What's magtape good for anyway?

John Holden johnh at psychvax.psych.usyd.edu.au
Wed Mar 25 16:00:21 AEST 1998

There were several tape handling programs that were standand from edition 5
onwards, including tap, tp, dtp, itp, tar and cpio. The only major tape standard
around at the time (other than IBM) was ANSI, and several programs (not from
Bell) were available to handle these. The ANSI tape structure was very
inefficient with tape usage, since it used small record sizes and lots
of tape marks. TAR did a better job (for Unix) and only lacked labels
to name the tape.

Putting tape filesystem handling into the kernel was definately against the
original 'small is beautiful' philosophy. In any case, tape handling was
very easy via the raw interface.

As a side issue, Plan 9 has the ability to mount a tape as part of the
namespace and only reads the file contents if the file is opened.

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