Alan Freedman -- The Computer Language Company - Computer Desktop Encyclopedia
Computer Desktop Encyclopedia
Longest-Running Tech Reference on the Planet

A CDE Definition

You'll love The Computer Desktop Encyclopedia (CDE) for Tech Term of the Day (TTOD)

LOOK UP ANOTHER TERM


magnetic tape

A sequential storage medium used for data collection, backup and archiving. Like videotape, computer tape is made of flexible plastic with one side coated with a ferromagnetic material. Tapes were originally open reels, but were superseded by cartridges and cassettes of many sizes and shapes.

Tape has been more economical than disks for archival data, but that is changing as disk capacities have increased enormously. If tapes are stored for the duration, they must be periodically recopied or the tightly coiled magnetic surfaces may contaminate each other.

Sequential Medium
The major drawback of tape is its sequential format. Locating a specific record requires reading every record in front of it or searching for markers that identify predefined partitions. Although most tapes are used for archiving rather than routine updating, some drives allow rewriting in place if the byte count does not change. Otherwise, updating requires copying files from the original tape to a blank tape (scratch tape) and adding the new data in between.

Track Formats
Tracks run parallel to the edge of the tape (linear recording) or diagonally (helical scan). A linear variation is serpentine recording, in which the tracks "snake" back and forth from the end of the tape to the beginning.

Legacy open reel tapes used nine linear tracks (8 bits plus parity), while modern cartridges use 128 or more tracks. Data are recorded in blocks of contiguous bytes, separated by a space called an "interrecord gap" or "interblock gap." Tape drive speed is measured in inches per second (ips). Over the years, storage density has increased from 200 to 38,000 bpi. See helical scan and compact tape.




Tracks on Magnetic Tape
Except for helical scan recording, most tracks on magnetic tape run parallel to the length of the tape.




Magnetic Tape Summary
The following magnetic tape technologies are summarized below. See also magnetic disk and optical disc.









































































Personal Use Only

Before/After Your Search Term
BeforeAfter
magnetic drummagnetic tape head
magnetic fieldmagneto-optic disk
magnetic inkmagnetographic
magnetic ink character recognitionmagnetometer
magnetic mediamagnetoresistance
magnetic oxidemagnetoresistive
magnetic recordingmagnetron
magnetic storageMagstar
magnetic stripMagstar MP
magnetic stripemAh

Terms By Topic
Click any of the following categories for a list of fundamental terms.
Computer Words You Gotta KnowSystem design
Job categoriesUnix/Linux
Interesting stuffPersonal computers
InternetIndustrial Automation/Process Control
Communications & networkingAssociations/Standards organizations
HistoryDesktop publishing
Audio/VideoGraphics
MainframesSecurity
ProgrammingHealthcare IT
System design