Help reading a 9 track tape

Jay Jaeger cube1 at
Thu Aug 5 07:39:05 CDT 2021

I know Paul well (we were contemporaries at U. WI).  He does not do that 
very often.  He did not indicate any issue with a fire at the building 
that contains his collection when I last spoke with him.

He does not actually read "blocks".  He reads the tape in an *analog* 
fashion, and then processes the results with software.  That is how he 
recovered the IBM 1410 system tapes and diagnostics, for example.

To be honest, I doubt that this content would be such that he would be 
likely to volunteer.


On 8/4/2021 3:11 PM, Van Snyder wrote:
> Paul Pierce <prp at <mailto:prp at>> read some 
> 7-track and 9-track tapes for me about twenty years ago. He was in 
> Portland, OR at the time. His "lab" was on the east side of the 
> Willamette river, so maybe it didn't get burned down.
> I don't know whether he still has a setup to read tapes. His software 
> would read blocks forward and backward, including the parity frames, and 
> make corrections.
> Van Snyder
> On Wed, 2021-08-04 at 09:25 -0500, Jay Jaeger via cctech wrote:
>> James, I am located in Madison WI.  I would need to fire up my SCSI 9
>> Track drive (software on Linux) and test it as I have not used in a
>> couple of years, but I have done recovery of old tapes from this era
>> before, and have a primitive setup for "baking" tapes before trying to
>> read them.
>> Assuming my HP 9 track is still happy, I can produce AWS format tape
>> images, raw block files and extract individual files (translated into
>> ASCII if that is desirable).
>> I don't remember exactly the time period when tape coatings were such
>> that reading them without "baking" them is very risky - this might be
>> before that era - Al Kossow would probably know - so I'd likely "bake"
>> it first before trying to read it.
>> Given the name "IEBUPDTX" this tape was certainly intended to be used on
>> a 360 or 370, as you described below (IBM has a utility IEBUPDTE).
>> So, if you haven't found somebody to read this thing yet, feel free to
>> contact me.
>> JRJ
>> On 8/2/2021 10:11 AM, James Liu via cctech wrote:
>>> Thanks for feedback and offers to assist.  I received the tape from
>>> one of the maintainers of Schoonship at CERN, and it was probably made
>>> around 1978 at SLAC.
>>> For some background, Tini Veltman developed Schoonship in the 1960's
>>> at CERN on the CDC 6600.  My understanding is that he more or less
>>> insisted on coding in assembly since he thought FORTRAN or other high
>>> level languages would just get in the way and slow things down.  The
>>> code was maintained by Veltman and Strubbe well into the 1970's, but
>>> its future was held back by being so closely tied to CDC hardware.
>>> In the mid 1970's, Strubbe began a conversion of Schoonschip to IBM
>>> S/360 and S/370.  It was sort of a curious technique, as far as I
>>> gathered.  The idea was to first translate CDC COMPASS source to an
>>> intermediate PL/I like language.  But then, instead of using the IBM
>>> PL/I compiler, a bunch of macros were developed to implement the PL/I
>>> like language in IBM assembly.  This conversion was never fully
>>> completed for reasons unknown to me.
>>> Later on, when Tini joined the University of Michigan (that's where
>>> I'm located), he realized that Schoonschip needed to be updated.  But
>>> the update was ... instead of CDC assembly he decided on m68k
>>> assembly.  (At this time, in the early 1980's, C probably would have
>>> been the natural language of choice.)  Moreover, he insisted on
>>> developing his own toolchain (assembler, linker, etc).  This was
>>> before my time at Michigan, but basically he ported Schoonschip to
>>> just about all the m68k machines of that era (Sun, Atari, Amiga, Mac,
>>> NeXT, and others I am not familiar with).  We have a pretty good
>>> collection of m68k code
>>> (
>>>  <>
>>> ), but nothing
>>> earlier.
>>> Getting back to the tape, I'm pretty sure it has Strubbe's PL/I like
>>> code as it is an archive of the PL/I conversion.  It may also have CDC
>>> source, but that is less obvious until we can see the contents.  The
>>> CDC source is historically the most relevant, and I am hoping it
>>> exists on the tape.
>>> - jim

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