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The Invincibility Of The Tape Drive
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The Invincibility Of the Tape Drive

When we think of magnetic tape, many of us conger up images of old VHS players, or relive the excitement of purchasing our first Sony Walkman. It may come as a shock to some that, despite new technologies coming along and effectively killing their predecessor, magnetic tape is still alive and well. It may come as even more of a surprise that today the industry is worth over half a billion dollar – coming a long way from those nostalgic cassettes.

Exploding onto the market in 1952, magnetic tape revolutionised the way in which data was stored. Previous data storage was rather primitive, in the form of punch cards where the user punch holes of a card, mainly used for programming machinery settings. When magnetic tape was first introduced, one roll could store as much data as ten thousand punch cards – a truly amazing feat of the time. However with new technologies such as floppy disks and CD Roms entering the fray, the popularity of mainstream use of magnetic tape began to tapper.

Pioneered by IBM, magnetic tape was originally used in the world of computing. However, it was widely popularised through the advent of cassette tapes. These were first developed in 1963, by Phillips, however took around a decade to catch on, gaining popularity in the early 1970’s. The average cassette of the time could store up to one megabyte of each side. Compare this to today’s standard, and you would need roughly five thousand cassette tapes to back up a DVD, and it would take you over nine months to complete the backup – a great example of the progression of technology.

Though the days of walking down the street blasting your Walkman are long gone, magnetic tape is still alive and kicking. Though we may not see it as much in mainstream use, data tape backup hides away in government archives and libraries, serving a new, lower key purpose. Though hidden away from the limelight and devoid of the hype an excitement of iPhones and tablets, magnetic tape still serves an extremely important purpose. Considered one of the most reliable and secure means of data storage, magnetic tape is now reserved for valuable information which needs to be preserved – A far cry from the MC Hammer cassettes of yesteryear.

So think before throwing out technology you perceived to be out dated, because it may well come in handy one day.


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