Over the last year I have transferred a bunch of old 1/2" - 8 track and 1/4" - 4 track tapes to digital to see if I can better them from what they were originally or archive them at the least. I thought I was done with the project and put the 8 track Otari machine on the market today. I need the floor space in my room where all my gear is.
I'm currently in the process of pulling the rest of my gear out of boxes they have been in ever since I moved from Phoenix to Tennessee 5 years ago. I am re-configuring my entire setup to streamline it and get rid of stuff I'll never use again. I'm in the wiring stage right now.
While going through boxes of gear I found another big box full of tapes I need to go through and probably transfer. At some point I need to just call it done and get rid of the machine but, not yet. I had already unhooked it from the system and pushed it into a corner to get it out of the way. Now I'm going to have to crawl back behind the racks and plug everything back in. At least I tidied up the wiring in the main rack so it will be easier to get to where the connections are.
The good thing is that I always told myself I would do this when I retired. Well, that time has come. At least I have time to do the work now. I finally got the last of the storm damaged trees cut up and hauled away, and, the yard is mowed. I have nothing else on the docket right now so it's full speed ahead.
It's not. It's just a little annoying that I had it all hooked up and thought I was done. At least I still have the equipment to do the transfers and won't have to pay anyone to do it for me.
I'm going to have to get the food dehydrator back out and start baking tapes again. It takes LOTS of time to prep these old tapes for playback. About 8 to 12 hours each. Then they need to sit for a day before playing them. Otherwise they shed very badly making the recordings unusable. Even then, sometimes the tapes are damaged beyond use due to age. Some of them are 40 years old or more. I need to get some started and in the rotation so they will be ready when I get everything back up and running. I've had pretty good luck with them overall.
If anyone asks, I'm making Ampex 456 tape jerky for the next week. If anyone is interested, my recipe is;
For 1/2" tapes, install 2 reels in the dehydrator separated by one empty drying rack between them. Set dehydrator for 135 degrees F. Start the dehydrator and bake for 12 hours turning the tapes over and switching their positions inside the unit every 2 to 3 hours.
After 12 hours of baking put 3/4" of silicon desiccant beads in the bottom of an airtight, plastic, semi-transparent, cake container, and set 3 pizza box stand-offs in the bottom of the container. Place the first reel on top of the stand-offs so there is an air space between the bottom reel and the desiccant layer. Place 3 more stand-offs on top of the first reel and place the second one on top of them so there is an air space between the reels. Place a small hygrometer either between or on top of the reels and place it so it is visible through the cake container. That way the humidity inside the container can be monitored. Seal the lid on the cake container and allow the tapes to cool and completely stabilize. Come back the next day. Here in Tennessee the internal humidity usually stabilizes at about 10% after the lid has been sealed for a few hours. That's about as good as it gets when the ambient humidity inside the house is at 45% to 50%. In a dryer environment I would expect the internal humidity to be lower than 10% but having never done it anywhere else I don't know for certain.
For 1/4" tapes the recipe is the same except the time in the dehydrator is 8 hours instead of 12.
After that, clean and demagnetize the tape machine, load the tape, electronically align the machine, and get to it. After transferring the tapes I put them inside a ziplok plastic bag with a desiccant pouch inside the bag. Place them back in the tape box and store them away.
I did a lot of research. Ampex has a patent on their process and that is available to read online. There are many different schools on this but they are all basically the same. The temp and time in the dehydrator are about the only variables.
The cake container thing is something I devised to store the tapes until I could get around to transferring them. It may help and it may not. I just figured that storing them in an air-tight-low-humidity environment was a good idea if it was going to be a few days to a week before I had time to use them.