Category: Obsolete

Refers to formats not in widespread use either because the media or the systems using the media are not produced. The date when a format becomes obsolete is often difficult to determine because it may continue to be used for many years after being discontinued, or may become a niche format used by a few.

Open reel instrumentation and data logging tape (1949 – 2000s)

Magnetic tape was first used for data logging and instrumentation recording in 1949, when Jack Mullins installed modified Ampex Model 300s at Point Mugu Naval Air Station and at Edwards Air Force Base, both in southern California.

Tape has been heavily used since then for military, industrial, government and research applications. The Inter-Range Instrumentation Group (IRIG) set the standards for instrumentation tape recorders.

Instrumentation recorders were built to much more stringent standards than other tape recorders, and recorders that used direct, FM and PCM recording have been available.

On ¼-inch wide tape, there are typically 4 tracks, whereas on ½-inch tape there were 7, or sometimes even 14, tracks. On 1-inch tape, there were 14 or 28 tracks. Tape is usually wound on the reel with the recording surface facing towards the hub (the opposite of audio tape). Metal NAB reels were often used, for reels between 10.5 and 16-inches, but 7-inch plastic reels with cine spindle hubs have also been used.

Instrumentation recorders also used tape in cassette form, including systems that recorded onto S-VHS tape, and the Digital Instrumentation Recorder from Sony that used the SD1 cassette.

Instrumentation and data logging systems now use hard disks or flash memory for storage.

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Digital Data Storage (DDS) (1989 – 2007)

Digital Data Storage (DDS) was introduced in 1989, and used a version of Digital Audio Tape (DAT) for storing data.

DDS used helical scanning on magnetic tape, and stored between 1.3 GB in the first generation (DDS-1) and 36 GB uncompressed on the fifth generation (DAT 72) launched in 2003.

During its life, DDS competed against formats such as Linear Tape-Open (LTO), Advanced Intelligent Tape (AIT), VXA, and Travan, and over 18 million DDS drives were sold.

Generally, DDS drives can read and write to media of one or perhaps two previous generations only, so DDS-4 drives cannot read or write from DDS-1 tapes. DDS drives cannot read or write to media from later generations.

Two later generations (DDS-160 and DDS-320) both use 8mm wide tape in a slightly thicker cartridge, whereas the first five generation of DDS used 3.81 mm tape (often labelled as 4mm DDS).

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Preservation / Migration

media stability 3obsolescence 3Whilst DDS drives are still available secondhand, a single drive cannot read more than three generations of DDS.

The earliest tapes are now nearly 30 years old

 

DVCPRO (1995 – early 2010s)

DVCPRO (also known as DVCPRO25 or D-7) is a variation of the DV format, and was introduced by Panasonic in 1995 for professional and broadcast use.

In common with all DV formats, DVCPRO uses tape that is ¼-inch (6.35 mm) wide, but DVCPRO uses metal particle (MP) tape rather than metal evaporate. DVCPRO also adds an analogue audio cue track and a control track to make editing easier.

DVCPRO50 was introduced in 1997 and used two DV codecs in parallel, doubling the data rate over the original DVCPRO to 50 Mbps. DVCPRO50 decks can use DVCPRO tapes, but the tape is run at twice the speed so capacity is halved.

In 2000, Panasonic launched DVCPRO HD for high-definition recording. This had a data rate of 100 Mbps and competed with Sony’s HDCAM.

Panasonic stopped selling equipment using video tape around 2013.

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Memory Stick Micro (M2) (2006 – 2009)

Memory Stick Micro (M2) was the smallest form factor of the Sony Memory Stick family. It was introduced as a joint venture with SanDisk in 2006 and is just one-quarter of the size of the Memory Stick Duo. Typical uses include PDAs and mobile phones.

Adaptors were available to allow Memory Stick Micro cards to be used in Memory Stick and Memory Stick Duo slots, and Sony produced an M2 to USB adaptor.

Cards were available from 64 MB to 16 GB capacities.

In 2009, Sony announced that Sony Ericsson phones would use microSD cards instead of Memory Stick Micro, and by 2011, the Memory Stick Micro was no longer available on the Sony UK website.

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3.25-inch floppy disk (1983 – mid-1980s)

The 3.25-inch disk was a floppy disk introduced in 1983 for use in the Tabor TC 500 Drivette disk drive. It was a double-sided disk, with an unformatted capacity of 500 KB.

It was similar in design to the 5.25-inch minifloppy disk, and in fact the drive could replace the 5.25-inch disk drive in a PC using the same cable. In addition to the Tabor Drivette, there was a prototype 3.25-inch disk drive system for the Coleco Adam computer (that at that time was using High Speed Digital Data Pack tape drives) and a 3.25-inch drive was used in the rare Seequa Chameleon 325 computer.

Producers of the disks included Tabor, Dysan, and 3M. However, Dysan seems to have been the main producer of disks, which it labelled as the ‘Flex Diskette’, since like the 5.25-inch disk, the disk’s envelope was flexible.

The 3.25-inch disk came about at a time when there were a number of competing designs of microfloppy disk, such as the 3.5-inch microfloppy and the 3-inch Compact Floppy, and it doesn’t seem to have lasted very long in the marketplace.

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Preservation / Migration

media stability 5obsolescence 5

Hewlett-Packard LaserJet Font Cartridge (1984 – 1990)

Hewlett-Packard introduced font cartridges in 1984 for its new range of LaserJet printers and the first series of font cartridges were designed for the original LaserJet, the LaserJet Plus and the LaserJet II series.

The cartridges contained a small selection of bitmapped fonts in ROM, and were numbered 92286A to 92286Z. Each cartridge was designed with a specific purpose in mind (for example, tax returns, presentations, word processing, barcodes etc.) and ranged in price from $150-$330 each. The cartridges supplemented the small range of built-in fonts and helped keep the cost of the printer down by reducing the amount of built-in memory required. Hewlett-Packard referred to the cartridges as ‘hard fonts’ as they were contained in hardware, as opposed to ‘soft’ fonts that were loaded onto the computer from floppy disk (Hewlett-Packard supplied soft fonts on a choice of 3.5-inch or 5.25-inch disk) and then downloaded to the printer’s memory as required. Early LaserJet printers could use hard or soft fonts, but at first more fonts were available on cartridges and they didn’t use the printer’s limited memory.

Although Hewlett-Packard did release some font cartridges for later LaserJet models, software fonts eventually won out as they were more flexible in their use (many fonts could be used in one document), they didn’t need to be contained in expensive cartridges, memory considerations became less important, and Microsoft began bundling fonts with the Windows operating system.

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2-inch floppy disk (LT-1) (1989 – early 1990s)

The 2-inch LT-1 disc was introduced in 1989 for use in the Zenith Minisport notebook computer, the only device that used it. Although very similar to the 2-inch Video Floppy, the two discs are not interchangeable.

The Zenith Minisport was a very lightweight laptop, with good battery life and DOS 3.3 built into ROM for fast booting. It came with 1 or 2 MB of RAM, and except for the HD version did not have a hard drive.

The LT-1 discs, which were made by Fujifilm, had a capacity of 793 KB, similar to the double-sided, double-density 3.5-inch microfloppy disk, but a lot less than the high-density 3.5-inch microfloppy disk that was becoming the industry standard. Because the LT-1 discs were only used in one model of computer, they were more expensive than other disc designs, and there was no way to read the discs on other devices.

To get around the problem of file transfer due to the unusual disc design, an external 3.5-inch microfloppy disk drive was available, and the Minisport could also transfer files via serial cable to another PC using a program called FastLynx.

The Minisport only seems to have been produced for a couple of years.

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Roland Music Style Card (1989 – 1991)

The Roland Music Style Card was a ROM card containing programmed music rhythms to extend those available in the E-series ‘intelligent synthesisers’ made by Roland.

The first of the ‘intelligent synthesisers’ was the E-20, released by Roland in 1988 as the first product of Roland’s new European arm, and was aimed at the high-end home market. A number of variations of the first-generation E-series were released, such as the cut-down E-5, and the enhanced E-30 and Pro-E (an ‘intelligent arranger’).

For the first generation of the E-series, the cards were prefixed with TN-SC1 and there were 14 Music Style Cards in the first series released between 1989 and 1991.

There was a subsequent series of Music Style Cards with a slightly different shape and prefixed TN-SC2 for later E-series synthesisers such as the E-35, E-56 and E-70.

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Record album (late 1900s – 1950s)

Sometime during the late 1900s, record companies began to sell sets of 78rpm disc records in hardback ‘albums’. These were much like photograph albums, but with paper sleeves for multiple 10-inch or 12-inch phonograph discs, and they allowed record companies to sell complete musical works such as operas or classical works. The 78 rpm records of the time were only able to contain around 3 minutes of playing time on the 10-inch version, and 5 minutes on the 12-inch versions, so a longer complete work had to be spread across several discs.

Around the same time, empty record albums became available to allow listeners to store and protect their own discs, write information about the contents on an index page, and display the album on bookshelves.

Record albums eventually came to be used to contain compilations by artist, or by genre, in addition to longer works, and a set of 4-5 discs could contain 8-10 songs. Later releases had cover artwork and liner notes.

With the advent of the Long Play microgroove record in 1948 that could hold the same number of songs on a single disc there was no longer a need for record albums containing several discs, and indeed by the late 1950s the 78 rpm disc itself was being phased out. However, the term ‘album’ continues to be used to describe a collection of songs, whatever the format.

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Metal tape Microcassette (1981 – mid-1980s)

The Microcassette was introduced in 1969 by Olympus for dictation purposes, but in 1981 and 1982 several devices were introduced that used the Microcassette for music recording and playback.

Several personal stereo devices, similar to the Sony Walkman were introduced, such as the Olympus SR-11, and there were also several Microcassette decks for Hi-Fi separates systems from brands such as JVC, Sanyo, Technics and Sony.

The Microcassette for music was a little different to the standard Microcassette and used metal tape (coated with pure metal particles rather than oxide) which had been introduced for the Compact Cassette in 1979 as this offered higher sound quality. Many of the new Microcassette music devices offered Dolby noise reduction, and of course this version of the Microcassette offered stereo sound.

A few pre-recorded tapes were released (mostly in Japan), but the format failed to take off and seems to have disappeared fairly quickly. Even at the time the tapes had limited availability and were expensive, and it’s now hard to find original metal tape Microcassettes.

Despite being used for music playback in its metal-tape form, the cassette seen in the 1971 film ‘A Clockwork Orange’ was the similar Mini-Cassette format and not a Microcassette.

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