 outputs and 4 inputs) aminet.net/package/docs/hard/ppazip – Bruce Abbott Jun 2 '18 at 7:54

If you're using Linux, there is kernel support for the parallel ZIP disk, at least on Intel architectures; if you're willing to play with the dependencies, it might even be possible to compile the drivers on non-Intel architectures, but I make no guarantees! You'll need to enable the following drivers in Device Drivers:

  1. parport_pc (under Parallel port support>PC-style hardware)
  2. After enabling that, you'll see two drivers in SCSI device support>SCSI low-level drivers:
    • "IOMEGA parallel port (ppa - older drives)"
    • "IOMEGA parallel port (imm - newer drives)"

In theory, that should be sufficient to get you access, but I'm not certain if a USB parallel port will work for this (glancing at the code, as long as the driver looks like a parallel port it should work.) The ppa driver is for the original ZIP100, and imm is for the ZIP Plus.

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    In general a USB parallel port cable won't work — they are driven by the usblp driver, which supports printer operations but not parport operations. The exception is USS720-based devices, which do expose a parport interface, and should work. It's an old chip, but adapters using it appear to be available to this day. – hobbs Jun 5 '18 at 21:01
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    The OP mentioned wanting to try this with a RPI, so if they were willing to play with making a GPIO parallel port I found this parport_gpio project. I have no idea how well it works, but it would be interesting to try out: I have a soft spot for DIY stuff! – ErikF Jun 6 '18 at 1:01
  • That could work :) – hobbs Jun 6 '18 at 4:32

The easiest way to "add" a vintage storage device to a modern PC may be to acquire an old PC with which the device can communicate easily and then add a networking adapter that can allow the old PC to exchange information with the new PC. I haven't followed the evolution of networking protocols well enough to know which protocols would be supported by both old new equipment, but I think there were PC implementations of NFS which should allow the old system to behave as a file server the new system could access.

If you have something like a SCSI ZIP drive which would have been designed to operate smoothly with multiple SCSI-based computers, a USB-to-SCSI adapter may allow it to work smoothly. The old-PC-as-server approach, however, should be adaptable to storage devices that use hardware in weird and exotic ways that newer systems can't emulate accurately.

  • Ok, thanks, but I don't think the situation is quite this desparate yet. – Tomas By Jun 1 '18 at 17:07
  • @TomasBy: If drivers exist to connect old hardware up to new computers, that may be more convenient than using an old system as a server. If one has many kinds of vintage storage devices, however, setting up one NFS server to use all of them may be more convenient than trying to come up with working drivers for each one individually. It probably isn't the best approach in the OP's situation, but it's often helpful to know that a workable fallback plan will exist even if there's no way to get drivers working on newer hardware. – supercat Jun 1 '18 at 17:27
  • I cannot remember about the PP version, but the IDE one (mentioned in another comment) worked with early versions of Linux "out of the box", no special driver installation. – Tomas By Jun 1 '18 at 17:40

If an USB-parallel bridge won't work, the most promising way that is likely to help without modifying kernel level stuff (to emulate either a parallel port or ISA-style bus on GPIO pins) is using this kind of (pricey....) device with an actual parallel port card:



Connecting the drive is easy, a parallel port is easy to add.

But getting it to work is probably not practical, because you need the proprietary device driver that knew how to interact with the drive, and that driver probably expected a legacy parallel port at the legacy I/O addresses. So it probably wouldn't work using, say, a USB-to-parallel adapter. But there's no harm in trying, so give it a shot.

Note that there were Zip drives made that were Parallel/SCSI dual-mode, I believe they came with 2 cables or an auto-sensing cable so you could connect it to a parallel port on a PC, or a DB-25 SCSI port on a PC or a Mac. If you can get your hands on one of these it will be much easier to get it working because in SCSI mode it should be much easier to get it working with modern SCSI adapters.

  • Well, there were USB versions also, so if I intended to buy one then I guess that would be the first choice. Plus, I have been googling a bit and SCSI seems not so easy either. – Tomas By Jun 1 '18 at 16:52
  • The dual mode Zip drive was the "Plus" model, I had/have one. It just came with one cable that auto-sensed and it also worked fine on an A1200 equipped with a SCSI controller. – bodgit Jun 4 '18 at 16:55
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    If there is a working linux driver that is part of the main kernel tree, then there is a documented way to talk to the darn thing. – rackandboneman Jun 6 '18 at 22:39

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