Help reading a 9 track tape

Chuck Guzis cclist at
Wed Aug 4 16:14:48 CDT 2021

Whoever does it, I have a few suggestions when it comes to 40+ year old

1) Bake the thing at 58C for a day or two.  It might just prevent you
from staring at a tape stuck to the head and a pile of brown dust at the
bottom of the drive.  (Before you start, make note of the brand and type
of tape; some are much worse than others).  If you're uncertain, check
back here and I'll tell you what I know.

2) If you're determined to use a SCSI drive, initially turn off
automatic retries (shoe-shining).   With sticky tape, you can do a lot
of damage to the tape.  Retries can come later when you're confident
about the condition of the tape.

3)  Should the tape turn out to be sticky, don't try to clean it--it
will only foul up the cleaning equipment (I'm assuming a tape cleaning
machine here).   Coat the tape with cyclomethicone.  At least it won't
stick to anything and you'll get a chance to do a good read.

4) If you have a choice of read speeds, use the lowest speed to start
with.  Make sure that you can deal with tape errors.

5) Forget using a streamer--they're just not suited to dealing with
fragile tape.

If you're not equipped to deal with this, don't attempt it.  A tape
written 10 years ago, is not the same as one written 40-60 years ago.
The 1980s, in particular, were responsible for some truly wretched
stock.  I thank my lucky stars that cellulose acetate never made it as
computer tape base.  Curiously, tapes from the 1960s and 70s can be less
of a problem than those from the 80s and 90s.

My .02 for what it's worth.

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