Vintage Computers — 12

Although the special floppy disk drive cable remained inside the 486 chassis, there was no space for installing the tape drive in the small “Baby AT” chassis. I connected the Colorado T3000 tape drive resting next to the 486.

In the junk collection I found a tape drive cleaning cartridge.

I launched Norton Backup. To clean the drive head I inserted the cleaning cartridge and attempted to read the non-existent tape. The software immediately found the QIC-80 tape drive device. That confirmed my suspicion there likely never was any special configuration in CONFIG.SYS and likely I never used the respective installation floppy disks I found.

I fiddled with Norton Backup but continually failed to get the software to do anything useful. The tape drive motor would hum and whir and then I was presented with a dialog that The tape drive stopped responding. Something was awry because there should have been some bursts of longer motor spins.

I wondered if there was an interrupt conflict. When I was using the tape device the CD reader was not installed. I unplugged the CD reader, rebooted, but saw the same result. I restored the CD reader and as recommended in the respective Norton Backup Help topic, reconfigured the tape device. That seemed to succeed.

I tried to retrieve and rebuild catalogs from the tapes. Two cartridges failed to spin at all and I received a dialog The tape drive reported an unrecoverable hardware error. Possibly the internal cartridge tension band is stuck or broken.

I tried to get the backup software to “identify” each tape. I succeeded with two of the older mini-cartridges, but then I was prompted to insert the tape labeled as Tape 1. Inserting that cartridge always resulted in a dialog that The tape is unformatted or is unreadable by the drive.

I was able to resurrect and use the tape drive, but unable to find or restore files.

The next day I had a sinking memory. I remembered that when I retired the tape backups I secure erased the tapes.

While not the end of the world I had noticed a handful of files in the backup catalogs that through the years mysteriously disappeared from the office system hard disks and I would not mind restoring. Oh well.

The tape device was useful in the DOS/Windows environment but would be little help in a modern system. The tape cartridges stored MBs of data but modern computer storage devices contain GBs and TBs of data.

Still, the hardware functions as expected, as does the software. The Norton Backup tool can still be used. For example, to backup to an external disk or network share.

More to come.

Posted: Category: Usability Tagged: General

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