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Re: arsclist DAT Longevity (a question)
On Mon, 16 Jul 2001, Richard L. Hess wrote:
> Karl, I'm not sure what kind of life expectancy you're seeing with VHS, but
> I would suspect that DAT would be at least as bad as VHS, and being
> digital, it has the "cliff effect" of being completely unusable after a
> certain error rate.
> I don't think anyone considers DAT to be an archival format, although I
> know of archives that are replete with them!
My question was generated, in part, by recent attempt to salvage the water
damaged DATs of the Houston Symphony. We believe there are backups at the
radio station which broadcast the orchestra. The years covered were
1989-2000. The earlier years (what survives) are house in the archive I
I was preparing a report for the Orchestra and wanted to find some
statistical information to support a regularized program of transferring
their DATs to CD or other storage format.
Should any on the list have the interest...
The tapes had been left in water for three weeks. Supposedly someone at
their local radio station suggested the tapes be left in water! I rinsed
the tapes and dried them, then tried cleaning. Most of the DATs were 124s
and the tape is so thin, it would not wind without breaking every other
turn. The few that would unwind refused to play...as you mention, the
cliff effect. I tried 3 different DAT machines, Pansonic, Tascam and SONY.
Curiously, the SONY (an old consumer machine) did the best at playback.
However, even at the best, one could hear only a few seconds of signal and
then long silences, followed by a few seconds of signal.
While their was substantial drop out, a few of the cassettes (about 1% of
the total tapes) did better.
As for VHS, my own experience with the format for video has been such that
tapes I recorded 15 years ago are on the verge of being worthless. As for
the PCM audio recorded on VHS and BETA, most of what we have, both Austin
and Houston Symphony from the mid 80s, suffers from occasional drop out.
For a promotional disc of the Austin Symphony (which was made four years
ago), we had to replace measures of signal loss from rehearsal and
Should anyone know of any studies on the subject of DAT longevity, please
do let me know.