Research Computing >> Hardware >> Transfering data from tapes >> Tape formatting


To read a cartridge or tape, other than a proper codebook that provides information about the file contents, you may want to make sure that the following information is available:

  • The media type: 9-track reel tapes (such as media types 6250, 1600), 8 mm cassettes (media types 8mm-comp, 8mm-ncom), IBM 3480 cartridges (specify number of tracks, for example, 18-tracks format).
  • Tape formatting or character encoding: Typically, the enconding is ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange), EBCDIC (Extended Binary-Coded-Decimal Interchange Code) or Unix TAR (tape archiver, a compressed format).

The following options are relevant for mainframe media (reel tapes or IBM 3480 cartridges):

  • Labels: Is the tape labeled or not? EBCDIC tapes generally have labels (header and footer information about each file in the tape).
  • Passwords: some tapes require providing a password to be read.
  • Record format: Generally fixed (all logical records have the same length) or variable.
  • Record length (the number of bytes or characters in a single logical record)
  • Block size (the number of bytes in a block)

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