[TUHS] reading 9 track tapes?

John Foust jfoust at threedee.com
Wed May 13 00:02:10 AEST 2015

At 12:46 AM 5/12/2015, Noufal Ibrahim KV wrote:
>The Internet Archive[1] has a lot of hardware to extract information
>from old media though I don't know if all of it is available.

Yes, I'm sure they do - as does the Computer History Museum, or many
of the other computer museums, and a fair number of mailing-list houses,
as well as many collectors, all still have functioning 9-tracks.
There's a few on eBay at any given moment.

A few years ago I travelled to Bettendorf, Iowa, to drop off two failed
9-track drives I had.  A fellow there (http://www.comco-inc.com/) has 
one of the few - perhaps only? - remaining 9-track service and repair 
businesses.  At that time he was hoping to down-size and retire, and 
was dreaming of finding someone to take over the business.  It sounded 
like he had a bunch of 88780-class 9-tracks that would go to the 
scrapper.  At the time, he offered to sell me a working 88780-style 
drive for about $1800.

He said most people just want to read old tape data, not write
it, so he wished for a new method to be able to read 7- and 9-track
tapes just to recover data.  One can imagine a flexible read head,
a digitizer, and the rest is software.  Indeed, that's what a few
people have made as an experiment.  

There's still some equipment and processes that require a real drive 
and that do not work with tape emulators.  He said there's a company 
out there that makes a modern 7-track drive for the seismic end of 
the oil industry at $50K a pop.  He repaired and sold many 9914-style
drives because they handled a longer block length needed by some
oil industry applications.  Another remaining market was a few 
specific models of 9-track that work with old Alcatel phone switches.

- John

More information about the TUHS mailing list