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May 5, 2014 4:05 PM   Subscribe


 
DAT, revisited.
posted by squorch at 4:09 PM on May 5


DAT storage tho
posted by Senor Cardgage at 4:09 PM on May 5 [58 favorites]


Oh for the love of...This has been everywhere today, and the "lulz tape casettes are the future" gag is annoying. Ridonkulous data density aside, this is no more "cassette" technology than existing LTO tapes, which are used for long term data storage all over the place.
posted by stenseng at 4:10 PM on May 5 [23 favorites]


Coco just said "finally I can fit all my porn on two tapes."
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 4:12 PM on May 5 [2 favorites]


The internet's been all abuzz like the idea of a cassette is just the weirdest thing ever but I don't know, my small business still uses a DAT drive built right into the front of the server. It's a very reasonable and simple solution. If anything, it most closely resembles an 8-track player.
posted by 2bucksplus at 4:14 PM on May 5 [2 favorites]


Let's see, the current tape standard (LTO-6) holds... 2.5 TB.

Holy shit, Sony. I thought the days of these kinds of storage density leaps were long behind us.
posted by indubitable at 4:21 PM on May 5


no. tape is horrible.
REWIND!
posted by Abinadab at 4:21 PM on May 5 [1 favorite]


Magnetic tape is basically the same technology as hard drives, but with a flexible substrate and one-dimensional recording instead of two-dimensional. But it's totally expected that as hard drive densities get better, that tape capacities should as well.

It's a little surprising in some ways that hard drives have maintained such a price-per-byte lead over hard drives, when you consider the mechanical complexity of the latter. It's a real testament to economies of scale and automated manufacturing that you can buy a 1TB hard drive for less than a tape drive and 1TB of tapes.
posted by Kadin2048 at 4:22 PM on May 5 [2 favorites]


If you drill down and follow the links, it is actually 148 Gbit per square inch, not 148 GB. Still impressive! But far from "more dense[] than any other previous method." Rigid magnetic media have been above that density for some time. Still, sounds cool and I'd like to read the paper. Can anyone actually find the authors' names? The conference website does not list papers by affiliated institution / sponsoring corporation...
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 4:22 PM on May 5 [1 favorite]


The little magnetic crystals are 7.7 nanometres wide on average. That's crazy awesome.
posted by Kevin Street at 4:23 PM on May 5 [1 favorite]


This is cool, but I have to say, I realized how jaded I was when I was like, okay, I think we're a few years past needing shocked italics for "terabytes".
posted by Sequence at 4:23 PM on May 5 [6 favorites]


LOAD""
PRESS PLAY ON TAPE
posted by infinitewindow at 4:26 PM on May 5 [10 favorites]


"Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of tapes hurtling down the highway."
posted by double block and bleed at 4:28 PM on May 5 [24 favorites]


polymer film substrate

Based on my experiences with cassette tapes and their horrid long-term track record, I don't think I'd want to stress the association of my product with them.
posted by Greg_Ace at 4:29 PM on May 5


Does it come in 8-track?
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 4:30 PM on May 5 [3 favorites]


'Dat cass.....ette.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 4:30 PM on May 5 [7 favorites]


Storing data on tapes is lame; I store all of mine on vinyl.
posted by jessssse at 4:31 PM on May 5 [13 favorites]


I do wonder how long data recorded on these tapes would last. It's so dense we're getting into the realm of quantum mechanics here.
posted by Kevin Street at 4:31 PM on May 5


Do DAT tapes have that magnetic transfer problem that, like, regular audio cassettes had? Where the charge would transfer from the front to the adjacent back of the tape so you could very faintly hear the other side of the album playing backward? There was probably a name for that but I am not an audio geek.
posted by gingerest at 4:33 PM on May 5 [1 favorite]


"Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of tapes hurtling down the highway."

Yeah, but the latency's a bitch.
posted by acb at 4:33 PM on May 5 [4 favorites]


Do DAT tapes have that magnetic transfer problem that, like, regular audio cassettes had? Where the charge would transfer from the front to the adjacent back of the tape so you could very faintly hear the other side of the album playing backward? There was probably a name for that but I am not an audio geek.

Digital formats don't have problems like that in general.
posted by empath at 4:35 PM on May 5 [1 favorite]


It's not just 3 blurays per tape, it's three blurays per square inch!

From the article: 148 GB per square inch

Wow.

But is that still flying heads on the actual tape interface? I mean, how slowly would you have to move the tape to read 148GB off an inch of tape? How do magnetic tapes even work at that speed? Anyway, if we still have flying heads we're still going to have all the excitement of chewed up tapes eating the terabytes of data when they get gummy.
posted by GuyZero at 4:37 PM on May 5 [1 favorite]


you could very faintly hear the other side of the album playing backward

Which could make the music get really dense when you were listening to, say, Charles Ives or Conlon Nancarrow.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:42 PM on May 5 [5 favorites]


But is that still flying heads on the actual tape interface?

It has to be a laser. There just isn't anything else small enough to work on a 7 nanometre scale.
posted by Kevin Street at 4:43 PM on May 5


I can still use my pencil to rewind, right?
posted by davebush at 4:44 PM on May 5 [9 favorites]


Do DAT tapes have that magnetic transfer problem that, like, regular audio cassettes had? Where the charge would transfer from the front to the adjacent back of the tape so you could very faintly hear the other side of the album playing backward? There was probably a name for that but I am not an audio geek.

This is called print through, or bleed through, and can be heard to interesting effect on Led Zeppelin's Whole Lotta Love, where you can hear previous takes of Robert Plant's vocals bleeding through - they couldn't easily fix it, so they threw some echo on it and called it a day.
posted by stenseng at 4:48 PM on May 5 [11 favorites]


can be heard to interesting effect on Led Zeppelin's Whole Lotta Love, where you can hear previous takes of Robert Plant's vocals bleeding through

nope - jimmy page flipped the tape backwards, put a fairly long reverb on the vocals, then flipped the tape back
posted by pyramid termite at 4:54 PM on May 5 [4 favorites]


*searches cassette recording of dark side of the moon for a vast trove of alien literature*
posted by pyramid termite at 4:57 PM on May 5 [1 favorite]


Coco just said "finally I can fit all my porn on two tapes."

Someone needs to talk to that girl about uppin' her resolution.
posted by uraniumwilly at 4:58 PM on May 5 [1 favorite]


The problem with magnetic tape isn't that you'd hear the other side backward, it's that you'd hear echoes of sound a second or two ahead or behind (or both), because of magnetic transfer while spooled. Hearing the other side backward is a track separation problem, which I don't think I've encountered.
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:58 PM on May 5 [3 favorites]


You can reuse them by covering up the little thing with some tape.
posted by jquinby at 4:58 PM on May 5 [8 favorites]


I'm sure the NSA is pleased with this advance in long-term storage.
posted by double block and bleed at 4:59 PM on May 5 [1 favorite]


Magnetic tape is basically the same technology as hard drives, but with a flexible substrate

That makes it seem like it would make it a lot harder to make a tape with as high data capacity as a hard drive. You need materials that can bend a bunch of times, and can withstand physical contact from rollers. Hard drives have no such requirement.

As of August 2010 drives with densities of 667Gb/in2 were available commercially (wiki). That's over 4x as dense as this tape. They do say that this is the highest data density which I guess must mean in comparison with other tapes. Which is kind of meaningful still, because you can put 8 square meters of area on a tape, but you can't do that on a hard drive.

It has to be a laser. There just isn't anything else small enough to work on a 7 nanometre scale.

They use particles that are 7 nanometers big, but if there were a bit every 7nm, it would be 10 petabits per square inch. This tape doesn't have smaller bits than a spinning disk hard drive.
posted by aubilenon at 5:00 PM on May 5


Do DAT tapes have that magnetic transfer problem that, like, regular audio cassettes had? ... There was probably a name for that

There is: print-through.
posted by weston at 5:00 PM on May 5


»» to the past.

This might be the very definition of steampunk.
posted by vapidave at 5:01 PM on May 5


Do DAT tapes have that magnetic transfer problem that, like, regular audio cassettes had? Where the charge would transfer from the front to the adjacent back of the tape so you could very faintly hear the other side of the album playing backward? There was probably a name for that but I am not an audio geek.

You don't get print-through but you do get drop-out.
posted by popcassady at 5:04 PM on May 5


Where the charge would transfer from the front to the adjacent back of the tape so you could very faintly hear the other side of the album playing backward?

Just for clarification, magnetic tapes are only coated on one side. Audio cassettes (unlike video, which play in only one direction) are double-sided only in the sense that they use only half the width of the tape. When you flip it over you're playing the other half of the same surface, not the other surface of the tape, which is just uncoated base material.
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:08 PM on May 5 [8 favorites]


In the future, your car's tape deck will mangle the entire documentation of Western civilization, not just Lynyrd Skynyrd albums.
posted by davebush at 5:10 PM on May 5 [10 favorites]


Do DAT tapes have that magnetic transfer problem that, like, regular audio cassettes had?

DAT had a Sony problem, specifically that the DAT hardware that Sony made would result in recordings that were unplayable in other DAT drives, and expensive Sony DAT drives that were themselves prone to becoming unusable not long after purchase.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:26 PM on May 5 [1 favorite]


double block and bleed: ""Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of tapes hurtling down the highway.""

My boss told me this one back in 2001, and I remember dealing with '90s style tape drives and thinking, well sure you could drive a shitload of tapes to Denver but it'd still take you a year and change to offload them. He bought a shiny new LTO soon after.
posted by Sphinx at 5:26 PM on May 5 [1 favorite]


I don't get why people are all chuckle, chuckle over tape. Computer hardware is full of these tradeoffs. We've traded some storage density per surface area (because making it bendy sucks) for an enormous increase in surface area. We must fold this area and reel into something small for it to be manageable, which clobbers speed of access and suggests that infrequent, linear access is best.

I do not think tape is ever going away because of the huge surface area offered by the format, up until the point where the storage density for a flexible surface becomes so comparatively low against that of hard drives that the advantage of ratio of spinning rusty platters to unwound tape surface areas is overwhelmed.
posted by adipocere at 5:28 PM on May 5 [2 favorites]


As of August 2010 drives with densities of 667Gb/in2 were available commercially (wiki). That's over 4x as dense as this tape.

That's gigabits, not bytes, so it's more like half the density.
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:34 PM on May 5


I do not think tape is ever going away

Not completely, no. But tape usage is declining. Hard drives have been increasing in capacity faster than tape drives, and both of those have outpaced the needs of many (though certainly not all) applications.

That's gigabits, not bytes, so it's more like half the density.

I based my comparison on the article Joey Buttafoucault linked to which says the Sony Tape is 148 gigabits. It seems ExtremeTech messed up when quoting itworld, Gizmodo used ExtremeTech as a source and didn't read through, and the FPP quoted the error from Gizmodo.
posted by aubilenon at 5:52 PM on May 5


Actually never mind all that. Here is Sony's press release. It clearly states 148 gigabits.
posted by aubilenon at 5:55 PM on May 5


That's hilarious. Gizmodo up to their usual standard, even compounding it by throwing in the "three blu-rays per inch" themselves. As for ExtremeTech that doesn't say much for their reporting that they can riff so long and elaborately on their own mistake -- going on for paragraph after paragraph with inaccurate comparisons -- without ever catching it.
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:05 PM on May 5


Wow, just think of how much data you could lose all at once.
posted by angerbot at 6:10 PM on May 5 [5 favorites]


Thanks for the link, aubilenon. It is still frustrating that Sony will not name the authors so that I can readily locate the paper, but there is an interesting technical tidbit (footnote 3):

"The sputter method is one form of thin film deposition. Electrostatic discharge is used to force argon (Ar) ions to collide with the material (target), and the materials generated from the collision become the thin layer deposited on the substrate."

This is interesting. Physical sputtering was once state of the art in hard drive media, but hasn't been for a while now. Still, my impression of the process was that it involved conditions (e.g. heat) that would've been inhospitable to the thin plastic strip that forms the substrate of a tape. I'm curious how they made it work, and indeed the press release also hints that there were some improvements to the substrate - also left pretty vague, unfortunately.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 6:22 PM on May 5


I guess that for people who haven't worked as sysadmins the existence of tapes for backup is surprising. It's an effective method and one that has been in use for a long time and will likely be in use for a long time.

The only really surprising thing is how much data Sony managed to cram onto the tape in this case, which really is pretty amazing considering that the standard tape drives used for backup these days store ~1/75th as much. That's an impressive jump in storage capacity.

I don't think tape will be used forever, but barring a whole new order of storage technology it'll be in use for a good long while. It's lousy for storing random access data, but for something linear like a backup tape is fantastic. It's compact, damage resistant, and all around good stuff.
posted by sotonohito at 7:34 PM on May 5


This makes me vaguely uneasy and I'm not entirely sure why.
posted by unixrat at 7:54 PM on May 5


i hope they remembered to punch out the tabs.
posted by 4ster at 7:55 PM on May 5 [4 favorites]


The uneasy part is that you're wondering if this is being announced what is the NSA using, I bet they're storing data on dreams and sunshine by now. Or more practically they can use this as a sort of tiered storage layer for hoovering basically everything, and then all of the know-how and brilliance goes into structuring that data in a higher tier of "cache" like regular ol' hard drives and ROM and RAM and just chewing through it finding some sensible order to put it into before sequentially writing it. Or figuring that out on the other end, because you can never exactly figure out how you're going to churn through all of this data if you have to down the road, if you have enough of it and haven't gone to a new breakthrough in technology, but even if it's just primarily sorted by date then the game has just shifted big-time.

This would be somewhat analogous to Nimble's tiered-storage model, where the archival data is stored sequentially on cheap SATA drives, and then a ton of work is ton with processors and memory to compress and manipulate the data, moving it back and forth between the SATA array and solid-state drives on demand.
posted by aydeejones at 9:22 PM on May 5


If the tape stretches because I am replaying a section of it enough to cause the tape to warp, can I store more data on it if I record over it, do my numbers get bigger? What happens? Because sure, tapes weren't so bad to listen to a few hundred times, but they were useless once David Byrne sounded like Tom Waits.
posted by Nanukthedog at 9:36 PM on May 5


You know those big reel to reel tape drives the size of refrigerator you see on old movies trying to look high tech. The standard IBM open reel tape drive accepted a 10.5 in reel of 1/2" tape in lengths up to 3600'. And stored somewhere around 200MB at maximum drive density and tape length.

Put this new super density tape on that reel at the same length and each reel could hold 3.2 Petabits.
posted by Mitheral at 9:48 PM on May 5 [1 favorite]


I bet you could sell them on eBay somehow...they are transformed anew into rare Tom Waits covers through the corruptible yet incorrigible nature of analog and the march of entropy.

A back of the envelope calculation suggests that it would take one unit of eternity to wear this tape out that way in its typical use case, and much more quickly if you were using a given cassette on a frequency of more than once a week (like with a Robot DJ* that finds the tapes for you on demand in an environment where crazy-huge unprecedented quantities of data are needed on demand) you would have a ridiculous redundant quantity of these, but more commonly they'll be used to store big data-dumps, backups and such that are stored offsite in lockboxes or what have you.

* for some reason these are called "Jukeboxes" sometimes but the "Robot DJ" is much cooler to visualize
posted by aydeejones at 9:48 PM on May 5


I saw this story and my usual reaction kicked in. Irritation. I apologize in advance, but I hate this kind of stuff - breathless reporting on some breakthrough or demonstration of concept, and then... nothing. I'm not fifteen anymore. Back when mags like Omni existed, I used to lap up all the stories of exciting new technologies on the horizon, imagining how any moment I'm going to be living in the future. Except then pretty soon I noticed the same pattern: big announcement, press releases, breathless reporting, and then silence. It never comes to market. And then it's onto the next piece of vaporware, except it's even more pathetic than vaporware, as at least in the case of vaporware a product is announced as 'coming soon'. This is nothing more than a lab report.

My policy is: wake me up when it's going into production and I can buy it in six month's time. Sure, it may seem like fun spinning exciting scenarios based on all this hot air, but the inevitable letdown is too much. The list of exciting technologies, medical breakthroughs and wonderful projections is so long, I can't even muster cynicism anymore, it's just pure annoyance.

Meanwhile, I've been waiting for prices on 4TB drives to drop to something reasonable, and it's been a slog. So to read about this kind of storage 'announcement' is like the worst kind of lazy teasing. Shut up and ship. Then we can talk.
posted by VikingSword at 10:17 PM on May 5 [1 favorite]


Hearing the other side backward is a track separation problem

Yes, heads out of alignment. So far off that they are picking up past the midpoint and playing a little of the other side of the album, which would be backwards.

I don't get why people are all chuckle, chuckle over tape.

I didn’t even realize this was supposed to be a funny thing until I saw a couple of comments about it. Of course the stupid article that about how there’s going to be a record breaking amount of data stored on a cassette, except it may not be record breaking and it isn’t a cassette, was confusing.
posted by bongo_x at 12:28 AM on May 6


185 TB per tape according to Sony's press release. So only 18 of these needed to hold all of ATLAS' data for a year after trigging, need 10^5 times that if you wanted everything, which you can't have anyhow). What is the write speed on these things, anyhow? How fast can you record?
posted by nat at 1:34 AM on May 6


Recent cassette tape anecdote...I was mowing my yard Saturday. As I was making a pass around my shed, I spied in the tall grass in front of me a blue rectangular brick-like thing. It looked suspiciously like this thing. My head immediately exploded with joy. I had a Walkman exactly like that when they first came out. I started flashing on the amazing experience of walking around out in public with my own personal soundtrack!!! OMG, I shouted to myself. Someone last a freaking Walkman! In my yard! The gods are smiling at me!!!

Turns out, the thing was one of these that my neighbor's kid had dropped. I mean...It's blue. Ish. And I'm old and easily fooled. It was down in tall grass.

Get off my freshly mowed lawn.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:13 AM on May 6 [1 favorite]


> no. tape is horrible.

I doubt that's much of a worry. Once they've got that kind of data density on a cassette-like thingy people won't rest until it's also available on something better.
posted by jfuller at 5:22 AM on May 6


VikingSword: "Meanwhile, I've been waiting for prices on 4TB drives to drop to something reasonable"

$170 at NewEgg right now. Is that reasonable? I paid ~$80 for a 2 TB drive before the Great Flood-Driven Hard Drive Scarcity a few years back, so this seems like about the same $ per GB...
posted by caution live frogs at 7:18 AM on May 6


So just to recap my lifetime:

- vinyl
- tape
- CD
- Laserdisc
- Blu-Ray
- nonphysical storage (e.g. iPods)
- and back to tape

If this means I have to live through the 80's again I'm outta here
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:38 AM on May 6


Wow, just think of how much data you could lose all at once.

One of the advantages of tape over HDDs is that it's harder to lose all the data at once. Tape is pretty robust, because the data storage medium is physically separate from the drive motors, heads, etc. Most of the time when hard drives fail, it's not the platters themselves failing (well, there are single-bit errors, but I'm talking about catastrophic failures) but the drive motor/controller/heads in some way. If that happens to a tape system you just replace the drive. It's possible to take the platters out of a hard drive and put them into a new one, but it's expensive and has to be done in a clean room and is basically only ever done in serious oh-now-we're-fucked data recovery contexts.

My prediction is that hard drives will stay ahead of tape for a while, until we reach some sort of fundamental physical or engineering data-density limit, and all the attention turns over towards Flash-based / solid state storage. Tape will then quietly approach that same limit, with the usual offline-storage and archival advantages. And it will continue to be used in those applications where you have a truly large amount of data to store, for a long time, with low retrieval rates. I doubt it'll make sense to have one in the front of your PC like some people had back in the DAT days, but as a datacenter / NOC thing I think it's pretty safe as a technology.

Hard to see cassettes coming back under any circumstances, though. Given the use cases where tape does well (bulk offline / nearline storage), it doesn't make sense to take up twice as much space in your jukebox system or tape library with an empty take-up reel for each full reel of tape, which is what a "cassette" implies. Open reel, either of the traditional variety or the modern type used by LTO, is a much more efficient use of space.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:16 AM on May 6


But is that still flying heads on the actual tape interface? I mean, how slowly would you have to move the tape to read 148GB off an inch of tape? How do magnetic tapes even work at that speed? Anyway, if we still have flying heads we're still going to have all the excitement of chewed up tapes eating the terabytes of data when they get gummy.

Higher capacity tape backups are LTO instead of DLT. LTO can be up to 2.5 TB now, and can record at 160MB/second.

LTO tapes can have up to 2176 tracks, written 16 at a time. Each track is 15,000 bits per mm! The tape makes multiple passes, forward and reverse. So it's not a flying head like a VCR.
posted by jjj606 at 8:22 AM on May 6


huh, tape drives have changed a lot. Those LTO drive heads are indeed just like big audio cassette heads. And the tape is on a single spool these days. Neat.
posted by GuyZero at 8:45 AM on May 6


And the tape is on a single spool these days.

Well, it's stored on a single spool when not in use. LTO and DLT use a take-up spool inside the drive, basically doing what someone on a traditional open-reel deck would do by hand. Which makes sense, because evolutionarily, LTO is the direct descendant of IBM 1/2" open reel tape.

Historically, there were a few tape formats that were truly single-spool (Travan maybe? can't remember) where the tape was an endless loop and the drive just pulled out a loop and ran it around the heads, and then it went back into the cartridge. Basically like an 8-track cartridge. I've always thought this was one step away from wizardry and seems like it would be really hard on the tape, but it does eliminate the take-up spool, having to grab and latch to the end of the tape, and tape-end sensing issues.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:18 AM on May 6


nope - jimmy page flipped the tape backwards, put a fairly long reverb on the vocals, then flipped the tape back
posted by pyramid termite at 4:54 PM on May 5 [4 favorites +] [!]



Unless you've got a more definitive source than the engineer (Eddie Kramer) who recorded the track, we'll have to agree to disagree.

"[A]t one point there was bleed-through of a previously recorded vocal in the recording of "Whole Lotta Love". It was the middle part where Robert [Plant] screams "Wo-man. You need it." Since we couldn't re-record at that point, I just threw some echo on it to see how it would sound and Jimmy [Page] said "Great! Just leave it."[9]"
posted by stenseng at 9:45 AM on May 6


Yeah, that's what I meant as opposed to the cassette-style tapes for DAT, QIC or 8mm tapes.

The 8-track endless spool setup does seem like it would be mechanically hard on the tape.

Funny that old-school open reel tapes would re-emerge after a long period of cassette-style units.
posted by GuyZero at 9:45 AM on May 6


Quite serious question: I miss the 8-track I used to have in my car in the US. Are there storage tape drives in standard enclosures that I could dash mount? Something appeals about doing this for music in the car.
posted by cromagnon at 10:38 AM on May 6


You can get DAT drives with SATA interfaces... I think there are QIC drives that might fit but they have ancient interfaces like IDE or floppy controllers. It might be easier to find an old radio with a regular cassette player.
posted by GuyZero at 10:49 AM on May 6


imagining how any moment I'm going to be living in the future.
...
Meanwhile, I've been waiting for prices on 4TB drives to drop to something reasonable
Yeah, the trouble with the real future is that it sneaks up on you so gradually you can miss it if you're not looking.
posted by roystgnr at 11:32 AM on May 6


> This makes me vaguely uneasy and I'm not entirely sure why.
there's an xkcd for that
posted by morganw at 11:37 AM on May 6 [1 favorite]


If this means I have to live through the 80's again I'm outta here

Nah, just back to the 90s.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:01 PM on May 6


GuyZero: "It might be easier to find an old radio with a regular cassette player."

You can still buy cassette head units brand new.
posted by Mitheral at 6:01 PM on May 6


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