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Tape Degradation Factors and Predicting Tape Life

From 1947 through the 1990s, most of the world’s sound was entrusted to analog magnetic recording tape for archi-val storage. Now that analog magnetic tape has moved into a niche market, audio professionals and archivists worry about the remaining lifetime of existing tapes. This paper defines the basic tape types and the current state of knowl-edge of their degradation mechanisms. Conflicting prior work is reviewed and correlated with current experience. A new playback method for squealing tapes is described. Illustrations of various types of tape degradations and a sur-vey of many of the techniques used for tape restoration are included. Suggestions are made for further research and archival practices.

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