9-Track Magtape data Recovery Technique (Last Ditch!)

From: Douglas Quebbeman <dhquebbeman_at_theestopinalgroup.com>
Date: Thu Jun 14 15:26:59 2001

Hello all...

This message is directed at those you who are actively
performing data recovery on old 7-track and 9-track

Last summer, just before I toasted my Prime, I was
successful at reading data off tapes that were not
previously readable (and by previously I mean MY
attempts in the weeks prior to that night had failed).

The tapes had been stored in a basement that flooded.
Then, they were not recovered from the basement until
it was pretty much dry (two years later). Oxide was
falling off. There was lots of either mineral precipitate
or some kinda lichens or fungus growing on the tape.

I couldn't even read the label on one of them.

I thought judicious cleaning of the tape head might
help. I kept trying, no luck. Then I started to drink.

As the alcohol took affect, I got a wild idea. My
drive is a Cipher F880 streamer. You can slide it
out of the rack tray, and if you enter the right
sequence of button presses, you can unlock the
front door, and even better, the top lid, which
provides access to the tape path during operation.

So, I took a cleaning swab, soaked it in cleaner
(not Freon TF, and likely a poor substitute) and
applied it against the tape, directly before the
tape read head. It immediately stopped re-trying,
and started streaming!

When the swab would get dry, I'd pull it away, and
almost immediately, the drive would start retrying
until once again, I brought the wet swab against
the tape.

Doubtless, this is going to leave all kinds of crud
on the tape path, and might even shorten the drive's

But Cipher F880's are a dime a dozen; data on tapes
a bit more rare.

Has anyone else ever tried this? I know what you're
thinking, flaky jerk, getting drunk and burning up
vintage hardware. But it worked! I spent a few hours
looking at the files to make sure they were intact;
they were. I transferred some of them, but not all,
as I don't have a transfer program to get stuff off
the Prime right now (other than to simply list it
and capture the listing).

I have other tapes right now that I'd like read; I sent
them to someone who tried, and they said they could
not even read the first block, indicating that they
might be 7-track instead of 9-track (possible).

Anyway, there it is, bread cast upon the waters. With
any luck at all, I'll get a sandwich out of it.

-doug q
Received on Thu Jun 14 2001 - 15:26:59 BST

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