I disagree about tape breakdown. I can tell you from personal experience that acetate-backed tapes
are NOT holding up well and I hope I'm around in 20 years to say I said this now -- most of them
will not be playable in 20 years because they will have either been eaten by mold, been hopelessly
shrunk and deformed by vinegar syndrome or have become so brittle as the shed oxide around the first
sharp curve of a tape transport. Splice will also get un-repairable because the oxide will flake off
the backing and into the splice-goo, so cleaning the splice will remove the oxide for 2 or 3 layers.
Polyester tape has better prospects, but for those of use who hear the audio degrade each time a
tape is baked, it's not a happy prospect to be doing bake #10 or 20 just to play it back into the
latest/greatest ADC. I doubt there will be any money available to do that anyway, for most tapes.
I think the time is NOW to transfer tapes of any value. Most of them are OLD, the equipment to play
them is OLD, the expertise in that equipment is OLD or AGING. And we have EXCELLENT digital gear to
transfer it into, as well as some pretty remarkable restoration tools (when used by the right
people). Given the decline of human culture that is going on, there will be no concern about any of
this in the near future. Letting a tape sit around because you have blind faith that it will
"always" be playable dooms that tape to whatever its latest digitization was -- which all too often
was a slap-dash dub to CD resolution.
-- Tom Fine
----- Original Message -----
From: "Richard L. Hess" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Wednesday, September 09, 2015 4:09 PM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Article: Testing Old Tapes For Playability
> Dana and Scott,
> Thanks for posting this article.
> This is rather reminiscent of what Prestospace had Benoit Thiebaut working on about a decade ago.
> He (and others at later times) used Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy to identify tapes.
> Benoit also used mass spectroscopy which, to me, was more telling as one could see binder,
> degradation products, and lubricant on a population/quantity vs. mass graph. In VERY rough terms,
> there were peaks at 500 g/mol (lubricant), 5000 g/mol (sticky degradation products), and 50,000
> g/mol (good binder).
> FTIR can, by comparing spectra with a known database, identify the types of compounds.
> Unfortunately, all this gear is expensive and time consuming.
> I disagree with the statement that there is not enough time to bake the tape. Oven/dehydrator
> capacity is cheap and can be run in parallel. Even with 2-4 day baking, you can stack up enough
> baking that the playback/digitizing passes are the limiting factors.
> While it will become more difficult to digitize tapes in 20 years, I'm not certain I agree with
> George Blood (for whom I have a substantial amount of respect). I think that the first failure
> will be the failure to find technicians who are familiar with the genre. I'll be in my mid 80s if
> I'm not pushing up daisies. Then there is the problem of machines and the people to repair the
> machines. Finally, the tape will fall apart, but, in general, tapes seem to be holding up well,
> even though many need baking.
> On 2015-09-09 15:22, Dana Gerber-Margie wrote:
>> Exciting news for people who digitize! Noninvasive infrared spectroscopy
>> could help archivists prioritize tape recordings for digitization. It could
>> also be very helpful for appraisal, so archivists aren't spending time
>> preserving blank tape.
>> ; Dana E. Gerber-Margie
>> *Subscribe to my weekly audio digest at tinyletter.com/theaudiosignal
> Richard L. Hess email: [log in to unmask]
> Aurora, Ontario, Canada 647 479 2800
> Quality tape transfers -- even from hard-to-play tapes.