Old tape data retrieval

Chuck Guzis cclist at sydex.com
Wed Feb 26 20:49:24 CST 2020

Hoo boy.   I'll throw my experience in and see if you can avoid nausea...

First of all, you don't need a special controller to run most floppytape
drives, nor do you need to give up a floppy drive to use them--they
don't use the usual drive/motor select control for access.  It's
perfectly permissible to have 2 floppy drives and a tape drive on the
same cable.  While there were special "double-speed" controllers, such
as the Colorado FC-20, they're not necessary for functioning--they just
increase the data transfer rate.

Second, be prepared to set up a legacy system with the OS that you used
back in the day.  I think that NT 4.0 and maybe 2K still retained
floppytape support, but I don't believe that it went further than that.
If you used Windows 95 to do your backups, use that.

Third, tape backup software tends to be unique to the generation of tape
drive and operating system.   For example Colorado backup for DOS chokes
on Colorado backup for Windows 95 tapes.  So locating a copy of ResQ may
be to your great advantage.

If you can't find a copy, it may be possible to read the tape in "raw"
mode using an old version of NetBSD or even old Debian using the ftape
driver.   You'll have to recompile the kernel to incorporate the driver
code, but then you'll have access to the tape contents using the usual
Unix tape commands (mt, dd, etc.)  The good news is that almost every
floppytape that I've seen uses 512 byte blocks.

All this assumes that various bits haven't turned to goo or gone slack
(e.g. tape drive capstans, cartridge tension belts, etc.).

Good luck!

On 2/26/20 4:27 PM, Kevin Parker via cctalk wrote:

> What I'm missing is this - I recall that despite the PC having a floppy
> controller I added a separate floppy (or similar or other) controller
> (card) for the tape drive (it might have even run on the same interrupt
> - I can't remember). As with most stuff, being a prolific rescuer I have
> acquired many ISA based cards over the years that appear to be floppy
> controllers but I have no idea what I'm looking for to run this tape drive.
> Any clues, info etc would greatly appreciated because I don't want to
> have to tell her that it can't be done and you wouldn't want to be
> around if she had to hear that :-)

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