Talk:Tape drive

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
WikiProject Computing / Hardware (Rated Mid-importance)
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject Computing, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of computers, computing, and information technology on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks.
 ???  This article has not yet received a rating on the project's quality scale.
 Mid  This article has been rated as Mid-importance on the project's importance scale.
Taskforce icon
This article is supported by Computer hardware task force (marked as High-importance).

"Random Access"[edit]

"A tape drive provides sequential access storage, unlike a disk drive, which provides random access storage"

Same comment as on 'magnetic tape data storage': This is just plain wrong. Disk is a sequential storage medium, but with a lower seek time. This is not the same thing as random access. Though it might not make much difference to you as a user, to a piece of code or an operating system, the performance characteristics are vastly different.

WP:SOFIXIT then? :) --Kubanczyk (talk) 21:25, 5 April 2010 (UTC)


Not trolling, but where I live, tape drives are considered obsolete. Everyone here believes that hard disk drives replaced tape drives in the 90s. Recently I foud an article on Slashdot, about some new achievements in the field of tape storage, and then I went on Wikipedia to read about tape drives.

So someone, please let me know: what is the current status of tape drives? Whos is still using them? Are tape drives mainstream again?

Thank you.

I'd say that the biggest place tape drives are used is for backup. BioTube 23:00, 7 June 2006 (UTC)

Tape drives have always been main stream, its just people who use PC's don't bother to back things up. The whole point of a tape drive is that it give you a removable and robust storage. Hard disk does not. It might be removable but it is definatly not robust. If you have 1 Tb of data that needs backing up, how are you going to do this on to a hard disk?


Easy, use a 1 TB USB drive. Canadacow 20:21, 19 June 2007 (UTC)
And what happens when that 1TB disk fails mechanically or electronically? With a tape drive the media is independent of the drive itself allowing you to buy a new drive when it fails. You also don't have too much to worry about if you drop a tape on your way to a safe deposit box, it will most likely survive. A hard disk will be destroyed. A failed hard drive will cost around 1000+ dollars to have it professionally recovered. And its not even guaranteed to work. I keep hearing about people using NAS systems with two 1TB drives in a RAID 1 configuration as home backup. Well when their house burns down or destroyed etc, the computer and NAS are both gone. Its called putting all of your eggs into one basket. With tape you might need a few tapes to backup 1TB but guess what, your data is spread out so even if one tape fails, you have the others with recoverable data. If you practice rotation of backup tape sets, you further mitigate data loss. And "cloud" backup solution are yet to be proven disaster proof as well. In short there is no magic bullet for backup but tape drives are as close to reliable as you can get. (talk) 20:48, 17 March 2011 (UTC)

Tape drives are definitely not obsolete and, in fact, continue to receive vigorous development, resulting in unprecedented capacity, speed and reliability. Tape is the most trustworthy and economical means of creating off-line archives, especially in cases where data must be retained for many years (e.g., medical records). Also, tape offers almost any level of redundancy at reasonable cost. If you need more redundancy, simply use more tapes.

Relying on a hard drive as a back-up device is a fallacy that those of us who have been in the industry a long time are quick to point out (I've been working on, with, around and in computers since 1970). The factors that can cause unexpected failure in the primary (internal) disk also apply to the backup device. Also, if you need to maintain archived data copies for long periods of time, where do you intend to store all those hard drives? Tapes take up much less space, you know.

Bigdumbdinosaur (talk) 17:12, 12 November 2009 (UTC)


Hi. It seems that Shoe-shining Effect is nothing but the definition of a term that relates only to tape drives. I propose the information on that page be merged into this article. - Jorbettis 07:40, 21 November 2006 (UTC)

I agree! -- Austin Murphy 03:37, 22 November 2006 (UTC)

Tape drives are still an alternative for archiving data in larger data centers. Simply to save power and money. With tape drives reaching 800 GB native capacity today (LTO4), at a media price less then half of a disk drive it is ideal for data which is not expected to be used often (i.e. backups, or archived data). In addition software solutions exist, which let you have some files 'offline' on tape, while others are 'online' on disk. Studies show that we use only 20% of the files on our disk drives, so why not moving those other 80% to tape?

The reason why tape drives are not used so often anymore, is that they are costly if not used for large amounts of data (>30 TB). For small amounts of data, disk drives are cheaper. Check out this site for current tape technology: —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:06, 12 June 2008 (UTC)

Advancements TODO[edit]

Which vendor and when introduced:

  • Streaming mode instead of start-stop. Elimination of vacuum columns. Elimination of long empty Inter-Record Gaps 1979 IBM 8809
  • Tape directory: IBM patented '93 as DBM, exact model tbd [1]. Archive QIC [2]? Travan TR-1?
  • fast data access of tape directory: Quantum [3]?
  • double coated media: Quantum?
  • symmetric phase recording: Quantum?
  • Head assembly servo following tape optical pre-recorded servo tracks [4] (SDLT?)
  • "Cleaning needed" indicator: 3590 [5]?
  • Automatic head cleaning on each load (LTO?)
  • Tape cartridge barcodes: IBM 3590 [6]?
  • Speed matching (to decrease shoe-shining) (LTO2?)
  • WORM tape (T9940? AIT-2 in 1999?)
  • Memory chip in the cartridge that keeps relevant information about the tape (AIT-1?)
    • With remote access (AIT-2 in 1999?)
  • Amplifier in the rotating drum, close to the head to reduce noise (active drum) (AIT-2 in 1999?)
  • Tape media (possibly a separate article at some point, several variations of each type exist):
    • Vicalloy - UNISERVO
    • (Iron) Oxide
    • CrO2 Cromium Dioxide
    • MP Metal Partical
    • AME Advance Metal Evaporated (Exabyte Mammoth? AIT-1 in 1996?)
    • AMP Advanced Metal Powder [7]
    • ...
  • (native) Capacity milestones
    • 100 MB -
    • 1 GB -
    • 10 GB -
    • 100 GB -
    • 400 GB
    • 1 TB - not yet (working on it, its in the oven and will be in market soon)

Not a streamer[edit]

The use of the term "streamer" as a synonym for a tape drive is technically incorrect and is yet another example of computer slang.

The original nine inch reel drives did not stream at all—stop/start operation with those units was routine. The concept of data streaming did not come into play until the development of the quarter-inch cartridge (QIC) format, which suffered reduced capacity (as well as relatively short cartridge life) if continuous tape motion wasn't maintained. This characteristic of QIC tapes went by the wayside with the development of helical scan formats (but reappeared with the DLT design).

The correct term for a tape drive in which continuous motion is the ideal operating condition (e.g., QIC and DLT formats) is streaming tape drive. Therefore, this term's application to helical scan drives is inappropriate, as stop/start operation with these drives is fairly routine and has negligible effect on cartridge life.

Bigdumbdinosaur (talk) 17:04, 12 November 2009 (UTC)

My understanding is that "streamer" is a common term used by non-Americans, especially Germans, for a tape drive. As an American, I can't be sure. If a significant number of people use the term streamer in preference to the term tape drive, it makes sense to include it prominently, even if it is slang. --Austin Murphy (talk) 17:41, 11 July 2011 (UTC)
This is the English WP, so what the Germans call them is pretty much irrelevant. The term "streamer" used to be common in the US to indicate an inexpensive, low-performance, tape drive that used an electronic buffer to compensate for many woes -- including stupid programs / operating systems that did not double buffer output. It was an advertising term. Today, for many different reasons (such as almost every drive has a buffer, streams, rewrites bad blocks, and decent applications), the term is not prominent. Either generic terms such as tape drive or specific terms such as LTO drive are used. Glrx (talk) 17:44, 13 July 2011 (UTC)

section: Problems[edit]

The first sentence and the sentence "Most recently, drives no longer operate at single fixed linear speed, " are in conflict. Maybe we could mention the variable speed explicitly in the first sentence. -- Arnero (talk) 16:05, 7 May 2010 (UTC)


I have no problem with an actual comparison, but a vague comparison is inappropriate. The word "comparable" is often a copyrighter's method of saying less than without giving away how much less than. There's also a problem with the comparison metric: high speed for what price. I've been involved in tape applications where we didn't care that the data rate to the tape was 1/80 of what we could get off the disks. Glrx (talk) 19:45, 23 November 2010 (UTC)

An encyclopedia article is not a collection of product reviews. There's no point in making a backup tape drive mcuh faster than a disk. The only difference is tape sin't random-access; but then disk drives don't maintain 100 MB/s if they are skipping all over the disk, either. --Wtshymanski (talk) 20:56, 23 November 2010 (UTC)


The column with capacity is there to give hint at what capacity the different technologies can handle. Electron9 (talk) 23:29, 29 June 2011 (UTC)

Yes, but the table is not the list of notable tape drives or formats. In fact this list purposely omits many technologies that are (or were) very popular and very notable. The aim of this list is to provide the timeline of significant inventions that somehow revolutionized tape drive, and when you talk of an invention (for example a helical write), the capacity of a medium used by the tape drive that originated the invention is often insignificant. Could you simply copy it to a new list, that would contain the significant tape drives (either current or historical, it is up to you)? Others will edit and correct the list. --Kubanczyk (talk) 09:58, 6 July 2011 (UTC)
What drives notability in the market place? Value. What determines value? Characteristics such a price, performance, capacity, density, reliability. Capacity is not the only thing, but it is a prominent characteristic. Yes, there are lots of engineering tradeoffs and some formats emphasize some characteristics more, but a format without a decent storage capacity for its application won't make it in the market place. Glrx (talk) 15:46, 6 July 2011 (UTC)
Yes, I agree with this comment but not with the edit itself. Could you respond to my actual arguments? --Kubanczyk (talk) 13:06, 7 July 2011 (UTC)
I think it would make sense to include capacity milestones in the list as their own entries and not as a separate column for all entries. I don't think it is especially relevant to have the exact capacity of the first implementation of each advancement. --Austin Murphy (talk) 17:36, 11 July 2011 (UTC)
There is a point in having all data in one table, less cluttering, relevant data next to the technology description etc.. And wether a drive can handle 100 kbyte or 10 GByte is significant! Electron9 (talk) 02:12, 12 July 2011 (UTC)
It is not a "technology description" that we have in this table and this is where I think we still don't have understanding. Since this is "description of an invention" the capacity appears to me as an information noise, contributing negatively to the educational purpose of this table. In this case, more information means less education and less sense. Additional thing: the column would prompt future editors to add more and more formats to the table, because it makes the very purpose less obvious. So more cluttering. Therefore I think it is better to have two tables: one elegant and one cluttered. --Kubanczyk (talk) 09:33, 12 July 2011 (UTC)
Nobody states that capacity is unimportant. I do not think capacity is "noise". It gives a simple performance number. I don't think it will confuse readers, and if they notice something strange it will make them think. Future editors have not yet cluttered the table with cluttersome trivial tape drives. Glrx (talk) 17:59, 13 July 2011 (UTC)

Tape skew[edit]

IIRC, the 6250 drive treated the bits as separately clocked channels and reassembled the bytes. The earlier drives read the bits essentially simultaneously. Consequently, skew adjustments were important; there were special skew adjustment tapes. 200 bpi is 5 mils per bit; 800 bpi is 1.25 mils. The latter skew seems difficult to hold (also consider the manufacturing tolerance of the head). Glrx (talk) 18:56, 10 November 2011 (UTC)

DAT/DDS drives considered a "bit bucket" (?)[edit]

These drives are often described (in a tongue-in-cheek fashion) as a bit-bucket, "write-once/read-none" or NULL device as the probability of actually restoring data off this media approaches or equals zero, according to reports by these drives' users.

Is there any truth to this?? If so, the reliability section may be overly positive? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 05:33, 6 November 2014

What a drive is, Tape or Disk - And what it is not.[edit]

The major error presented in this Entry, was to confuse a drive with just being a device. Related, was the notion that Random Access was opposite to Sequential Access. Random Access being related with Localizing a Pack of Data, this pointed or in Sequence.


Examples exist both in Software and Hardware:

  1. A Disk using Random Access to Sectors, Data in a Sector being Sequential.
  2. A Data Record using fields, each field being sequential bytes in RAM

Drive, meaning to manage more than control alone. Thus, a tape drive overcomes the simple sequenciality of the medium, just as a disk does.

Are Tapes Random Access or Sequential Access? Them can be both.

  • It's the drive that makes the difference, how will control it to manage it.
  • That's why tapes have to be formated, prior to be used. Or disks.

A tape being sequential, a disk being concentrical.

  • Formated, with localized chunks, to be of Random Access.
  • Formating just dividing (sectoring) data in manageable (equally sized) sequences.

A Recorder is not a Drive. Though a Drive is a Recorder.


(P.S. Small knowledge is worse than none. Being incomplete, it misleads into assumptions, where the absence would invite to discover. Also because it lures anyone in with a maybe satisfactory "I know what you don't" creating accepted beliefs. Let's make wikipedia reliable, against the odds.)

Factor-h (talk) 16:30, 7 March 2016 (UTC)

You've now twice added [8][9] content. It's unsourced, it's badly written, it's wildly inaccurate - I consider it to be little more than nonsense and certainly not of encyclopedic quality. Viam FerreamTalk 09:47, 9 March 2016 (UTC)
Disks don't use tape.
  • "common Tape Recorders (by using Modem circuitry)"
Tape recorders don't use modems. Modems are bidirectional, two autonomous devices collaborating to exchange data with handshakes, bandwidth negotiation etc. Tape recorders might "modulate" a signal to make it recordable as audio, but they have none of these additional abilities.
  • "Not being tape drivers, Tape recorders may include Modem circuitry. "
What does that even mean? You're distinguishing "tape recorders" (presumably domestic audio) from "tape drive(r)s" (dedicated computer devices?) on the grounds that tape recorders do incorporate modems?
  • "A tape drive provides random access to a linear storage medium "
This is not the general distinction made between tape and disk, in terms of random or sequential access.
The general level of English language is also below the standard that we need. Not the standard we publish, but the minimal standard at which we can begin to copy edit it and fix it. Viam FerreamTalk 09:54, 9 March 2016 (UTC)
I would also question whether "tapes are block formatted" is a statement we can make in such a simple blanket fashion. Especially for the 1980s home computers, tapes were simple sequential streamers. As tape is now a largely [sic] dead medium, the "home computer" era and its simplicity has as much right to be here as 1970s 9 track or 1990s helical DAT, where there was some block structuring and enhancement of non-linear access. Viam FerreamTalk 11:16, 9 March 2016 (UTC)

___ Surely? Lets examine each item.

  • "Disks don't use tape." No, they share the use of a Magnetic medium, read an written the same way. Isn't that obvious?
  • "Tape recorders don't use modems." No, but Comodore has added modem circuitry. Also added control. Making it the Hardware for a tape drive. Hardware only, controller absent, driver absent. These were the Computer using it, making a cheap "in between", hard to classify. Excellent idea.
  • "This is not the general distinction made between tape and disk, in terms of random or sequential access."

No, it's not. It's about insisting in pushing wrong information, confirming references of wikipedia as wackypedia. And insisting on those, using arguments as poorly written (correct that) or not understandable (ask).

  • "I would also question whether "tapes are block formatted" is a statement we can make"
  • "The general level of English language is also below the standard that we need". Agree, Please correct. It's so easy for someone having it as first language. Isn't the goal, getting reliable information? It took 10 years to get correct information on a page I mainly contribute. It was continuously vandalized by fans of a different item that "were sure" the data was not correct. That makes wackypedia. How many Items are reliable?!? Hard to say.
  • "I would also question whether "tapes are block formatted" is a statement (...)"
Correction: Context is Tape when used by a Tape Drive.
Personal Computers of the 80's are NOT a standard to understand Tape drives as there was NONE.

BBC brand used a Tape Recorder with some Control. Comodore much later added full control and modem circuitry. This, made a Tape Drive CAPABLE device available to the Home Computer, not forgetting the one from Sinclair Research (hardware only too). DRIVE control was NOT IN the devices. The DRIVE was the computer using the device, adapted to be accept control. A wonderful idea, that one of attributing the drive task to the computer, building only the minimal hardware, without the drive part (repeat: to be replaced by the computer available).

To note, that a TAPE DRIVE is something few people ever understood, because they never seen them, never asked what they did. The onluy reference being the word TAPE and the use they had from Apples, Spectrums and so forth. They never considered buying (context is TAPE) a true small DRIVE in the 80's (was it Toshiba who sold one? It was as expensive as a diskette drive, doing the same but with micro tapes.

Here you have it. Glad you finally asked. That's good. Any more questions where help is due to avoid this page to be another example of wackypedia? Please do, as It will have to be Your english constructs to 'work'. It will be You, who will restore (or not) the corrections made. Ask, as possible (it can take a week), I'll be glad to answer and help. People who knows, needs not to visit such pages.

Remember I do have absolutely no interest whatsoever in 'offering' what is nor welcome. Surely some 'contributers' are driven otherwise. It was the interested people I had in mind when correcting the wrong. But not fighting for it. Why? It changes Nothing. A Drive is still a drive, even if confused with a Music Player... But is nice for people to see it right, instead of the rubbish that was here.

Your call, to restore the corrections, to better the English to 'common' usage.


Factor-h (talk) 01:21, 10 March 2016 (UTC)

External links modified[edit]

Hello fellow Wikipedians,

I have just added archive links to 4 external links on Tape drive. Please take a moment to review my edit. You may add {{cbignore}} after the link to keep me from modifying it, if I keep adding bad data, but formatting bugs should be reported instead. Alternatively, you can add {{nobots|deny=InternetArchiveBot}} to keep me off the page altogether, but should be used as a last resort. I made the following changes:

When you have finished reviewing my changes, please set the checked parameter below to true or failed to let others know (documentation at {{Sourcecheck}}).

You may set the |checked=, on this template, to true or failed to let other editors know you reviewed the change. If you find any errors, please use the tools below to fix them or call an editor by setting |needhelp= to your help request.

  • If you have discovered URLs which were erroneously considered dead by the bot, you can report them with this tool.
  • If you found an error with any archives or the URLs themselves, you can fix them with this tool.

If you are unable to use these tools, you may set |needhelp=<your help request> on this template to request help from an experienced user. Please include details about your problem, to help other editors.

Cheers.—cyberbot IITalk to my owner:Online 08:31, 31 March 2016 (UTC)

External links modified[edit]

Hello fellow Wikipedians,

I have just modified one external link on Tape drive. Please take a moment to review my edit. If you have any questions, or need the bot to ignore the links, or the page altogether, please visit this simple FaQ for additional information. I made the following changes:

When you have finished reviewing my changes, you may follow the instructions on the template below to fix any issues with the URLs.

You may set the |checked=, on this template, to true or failed to let other editors know you reviewed the change. If you find any errors, please use the tools below to fix them or call an editor by setting |needhelp= to your help request.

  • If you have discovered URLs which were erroneously considered dead by the bot, you can report them with this tool.
  • If you found an error with any archives or the URLs themselves, you can fix them with this tool.

If you are unable to use these tools, you may set |needhelp=<your help request> on this template to request help from an experienced user. Please include details about your problem, to help other editors.

Cheers.—InternetArchiveBot (Report bug) 05:29, 24 May 2017 (UTC)

First tape library with robotic access[edit]

First tape library with robotic access: proposed correction. My recollection is that Livermore Labs had the first robotic tape library. The IBM 7340 Hypertape drive had two cassettes. One was the active cassette used in read/write operations. The standby cassette was used in reel change operations. There was an I/O command to unload the active cassette and replace it with the standby cassette. The intent was that a human operator would then remove the former active cassette and place a new cassette in the standby position. What Livermore did was to automate the external cassette exchange. A small crane plucked the used cassette from the standby position; the model railroad train moved forward and a second crane deposited a new cassette ion the standby position. A patient Wikipedian can perhaps find the monograph which contains this story.Rdmoore6 (talk) 18:22, 12 February 2018 (UTC)