Help reading a 9 track tape

James Liu jimliu at
Thu Aug 5 09:28:53 CDT 2021

On Wed, Aug 4, 2021 at 10:25 AM Jay Jaeger <cube1 at> 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.

Thanks, Jay (and others) for offering your assistance.  I've asked
Chuck to have a look at the tape, and we'll see how it goes.

> 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).

I can't say I know much about IBM systems, but apparently Strubbe, who
was doing the port and who I got the tape from, was no fan of
IEBUPDTE.  I wonder if IEBUPDTX was his attempt at an improvement.

As for CDC Schoonschip, old reports indicate that it consisted of
about 25k lines of COMPASS code along with 1k lines of FORTRAN for
handling I/O.  At the time (1960's), Tini may have been right about
making the most of the hardware, especially memory limitations, by
coding in assembly.  For example, I think Schoonschip packed a lot of
data into bitfields which FORTRAN may not be so adept at handling.
However I think he hung on to this sort of "high level languages
cripple the computer" mentality for too long.  Then again, he was
quite the character.

Stephen Wolfram has some interesting musings on Schoonschip at

> So, if you haven't found somebody to read this thing yet, feel free to
> contact me.

- jim

James T. Liu, Professor of Physics
3409 Randall Laboratory, 450 Church Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1040
Tel: 734 763-4314    Fax: 734 763-2213    Email: jimliu at

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