9-Track 1/2" Tape Drive Recommendations?

Al Kossow aek at bitsavers.org
Fri Aug 21 22:41:50 CDT 2015

On 8/21/15 7:22 PM, Jon Elson wrote:

> Enough Pertec drives were made so that manuals should be no problem.  Some other makes were made in fairly small numbers so manuals may be a problem.

One of the things I've specialized in is collecting tape drive manuals on bitsavers.
There are docs there for most drives.

In the bad old days, you would buy a formatter box that connected to the read/write/control cable interface.
Kennedy, Pertec, and most other vendors made them. Or you could get unformatted controlers from Emulex, Western Peripherals
and others that could take the three cable interface and connect it directly to your Nova, PDP-11 or Interdata.

Eventually, the dual 50 pin formatted interface took over as the formatters got small enough that they could
be integrated into the drives.

The other big difference in later drives is if they were 'streaming' or not. What that means is the tape is expected
to roll continously (stream) as opposed to being able to quickly stop between records. Being able to do this is the
reason older drives have tension arms or vacuum columns. Doing away with needing to stop quickly makes the drives
cheaper to build. The low-cost drives (like the Qualstar 105x) just have two reel motors and a tachometer on a capstan
to sense tape speed. The motors also don't have much torque compared to the servo motors of the old drives, which can
be an issue if there is much shed coming off the tape. The 105x series also can only really handle 1600bpi tapes. They
cheat for 3200bpi by slowing the tape down to half-speed.

HP 88780s are nice front loading drives that can be found with 800/1600/6250 and Pertec or SCSI interfaces. Another one
I've used is the Kennedy 9610, the M4/Storagetek 9614, and the later model Qualstars. Each has their quirks especially
when dealing with poor condition tape. I have a couple of Fuji 24xx series, but never made any use of them since I don't
normally use anything that just has a formatted Pertec interface.

It all depends on how much use you are really going to make of it, and the condition of your media. A low-end Qualstar
would be OK for light duty use.

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