>Will tape drives ever be reliable?

As long as they are mechanical devices, no.

But you can get closer to perfection...

I had nothing but troubles with 4mm drives.  In the department I am 
in we've had lots of 4mm DAT drives go belly up.  In the meantime, 
our Linux guru keeps plugging away with an old 8mm drive.  That drive 
is going on 9 years old I believe and the only thing ever done to it 
was I cleaned it to get rid of a high pitched noise that was coming 
from it.  I think it was the fan, but I don't know for sure as I 
cleaned the whole drive.

He's now got two 16 tape changers using 8mm tapes.  He's had one of 
the changers for about 3 years now and has had zero problems with it. 
The second one is about a year old and it had a power supply problem 
right out of the box, but after that was solved, zero problems.

As I've said before, I had APS Sony Tape changers (8 tape) and out of 
the first three I bought, 2 had gone back for service, 1 of the two 
went back a second time.  The one that did not go back was out of 
warranty when it went belly up.  It's all in the mechanism too. 
Since the tape feed to these mechanisms is mechanical, there is no 
way it could be a user problem.

Our department bought 6 of these changers, all but one of them have 
failed.  The one really has failed, but the drive still works. 
(huh?)  Well the changer assembly went bad and only feeds one tape at 
a time (tape 8).  I haven't tried just putting this mechanism in one 
of the other changers yet out of pure laziness. (yeah, right).

We now have 2 DLT changers, a DLT drive, 2 8mm changers, and 2 8mm drives.
All newest one is 4 months old.  The oldest is about 9 years old. 
Except for the power supply problem on the 8mm changer right out of 
box, all of these drives have worked flawless (knock on wood).  Heck, 
one of the 8mm drives went 600 miles on a gravel road to a remote 
site for 4 weeks and then came back over that gravel road again. 
Aside from blowing the dust out, nothing has really been done to it.

I know that other people can tell you about good experiences with 4mm 
drives as well as several other formats.  These are my stories.


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