View Full Version : Iomega Bernoulli Box is running!

February 27th, 2011, 10:28 AM
After about 6 months of experimenting, digging for clues and accumulating parts I finally got my dual drive Bernoulli Box running. For those of you not familiar with it, it is an 8" removable cartridge storage system from the mid 1980s. Here is a picture:


Some more details on the beast and a video showing it operating can be found here:


A special thanks go to Ric (Druid6900) who finally got me the precious cartridges that I needed for it and ChuckG for providing some clues about it along the way.


February 27th, 2011, 11:29 AM
That's pretty neat Mike.

How about you refresh my memory, and and at the same time give some more info/history to those who aren't of the era?

I remember seeing these in a branch office of a company I worked for.
IIRC they were used as backup devices, rather than as drives proper.
Am I remembering correctly? Was that their primary use, or could they also have been used as drives?
If as drives, surely the seek time would have been forever.

February 27th, 2011, 11:58 AM
Bernoullis were fairly fast, almost universally SCSI and could be used as boot drives, as long as a disk was installed at power-up.

I still have a dual 90 Meg model. They were built like tanks--and unlike Zip drives, used the Bernoulli effect to "float" the disk just above the read-write heads. (take a business card, stick a pin through the middle and insert the pin and card in the center hole of a spool of thread. Holding the card in place, blow through the other side of the spool. Instead of flying away, the card will stay on the spool, riding on a very small air cushion).

February 27th, 2011, 12:20 PM

Take a look at the link - much more background and technical data there. (I didn't want to cut and paste too much ...) It is removable hard disk storage. You partition the media just like you do a hard drive or a Zip drive. Access time is 10ms track to track, and data transfer rates are around 120KB/sec on the ancient XT I tested with.

If you can get through the video you'll love the head cleaning cartridge demonstration. :-) "Primitive" is a good word to describe the process.


February 27th, 2011, 03:22 PM
I checked out the link - very interesting.

I must have been remembering Zip drives for backup - those were big cartridges too (like 8" wide and tape IIRC - 1981'ish?).

It's strange these things never lasted as long as I would expect them to, given their capabilities. They must be rare beasts now.

February 27th, 2011, 03:46 PM
8" and 5.25" size, depending on the vintage.

They were very expensive, which is one factor contributing to their being dropped by Iomega. The media was expensive also.

Because you could record on one surface only and because it was non-contact, these things topped out at about 250MB. Modular hard drives and cartridge drives, as well as "super floppies" made it impossible for the technology to compete.

But while it was current, it was unbeatable among the serious PC users. In comparison, other backup media, such as tapes were cranky, slow and unreliable.

February 27th, 2011, 04:03 PM
The first generation drives were known as "Alpha" and used 10 or 20MB cartridges like the one pictured in the web page. There may have been a 5MB variant - Wikipedia says so, but I've seen no evidence of it. I have one of the later Alpha units.

The second generation drives were known as "The Bernoulli Box II" (or BETA), and they used the smaller form factor disks. The disks look like this:


These started at 20MB, and eventually topped out at 230MB. I have a 20MB unit in this form factor also (not featured yet) and a 230MB model. Between 20MB and 44MB they changed things dramatically because the newer drives can't read the 20MB 5" cartridges. But after that Iomega preserved a good degree of backwards compatibility.

The cleaning cartridge on the smaller drives operates basically the same way. The later smaller drives are also double sided with two heads as opposed to the Alphas which have a single head.

February 27th, 2011, 05:14 PM
Ah, the Bernoulli. I had the 90 meg 5 1/4" ones, many years ago. They were great. Fast, reliable - just expensive. The only reason I had them is because they had recently become obsolete at my Dad's job when they all switched over to Zip disks. But they were excellent in the days before CD burners.

I have a dual drive 8" form factor Bernoulli box that I would love to get going, but, like most, I lack the controller board and the cartridges. Mine looks different than the one you have in the picture - mine looks like a really big PC/XT, with the drives side by side.


February 27th, 2011, 06:53 PM
I have an A220H like the one Mike has pictured and an A120H which is, basically the same thing, but with a single drive and provisions to add a second drive kit.

One thing Mike forgot to mention is that these suckers have to weigh about 50 pounds each.

I've seen the cards for sale for around $75 bucks at those "we have everything except what you just asked about, but, we might know someone that has one" places. Probably less if you look around. I also found someone that has 5 new cartridges @ $225 and a single new cleaning cartridge @ $299.

I seem to have an extra cable for the card to box connection and, as for cartridges, check Fee-Bay. Over 20 used data cartridges and 4 cleaning cartridges (with extra pads) have shown up at very reasonable prices :)

October 11th, 2011, 09:56 AM
new 230 mb cart
2 230mb drives
bernoulli cleaning care kit for 20 mb and 44mb 5 .25 drive cart.
also works on the larger drives i believe

October 11th, 2011, 09:59 AM
i also just found the cables , all drives function. also have controller cards, available

October 11th, 2011, 12:58 PM
Received this in a box of incidentals, currently serving as the charge controller housing in the RV. So in a way I have my Bernoulli Box running too :) (No hate mail please <g>)

October 11th, 2011, 01:01 PM
Post links to your auctions, dude... and welcome to the forums. Hopefully you'll find reason to stay.

I only this weekend found the old Bernoulli box I used to have. It came in a slew of Amiga stuff bought from an old guy back in the day who used the Bernoulli as a removeable hard drive (he did alot of genlock work for his church, and would move the data between his 500 and his 2000 using the Bernoulli)

It was SCSI, has about half a dozen 44mb cartridges, a cleaning cart, and about half a dozen 4oz bottles of cleaning fluid (which I just figured that I'd keep around to manually clean floppy heads with Q-tips once my floppy head cleaners die out).

If they're actually worth something, someone let me know - would be one less thing laying around!

February 22nd, 2012, 07:56 AM
Nice, wish I could find a 5.14 20meg bernoulli drive, mine died many years ago and I've been searching for a replacement ever since. I'd love to pull all that old data off those drives.

February 22nd, 2012, 08:01 AM
If they're actually worth something, someone let me know - would be one less thing laying around!

One thing that seems to get in the way of selling these things is the weight of the drives. I've tried a couple of times to sell my little-used dual 90MB box, but the durned thing is too heavy to attract much interest.

So it stays on the shelf.

February 22nd, 2012, 09:02 AM
Nice, wish I could find a 5.14 20meg bernoulli drive, mine died many years ago and I've been searching for a replacement ever since. I'd love to pull all that old data off those drives.

I have a 5.25" 20MB that runs. If you are desperate to get the data off talk to me offline.

The new (to me) 5.25" 44MB does not read the 20MB disks. I think that between 20 and 44MB Iomega went from 256 to 512 byte sectors, which makes the media and drives incompatible. That's a little disappointing - I expected to be able to at least read 20MB disks in that drive.