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What is Magnetic Tape?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated May 16, 2024
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Utilized as a storage device since the early days of radio, magnetic tape is an external storage device that can be used for making copies of audio, video, and data. In addition to data storage, this material has been used over the years to make master copies of audio recordings that would be replicated for vinyl, cassette, and more recently compact disk recording formats. The tape is employed with the use of a machine referred to as a tape drive. Tape drives run the magnetic tape during the recording process and also stores the tape onto a reel for easy retrieval.

The appearance of magnetic tape is similar in all of its incarnations. The tape is a simple strip of plastic that is very narrow in appearance. A thin oxide coating on the plastic makes it possible for the tape to retain electronically encrypted data that can range from voice to audio to data information. This makes it an ideal method to back up customer databases, computer generated detail, and billing database information.

Many businesses back up copies of programs and databases that are essential to the operation of the company on magnetic tape. Often, the backup recordings are made after the business day is over. In the event that the company operates around the clock, it is not unusual for the backup to commence at midnight, thus creating a record of all activity up to and including the current calendar day. Backups help to ensure that if the main computer memory becomes inoperable for some reason, essential data can be restored with the use of the backup.

While a wide range of computer storage alternatives are available today, magnetic tape continues to be a popular option when it comes to backing up computer memory systems. The reels of tape are relatively easy to store and can be labeled for quick retrieval when necessary. Many companies choose to maintain a bank of magnetic tape copies in addition to utilizing online data storage and other means of creating system backups.

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Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including EasyTechJunkie, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.
Discussion Comments
By anon174090 — On May 09, 2011

The magnetic tape takes up way more space than a CD. You could make a CD store a terabyte by adding layers to it. It would just keep getting bigger.

By VivAnne — On Apr 07, 2011

Do you know I was really shocked to learn the other day that magnetic tape can actually beat out a CD, storage-wise? Apparently magnetic tape capacity has reached the terabyte level. It seems that magnetic tape is still being developed to match the demand for larger storage capacity. I can just imagine it now: magnetic tape backups in the yodabytes.

By afterall — On Oct 07, 2010

While still used in business, it seems computer magnetic tape would be less useful for personal use.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
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