Adventures in obsolete audio, pt. 2: not there yet

I had hoped to do a “big reveal” post on the contents of the DAT tapes I wrote about a few days ago. Instead, I have a few learnings about DAT players.

First, DAT players are more like VCRs than cassette tape players. Instead of moving the tape past a playback head, DATs (and VCRs) wind the tape around the playback head. This happens even when you are rewinding the tape.

Second, rewind is a little more complicated on a DAT and sometimes the player can stop the rewind. If you just press rewind again, sometimes the player gets confused. Then if you go to eject the tape, you’ll end up with the tape partly pulled out of its case.

Third, you can re-spool DAT tape with a pencil, but it’s slightly more complicated. You first have to push the tabs down on the bottom of the tape and slide the bottom back so that you can get to the sprockets, then use the tip of a pencil to do the rewinding. (You can’t push the pencil all the way through thanks to the clear plastic on the other side of the tape, meaning it’s a slower process.)

All of this is to say I’ll be able to hear everything on these DATs, once I figure out how to safely rewind them.

UPDATE: It turns out to be a pretty simple proposition. The player was stopping the rewind because the spools weren’t operating smoothly after more than 20 years of inactivity. The fix, as suggested by this paper on DAT preservation by an intern at the Smithsonian Institution Archives, is simply to fast-forward the tape to the end, and then to rewind it to the beginning. We’ll have audio soon!

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