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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1-inch Type B (1975 – 1980s)

1-inch Type B (also known as B-Format) was an open reel magnetic tape format for professional analogue video recording.

It was introduced by Bosch in 1976 for use in its BCN line of video recorders and although it found success in continental Europe, 1-inch Type C was more successful in the UK and US. Unlike Type C, Type B in its standard form could not perform trick-play operations such as slow-motion or frame step play, due to the way the each field was segmented over 5 or 6 tracks (Type C recorded one frame per helical scan). An expensive digital framestore was needed to perform trick-play operations.

Type B had a standard capacity of 96 minutes on a reel, although later this was increased to 120 minutes. Long play versions eventually became available that could fit up to 6 hours on one reel.

Video quality was excellent, and as well as standard recording/playback machines, portable and random access cart machines were available.

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Preservation / Migration

media stability 5obsolescence 5

Sony EV 1-inch open reel video tape (1964 – early 1970s)

Sony EV 1-inch video tape was introduced in 1964 with the release of the EV-200 ‘portable’ video recorder (portable meaning it had carrying handles, but it was still very heavy to carry). Most machines found their way into the educational and industrial marketplaces.

The EV-200 was monochrome, but later models could record and play in colour. Tapes are interchangeable between the models in the series.

The machines use a two head helical scanning system in a half wrap around the drum. Maximum recording time was 1 hour with 2400 ft of tape on an 8 inch reel. Tape speed was 7.8 ips. Unlike other 1-inch video tape formats, the Sony EV reels did not use NAB style hubs, but rather a straight spindle design.

The last model to use 1-inch EV tape was the Sony UV-340 of 1970.

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1-inch Type C (1976 – mid-1990s)

1-inch Type C video tape was an open reel magnetic tape format for professional analogue video recording.

It was introduced by Ampex and Sony in 1976, and replaced the then standard 2-inch Quadruplex video tape.

1-inch Type C is capable of functions such as still, shuttle, and variable-speed playback, including slow motion that 2-inch Quadruplex and 1-inch Type B videotape machines lacked, due to the manner in which they recorded video tracks onto the tape.

Despite being a composite video format like U-matic or VHS, 1-inch Type C has very high video quality, approaching that of component video formats like Betacam. It became a mainstay in television and video production for almost 20 years, before being supplanted by more compact videocassette formats like Betacam, DVCAM, D1, D2 and DVCPro. It was also widely used as the master videotape format for mastering of the first generation of LaserDisc titles released, until being replaced in the late 1980s by D2.

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Preservation / Migration

media stability 1obsolescence 1