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Leeroy ST

Tape or Floppy? Which did you prefer overall?

Which did you find better?  

40 members have voted

  1. 1. Which did you find better?

    • Floppy
      35
    • Tape
      5


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Posted (edited)

When it comes to computer storage formats, the most popular for a time were Floppy disks and Tapes before CD took over, depending on where you lived. Like in America for example Floppy's were more prominent, while some places in Europe you likely found Tape more often(there's also a price difference across regions).

 

I myself have never seen Tape in action, I have only seen a Tape Drive once on clearance at a computer store around 91. But from an associate I knew he said with Tape, music would sometimes play during loading screens or even mini games, while Floppy was faster.

 

But for those that used both, I'm interested in which you thought was better and why?

 

I myself was in an area were Tape was practically nonexistent, so I've only worked with floppy's. 

 

I have heard some argue Tape is better.

Edited by Leeroy ST

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Posted (edited)

Tape recorder is what you could afford. Floppy drive is what you lusted after. I had almost a half dozen C64 floppy disks full of software several years before I had the opportunity to get a 1541. I knew that one day I would be able to use those, so I held onto the floppy disks like valuable documents.

 

Regarding playing music, it would depend on the format. Some systems like Atari 8-bit and Creativision have stereo input of which one channel is used for data signals and the other can contain any sound that is echoed to the speaker. Most other systems have mono input so no sound streamed from the tape. Sure you could have a player routine that would play e.g. SID music while loading due to it being relatively slow unlike floppy disk where you wanted fastest possible loading times and nothing else that would eat CPU time, though quite a few demos etc play music while loading as well.

 

Most of the time, a floppy drive with interface unless it was built in, cost as much as the computer itself while a tape recorder perhaps cost 1/5 to 1/10 of the computer. Since the American markets traditionally have been less sensitive to price than European markets, floppy drives much sooner became the norm on the markets where most customers would be willing to pay whatever it cost.

 

Technically, tapes are sequential which means a lot of fast forwarding if you don't want to load programs in the order those are stored. Disks are random access so you can load any file on the disk at marginally longer loading times than if you would load sector by sector. That itself is a feature which makes floppy disks superior except for situations where you have a fixed loading path anyway - think multipart games where data always will come in a fixed order.

Edited by carlsson
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15 minutes ago, carlsson said:

Tape recorder is what you could afford. Floppy drive is what you lusted after. I had almost a half dozen C64 floppy disks full of software several years before I had the opportunity to get a 1541. I knew that one day I would be able to use those, so I held onto the floppy disks like valuable documents.

 

Regarding playing music, it would depend on the format. Some systems like Atari 8-bit and Creativision have stereo input of which one channel is used for data signals and the other can contain any sound that is echoed to the speaker. Most other systems have mono input so no sound streamed from the tape. Sure you could have a player routine that would play e.g. SID music while loading due to it being relatively slow unlike floppy disk where you wanted fastest possible loading times and nothing else that would eat CPU time, though quite a few demos etc play music while loading as well.

 

Most of the time, a floppy drive with interface unless it was built in, cost as much as the computer itself while a tape recorder perhaps cost 1/5 to 1/10 of the computer. Since the American markets traditionally have been less sensitive to price than European markets, floppy drives much sooner became the norm on the markets where most customers would be willing to pay whatever it cost.

 

Technically, tapes are sequential which means a lot of fast forwarding if you don't want to load programs in the order those are stored. Disks are random access so you can load any file on the disk at marginally longer loading times than if you would load sector by sector. That itself is a feature which makes floppy disks superior except for situations where you have a fixed loading path anyway - think multipart games where data always will come in a fixed order.

Depending on where and the manufacturer, Americans (and Japan) got better deals from what I can find on Floppy drives than several other places.

 

Some cost near same as computer, some where 20-30% less. Maybe 1/2 the price if built in depending on the model of computer.

 

As far as I can see, maybe someone from Europe or Canada can chime in, deals like this were rare to none outside America.

 

Still more costly than Tape of course, but if the price gap is smaller it's easier to pay the premium. Same with American computer stores stocking the drives. In some other areas the gap between Tape and Floppy was likely larger.

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Posted (edited)

Tape user for the ZX81, 800XL and C64. 

 

Hated it during the XL time, no Turbo loaders, unreliable, cheaply made tape decks, buttons snapped on 2, Boot Error messages and games like Gauntlet, Red Max, Ace Of Aces taking upto 20 mins to load. 

 

C64 era though, loved the loading screens, Ocean Software loading screens, mini loading games like Painter and the space invaders games you'd get. 

 

Thalamus with the music mixing stuff.. 

 

 

 

Only knew one Disk Drive owner, a fellow XL owner and all he had for it was the text adventure, The Pay Off. 

 

 

Prices of actual Disk Drives was way too high, market stalls etc catered to tape users, very rare to see Disk games down my way at the time. 

 

 

There were C64 games that were a real ballache on tape, Gunship from MicroProse, Turbo Outrun, I kinda wish the C64 GS had happened sooner at times and been more successful, might of held onto the C64 a little longer.. 

Edited by Lostdragon

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I had a Coco from 1983 until 1988 (when I migrated to a PC). I never did acquire a disk system for the Coco; as a teenager with no job I simply could not afford an accessory that cost more than the original hardware. Only one local shop supported the Coco, and that closed in about 1986, so purchasing software was largely a non-issue, regardless of format.

 

Slightly related, when the Atari ST first launched, I went to see one at the only Atari dealership in the city. I remember being confused as the external disk drive was sold as a separate unit from the ST (they were two separate SKUs), yet the salesman explained that it was a "mandatory accessory". I could not purchase the base ST, and then get the disk drive later. This was my very first experience with hardware where the disk drive was required.       

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Yes, the ST was odd in that way. A few years ago I picked up a cheap, boxed 1040STM which means built-in RF modulator but no floppy drive. Since I had no other peripherals, all I could do was boot it into ROM based GEM (?) and stare at the mouse pointer. I borrowed a floppy drive just to see if it would boot something else which it did. I had no interest in it so I resold it as is, though tested. At least that is something Commodore got right with the Amiga series, all models included at least a floppy drive. The majority of ST models did as well, but the sheer existence of a model without the mandatory/essential accessory marks it down in my book.

 

One thing where tapes win over floppy disks was cost and availability. Regular cassettes, and in this case the lowest form of ferro-chrome was to prefer over more advanced metal tapes, could be found anywhere. Your parents may have a stack of obsoleted ones, or you bought them at discount stores for next to nothing. Each tape could store a lot of data, even more if you had some turbo that would generate some 2400-3000 bps and you flipped the tape over. While it was said to never use tapes longer than C15, pretty much all of used C60 and C90 and only occasionally suffered a broken tape or other fault (except Lostdragon above, who clearly was haunted). Floppy disks were significantly more expensive, easily $3+ per disk and even in the case of flippies on relatively decent capacity systems, could only hold some 300-350 kilobytes, compared to a C90 recorded at 2400 bps which would costs 1/3 and hold four times as much (assuming 1 byte = 10 bits with compensation for start, stop, parity bits). But yes, all that data would be purely sequential so a lot of fast forwarding and keeping track of counters but if you simply needed to pack as many programs as possible at lowest possible cost, not only was the tape recorder cheaper than the floppy drive, but the media was too by a large margin.

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Floppy all the way. I never chose a cassette for my Vic-20 or TI-99/4a it was simply all that was affordable at the time. Once I got my first disk drive (on a C64) it was like stepping into another world.

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47 minutes ago, Arnuphis said:

Floppy all the way. I never chose a cassette for my Vic-20 or TI-99/4a it was simply all that was affordable at the time. Once I got my first disk drive (on a C64) it was like stepping into another world.

Perfectly stated, and reflected here.  I did not choose cassette tape on my TI-99/4A, it was what we could get.  I thought this method would translate over to the C64 but I found out within a day that getting a disk drive was the only viable option.

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I'm surprised anyone chose tape.   Besides being slow, they were a lot of trouble.   Often they would fail to load and you had to try multiple times.   You had to save multiple copies of your work to tape because there was a good chance some of them wouldn't load again.

 

My experience was with an Atari 410.   It's possible other tape devices were more reliable.

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This is pretty much a no brainer for anyone who has ever used tape and floppy systems on old 8-bit computer systems.  The first computer I owned was an 800XL with a 1050 drive, so I have no experience using Atari's cassette drives.  However, I did use a tape drive with a Vic-20 a friend loaned me after his parents bought him a C64.  It was pretty terrible -- very slow, unreliable, trying to seek to the right spot on a tape to load or save something, etc.  At least the media was cheap enough.  Also used a tape drive on a friend's Timex Sinclair 1000 and that was even worse.

 

It's mostly an economics thing, tape drives were cheap(er) and floppy drives were pretty expensive.  If you could afford one, you would buy a floppy drive.  Many people started with a tape drive and would later purchase a floppy drive.

 

 ..Al

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30 minutes ago, Albert said:

This is pretty much a no brainer for anyone who has ever used tape and floppy systems on old 8-bit computer systems. 

Exactly! I started with cassettes on my C64 and eventually saved up enough to purchase a 1541 drive. 

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Ditto - My first computer was a TI 99/4A and we could only afford tape (and truthfully, we bought this computer when it was closed out for $50 - I'm not sure we could have even found all the gear needed for disk).

 

My next computer was a Commodore 128 with a 1571 disk drive.  I would have never considered using tape with it unless there was no choice.

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1 hour ago, zzip said:

I'm surprised anyone chose tape.   Besides being slow, they were a lot of trouble.   Often they would fail to load and you had to try multiple times.   You had to save multiple copies of your work to tape because there was a good chance some of them wouldn't load again.

 

My experience was with an Atari 410.   It's possible other tape devices were more reliable.

As slow as it was, I rarely had problems loading programs on the TI-99/4A tape drive, even with the shittiest tapes I could appropriate from my parents' collections.  Even today I I can still load from those tapes just fine -- which says a lot about the old generic K-Mart tapes, I think.

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My first computer was a C64 with a floppy drive. I had seen other friends load games off of tape with their computers (TRS-80 / C64 / TI-99/4A) and sat through the onerous load times to know enough to avoid that at all costs. Shortly after I got my C64 I bought a Fast Load cartridge to make those slow loads to go away even more.

 

I've never been a fan of linear data storage and had to go through that in the early days of recordable video media such as VHS, Video8 and DV tapes for many years before CF and SD Cards were available. Although linear storage is great for large (and slow) amounts of data I'm a big fan of non-linear access like floppy drives.

 

- James

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4 hours ago, carlsson said:

Yes, the ST was odd in that way. A few years ago I picked up a cheap, boxed 1040STM which means built-in RF modulator but no floppy drive. Since I had no other peripherals, all I could do was boot it into ROM based GEM (?) and stare at the mouse pointer. I borrowed a floppy drive just to see if it would boot something else which it did. I had no interest in it so I resold it as is, though tested. At least that is something Commodore got right with the Amiga series, all models included at least a floppy drive. The majority of ST models did as well, but the sheer existence of a model without the mandatory/essential accessory marks it down in my book.

I believe all STs were originally sold with floppy drives.   The earlier models had external floppies.   The earliest STs did not have TOS roms and had to load GEM off disk, so they would be useless if they didn't come with a floppy.

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Tried both, rapidly learned to hate tape.  Tape had the advantage of large amounts of storage, but countered with how it had to right and re-write data because well being a tape it had a way about it and it was SO SLOW.  I quickly went and replaced it when I could within a year or so with a CDRW...screw that mess. :)

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15 minutes ago, Tanooki said:

Tape [..] was SO SLOW.  I quickly went and replaced it when I could within a year or so with a CDRW...screw that mess. :)

Hm, which system has the capacity of either using compact cassettes or CD-ROM - not to mention CD-RW? I'm sure I could come up with some if I thought really hard but at first thought it seems like two different eras. Sure for music listening tapes and CD's co-existed, but for computer storage?

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3 minutes ago, carlsson said:

Hm, which system has the capacity of either using compact cassettes or CD-ROM - not to mention CD-RW? I'm sure I could come up with some if I thought really hard but at first thought it seems like two different eras. Sure for music listening tapes and CD's co-existed, but for computer storage?

Maybe means the floppy tape era for backups. Capacity was huge and QIC was very cheap but it came very close to being a Write Once - Read Never device. Streaming tape wasn't much better though 60MB on a compact cassette was impressive enough. 

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Ok, I didn't consider backup systems could be part of the question but most of the parameters for storing individual programs on compact cassettes apply to backup tapes too, though usually you would read a much bigger chunk of it to restore lost data.

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Well as I said no one in my area sold Tapes so Floppy was all I had access too, But I saved by getting a Comp that had the drive internal.

 

But from the posts in here Tape pretty much only had the advantage in price and storage. While everything else was terrible.

 

But if you look online there are people who prefer Tape and I'm genuinely curious why. Even someone earlier on voted Tape in the poll. maybe he can explain why if he sees this. I'm curious 

 

 

Edited by Leeroy ST

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On some systems, tape was the norm and anything else was unusual. Take for instance the ZX Spectrum which pretty much had the following storage devices:

 

1. Compact cassette, which everyone and their dog used. Commercial, home users, send in listings to magazines, you name it.

2. Microdrive, which is a string floppy with limited capacity. Faster than tape, but very little software was sold on that format. Almost exclusively for home usage, and relatively expensive tape cartridges from what I know.

3. Floppy disks. Yes Shirley, there were 5.25" floppy drives for the Speccy but those were super rare to find anyone using. Definitely an oddball if you used it. Some may even have interfaced Commodore 1541 drives to their ZX machines, which is even more obscure but then you got a self-contained drive in one. Later on with the +3 it had those 3" disks that were just as uncommon to see, not sure if any commercial software used it.

4. ROM cartridges. You would need an Interface 1 (or is that IF2 ?) to even connect one and there were like 5-6 games in total released on those cartridges. Highly sought after collectables, but never a media that was used regularly.

 

Even the memory card based devices of today tend to simulate tapes as that is the format used, sometimes they may support disk images.

 

Or for that matter the VIC-20, which was perfectly capable of connecting a floppy drive and even had its own 1540 issued. Many people mistake the VIC for not supporting drives but that is entirely wrong. It is just the fact that a floppy drive cost somewhere between 1.5 to 2 times the cost of the computer and most people could not justify that, so surely 90% or more of the software output was on tapes. In modern days the distribution of homebrews is a little more even, but then again the VIC also has a big cartridge library for read-only applications which kind of outweighs a floppy drive on a system that doesn't have a lot of RAM to load programs into anyway.

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Anyone who picked up an early double sided floppy drive and had it eat a diskette had a very favorable impression of compact cassette. Indeed, there was a number of backup programs that took the contents of disks to cassette to protect from the numerous ways data loss was likely with a floppy drive during OS development. 

 

I could never imagine having the patience to do the East German stunt of creating two RAM disks and loading CP/M and application and data files onto those drives from cassette. Half hour before even starting work. When I started with computers, that would have been $10,000 worth of memory, hardly a good value to keep from buying $1,500 in drives and controller. 

 

The strangest use of cassette would have been the Amstrad 464+ which had an internal tape drive in 1990. It was 100 GBP cheaper than the 6128+ but the upgrade of extra memory and disk drive to match the 6128+ cost 35 GBP (from third parties) which is about the cost of just the tape drive. 

 

The Sinclair Microdrive was a rather unfortunate case. Had it been released in a working state in 1980, it would have been a world beater offering storage and data transfer levels that matched single density floppy disks. Seeks were slower but waiting a few seconds would have been worth saving 720 GBP. But by the time most of the bugs were finally corrected, the floppy drive had dropped in price and capacity had increased. Most of the other high speed tape options suffered a similar fate of being buggy at release and no longer cheaper when fixed. 

 

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Looks like everyone already said everything that needs to be said.

 

The VIC-20 was the first computer I bought with my own money, and I used a tape drive with it for a while, because I couldn't afford the floppy drive (turns out this situation was still the case nearly 40 years after the computer's launch). I actually didn't have much issue with reliability after I played around with the head alignment, mainly it was the slow speed that was the problem. However, with only 3.5k of RAM, it really wasn't THAT bad. It wasn't until I got my 128 and 1571 that I got to use a floppy drive with the VIC-20.

 

The first time I had a bad experience with tape was with the TRS-80 CoCo 2. It would "crash" the computer every time I tried to load from tape, until it magically started working for a bit. The volume controls were a nightmare, and it's just something that you do not wish to deal with. I couldn't afford a floppy drive in this case either.

 

I've heard Coleco Adams had random access cassette storage. Perhaps that would be a more interesting comparison to the floppy drive?

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39 minutes ago, bluejay said:

I've heard Coleco Adams had random access cassette storage. Perhaps that would be a more interesting comparison to the floppy drive?

I completely forgot about the Super Data Packs as some press advertised them as. I guess I had used Tapes before I just wiped Adam from memory outside using it for some games after giving up on it as a computer.

 

Those Data Disks drives were unreliable, they were not as fast as floppy but may have been faster than cassette but I never used regulator cassette so dont know, but that benefit is meaningless when your drive was sometimes defective out the box. I remember that.

 

The storage itself wasn't a smooth sailing either. Constant risk of damage, trouble loading etc were common complaints.

 

If anything, based on what people have said here, it was just a slightly better Tape but with a trade off of being buggy or defective.

 

 

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My 16K cassette based Model III was $999.  The CTR80A cassette deck was $59.00.  My uncle gave it to me when I was 12.

 

Drive 0 was $849.  It required a minimum of 32K to load TRSDOS, but you really needed 48K to run any kind of programs.

Each 16K upgrade was $119, so $238.

Installation Required! for the drive and memory...so figure on another $50.  You could purchase everything outright and do it yourself, but you void the warranty on the computer and get no warranty on the items you just paid a big fortune for.

 

Total $1,137.00 in 1981.  

or     $3,414.79 in today's money.

 

Needless to say, it was cassettes for a very long time.  The TRS-80 setup is reliable and runs at 1500 baud, but I couldn't download anything from Compuserve or BBSs.  Eventually I was old enough to get a part time job after school and drives became much cheaper, especially with the aftermarket.  I bought my SSDD 180K Drive 0 kit for something like $230 through mail order and installed it myself.  As for the memory, I figured out the regular RS store next door sold the same 8 packs of RAM for $8.  So I bumped it up to 48K for $16 years before the drive.

 

By the late 80s, surplus full height drives were dirt cheap and I had two internal DSDD 360K drives.

 

Amazing how quick technology moved and prices dropped back then.  I think I got my 1000EX on sale in '88 for $600.  An internal 360K drive and 256K were standard.  A few weeks later I bought the external 3.5" 720K drive on sale for $99.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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