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The Bernoulli Box

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The Bernoulli Box, named after Daniel Bernoulli, was a high-capacity removable floppy disk storage system developed by Iomega and launched in 1982. It was Iomega’s first widely known product.

The drive spun a PET film floppy disk at approximately 1500 rpm, just 1 μm over a read-write head. It utilized Bernoulli’s principle to pull the flexible disk towards the head as the disk spun. In theory, this design made the Bernoulli drive more reliable than contemporary hard disk drives, as it eliminated the possibility of a head crash.

The initial Bernoulli disks had capacities of 5, 10, and 20 MB and were similar in size to an A4 paper. The most popular model was the Bernoulli Box II, whose disks were about 13.6 cm wide, 14 cm long, and 0.9 cm thick. This was reminiscent of a 3 1⁄2-inch standard floppy disk but in a 5 1⁄4-inch form factor. The capacities of Bernoulli Box II disks ranged from 20 MB to 230 MB. The drives were available in five types, grouped by maximum readable capacity, and usually featured a SCSI interface. They came in both internal units, fitting into standard 5 1⁄4-inch drive bays, and external units with one or two drives in a case connected to the host computer via an external SCSI connector. The disks also included a physical switch for write protection.

In terms of reception, PC Magazine in 1984 reported that the Bernoulli Box combined the advantages of standard floppy and hard-disk systems without their drawbacks, noting its durable design and lack of software compatibility issues. BYTE’s Bruce Webster also spoke positively of the device in 1986, reporting no glitches or lost files after nine months of constant use.

Who was Daniel Bernoulli?

Daniel Bernoulli (1700-1782) was a Swiss mathematician and physicist, known for his significant contributions to mechanics, fluid mechanics, probability, statistics, and thermodynamics. He belonged to the notable Bernoulli family of mathematicians from Basel. Bernoulli is best remembered for the Bernoulli’s principle, which illustrates the conservation of energy and provides the mathematical understanding behind the functioning of the carburetor and airplane wing.

Bernoulli was born in Groningen, the Dutch Republic, into a distinguished family of mathematicians. His father, Johann Bernoulli, was one of the early developers of calculus, and his uncle, Jacob Bernoulli, was a pioneer in probability theory. Daniel Bernoulli had a difficult relationship with his father, and despite his initial inclination towards mathematics, he studied business and medicine due to his father’s insistence.

Bernoulli studied medicine at Basel, Heidelberg, and Strasbourg, earning a PhD in anatomy and botany in 1721. He was a close friend and contemporary of Leonhard Euler, and together they worked on several problems related to the flow of fluids. Bernoulli also held several academic positions at the University of Basel, including chairs of medicine, metaphysics, and natural philosophy.

Bernoulli’s significant mathematical work includes Hydrodynamica, published in 1738, where he proposed that all results are consequences of a single principle, namely, the conservation of energy. In his 1738 book, Specimen theoriae novae de mensura sortis, Bernoulli proposed a solution to the St. Petersburg paradox, forming the basis of the economic theory of risk aversion, risk premium, and utility.

In physics, Bernoulli laid the basis for the kinetic theory of gases in Hydrodynamica (1738) and worked with Euler on elasticity and the development of the Euler–Bernoulli beam equation. Bernoulli’s principle is fundamental in aerodynamics. He was also credited by Léon Brillouin for first stating the principle of superposition in 1753.