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Leeroy ST

Tape or Floppy? Which did you prefer overall?

Which did you find better?  

41 members have voted

  1. 1. Which did you find better?

    • Floppy
      35
    • Tape
      6


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1 hour 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?

 

Look up Stringy Floppy Drives.  It was an interesting lower cost alternative to a floppy drive.

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3 hours ago, Leeroy ST said:

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.

A pretty neat idea, in any case.  The Wafertape was also very cool, though prone to failures.

 

Thinking of similar technology to the data packs -- that is, random access tapes.  At one time the family had a single-tape answering machine.  It recorded tones on the tape to tell it where messages were, and would automatically fast forward and rewind to individual messages.  It also used this ability to play the greeting then move the tape to the next available spot on the tape.

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2 hours ago, Turbo-Torch said:

Look up Stringy Floppy Drives.  It was an interesting lower cost alternative to a floppy drive.

3 minutes ago, OLD CS1 said:

The Wafertape was also very cool, though prone to failures.

Yes, that!

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Well, it seems like the majority of answers regardless of location are on the frequency of "should we go on vacation this year or get a floppy drive?" which is how I remember it as well. Once you had invested in a floppy drive, you likely would prefer to use it, unless you were a user of a system or region where floppies existed as a marginal media but nobody else used it.

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5 hours ago, carlsson said:

Well, it seems like the majority of answers regardless of location are on the frequency of "should we go on vacation this year or get a floppy drive?" which is how I remember it as well. Once you had invested in a floppy drive, you likely would prefer to use it, unless you were a user of a system or region where floppies existed as a marginal media but nobody else used it.

I'm still curious on those that legitimately prefer the tape /tape drives.

 

But yes it seems that it's pretty one-sided. Some areas didn't even have Tape as an option like mine, so even retailers in some cases figured it was more enticing to sell Floppy.

 

There was one store that sold actual Tapes but no drive, that was the odd one out. 

 

Also a laserdisc "drive", or that's how it was marketed.

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As you know, some computer brands like Commodore 8-bit and Atari 8-bit used proprietary tape recorders. However since the software was not locked in, quite possibly there were stores that carried tape based software without being official dealers of the brand, meaning they would neither sell the computers nor first party accessories to those. Then you had some brands which had a generic audio connection (3.5 mm or DIN were probably most common) but still offered custom branded recorders. The same applies to those of course, if the store didn't carry the system itself you would only see software. Finally some computer manufacturers may not even have bothered to produce their own tape recorders, knowing most users would already have one or buy from elsewhere anyway.

 

In practice you could say the same thing about floppy disk based software. Many stores may have an electronics department which carried software but not hardware, and not even dedicated computer stores must have an official dealership with the brands for which they catered.

 

These days I think it is most about nostalgia whether you have the fondest memories of tapes or disks. Also it depends which systems you used to own or still own. I don't know about the TI-99 people but I understand it takes quite a bit of hardware expansions, which not only cost money but takes a lot of desk space, to get floppy drives. In that context many might find tapes easier to work with if it takes less hardware to get going. Other systems either were self-contained like the 1541 or to some extent the Atari 850/1050 drives, or enabled you to install a controller card (Apple II) or a FDC chip (BBC Micro) and you could just attach a drive to it, without a tower of external expansion. The less hassle it is to get a floppy drive working, the more likely you would prefer using it.

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17 hours ago, Krebizfan said:

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. 

That's where my mind went.  I had his one period of repeated computer failures due to getting a lemon at this parts shop.  It got bad enough they got all shitty and didn't want to deal with me anymore despite the fact their bungling created the perfect storm of part issues that would take down a motherboard and most the time other parts including the HDD with it so I lost a lot of really good stuff that floppies were too small to deal with.  I started using a Connor tape drive, I think the capacity was around 450MB +/- but it was slow and when you wrote, it had to go back on the tape, destroy then re-write it all, even if you added/changed just one small file.  I got fed up with it, and went back to just using floppies briefly then coughed up the money for a cdrw setup.  Happy day was pulling the tape drive, and SMASHING it.  I hated that thing.

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The Cassette Gazette is 14 pages of advertising designed to help TRS-80 users avoid what the brochure refers to as "di$ks." http://www.trs-80.org/cassette-gazette/ 

 

Businesses moved to disk quickly. Paying employees to wait for cassettes to load instead of doing work that could result in billing made the disk look like a money saver. 

 

Cassette survived even with disk focused machines for a number of years. Systems that had a number of different disk solutions in very modest numbers had most of the software shipped on cassette and it was up to the user to copy to disk. In Europe, there was a very low cost specialty mailer for cassette. I only found out about it recently but it helped make sense of some of the advertising for user groups that sold software. 

 

Recordable laserdisc was available in the 80s. At a cost approaching $10,000 each, it was largely reserved for large financial firms and law offices. The one that was in the office of a former employer seemed to have worked well until they ran out of discs for it. Discs frequently were only produced for a year or two before a new drive model needing different discs was introduced. Magneto-optical which spun out of related projects to create erasable discs suffered a different problem. The discs should last for centuries. Many drives only worked for 2 or 3 years. Newer magneto-optical drives could only read discs created 2 generations earlier rendering the disc library useless. It took the development of recordable CDs that could be read in any CD drive to push lasers to the forefront of storage. 

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I think the answer for me would be "it depended on the application". For the ten minutes that I used my 800 as an "educational aid" in 1983, the 410 definitely did have its advantages over a disk drive (which I did not acquire until 1985, in any case). I had quite a few of those Dorsett educational series, and used them, too. The problem with them was that the audio tracks were great, but they began to mismatch with the graphics and text at some point in each lesson. I suppose that cleaning the tape head would have been a quick fix, but of course I never did that, and ended up with garbage on the screen by the end of each lesson. :) 

 

Let's also note the loading music for Yoomp! That's got to be an incentive to break out the ol' XC12.

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23 hours ago, davidcalgary29 said:

I think the answer for me would be "it depended on the application". For the ten minutes that I used my 800 as an "educational aid" in 1983, the 410 definitely did have its advantages over a disk drive (which I did not acquire until 1985, in any case). I had quite a few of those Dorsett educational series, and used them, too. The problem with them was that the audio tracks were great, but they began to mismatch with the graphics and text at some point in each lesson. I suppose that cleaning the tape head would have been a quick fix, but of course I never did that, and ended up with garbage on the screen by the end of each lesson. :) 

 

Let's also note the loading music for Yoomp! That's got to be an incentive to break out the ol' XC12.

There were definitely schools and colleges that used Tape drives in America due to cheap cost, but that's likely the only place you would find them in most of the country, at least the drives anyway. 

 

But most of them used various PC clone brands, IBM, or Apple devices using floppy. Computer stores would give deals to bulk buyers too. Tape had a bit of market for education and small business but then that dropped off as they also moved to floppy.

 

Or the various optical solutions, including CD for more affluent educational institutions and businesses who could afford those in number.

Edited by Leeroy ST
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2 hours ago, Leeroy ST said:

There were definitely schools and colleges that used Tape drives in America due to cheap cost, but that's likely the only place you would find them in most of the country, at least the drives anyway. 

 

But most of them used various PC clone brands, IBM, or Apple devices using floppy. Computer stores would give deals to bulk buyers too. Tape had a bit of market for education and small business but then that dropped off as they also moved to floppy.

 

Or the various optical solutions, including CD for more affluent educational institutions and businesses who could afford those in number.

I came into the computer revolution a little late.  Starting in 1981 I was exposed to computers in school, all Apples with floppy drives.  I can only remember ever seeing tape drives in school, and that was a retired PET lab with built-in tape drives.  Perhaps in the years earlier tapes were prevalent in our schools (obviously not speaking for all school systems,) and perhaps if Apple had not made such good deals to schools tapes would have been more prevalent.

 

It would be interesting to see a census of technology usage from that time period (late 70s into the late 80s.)  I seriously doubt anything like that exists, and I seriously doubt the enough schools have kept records this long to make such research worthwhile.  But, crazier things have been done!

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1 hour ago, OLD CS1 said:

I came into the computer revolution a little late.  Starting in 1981 I was exposed to computers in school, all Apples with floppy drives.  I can only remember ever seeing tape drives in school, and that was a retired PET lab with built-in tape drives.  Perhaps in the years earlier tapes were prevalent in our schools (obviously not speaking for all school systems,) and perhaps if Apple had not made such good deals to schools tapes would have been more prevalent.

 

It would be interesting to see a census of technology usage from that time period (late 70s into the late 80s.)  I seriously doubt anything like that exists, and I seriously doubt the enough schools have kept records this long to make such research worthwhile.  But, crazier things have been done!

Depends on where you were.

 

Tapes were originally required but by end of the 70's going into the 80's much of the US made a swift shift to floppies.

 

Even early on when some software was on like 6 floppies and it was more convenient to use Tape, that still wasn't preferred due to speed, reliability, and other factors.

 

US didn't really have a ZX or Amstead equal. Cheap machines built for Tape. Instead you had either installment plans or $500-$1000 off if you got a computer with built in floppy which would come with free mixed quality software.

 

But in Canada, while they leaned toward floppies had a lot more Tape usage. 

 

 

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The US did have a ZX equal with the $10 TS-1000. The US market didn't want super cheap but borderline useless computers. The US had spent money on trainers like the KIM-1 available from 1976  and priced at a little more than $200 which got cassette add-ons in quick order. The audio cassette deck interface wasn't even thought of until late 1975 so many of the early trainers were designed before it came out. Trainers continued being designed with cassette interfaces through 1990 since one can't fit DOS in 4 KB. 

 

The trainers frequently were used to prototype industrial systems. The finalized equipment often had all the programming instructions inserted through cassette tapes attached to a serial port which replaced paper tape readers. I found a 1992 ISA card that was intended to program or read those cassette tapes through an audio connection indicating cassette equipment was still running though 2000. 

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41 minutes ago, Krebizfan said:

The US did have a ZX equal with the $10 TS-1000. The US market didn't want super cheap but borderline useless computers. 

Are we taking about the same computer? The popular ZX Spectrum? 

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53 minutes ago, Leeroy ST said:

Are we taking about the same computer? The popular ZX Spectrum? 

If you insist on the Spectrum, Timex's counterpart was the TS-2068 which added a sound chip and a cartridge port while retaining the low price. Not a success in the US. 

TS-1000 was the ZX-81; TS-1500 was the ZX-81 upgraded to 16K placed in a Spectrum shell. 

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10 hours ago, Krebizfan said:

If you insist on the Spectrum, Timex's counterpart was the TS-2068 which added a sound chip and a cartridge port while retaining the low price. Not a success in the US. 

TS-1000 was the ZX-81; TS-1500 was the ZX-81 upgraded to 16K placed in a Spectrum shell. 

That's the thing, there wasn't a ZX parallel.

 

ZX was marketed, affordable and had a spotlight that attracted consumers to it's affordability, and it was used for numerous applications and user types as a capable machine.

 

The Timex was barely marketed well, poor distribution choices, and those who knew of it had the perception it was unusable junk.

 

Impressions are important 

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From the price quotes I've seen, the 2068 wasn't that cheap compared to competition. The original ZX Spectrum seemed relatively speaking cheaper in Europe.

 

But we had many other mostly tape based systems like the Oric-1 and Atmos, the Acorn Electron, the Jupiter Ace, most of the VZ/Laser series etc. On the US market, let's not forget the likes of Tandy MC-10 and Mattel Aquarius which just like the Timex Sinclair products didn't fly.

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I wonder how much the speed and reliability of cassettes varied by system?   Most people say cassettes were unreliable but I saw at least one post that said theirs was reliable.

 

I'm mostly familiar with the Atari 410.   I believe it was rated at 600 baud.   I found it to be fairly unreliable,  I became so familiar with ERROR-143 that it's meaning "Serial Bus Data Frame Checksum Error" is etched in my brain, even though that phrase sounded like mumbo jumbo when I first encountered it back then.   I wonder if the Atari 1010s were any better, or just the same thing in a newer case?

 

Also were the systems that allowed you to BYO cassette player more or less reliable than the ones that had dedicated cassette peripherals?   I'd expect them to be less reliable, but don't know.

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2 hours ago, carlsson said:

From the price quotes I've seen, the 2068 wasn't that cheap compared to competition. The original ZX Spectrum seemed relatively speaking cheaper in Europe.

 

But we had many other mostly tape based systems like the Oric-1 and Atmos, the Acorn Electron, the Jupiter Ace, most of the VZ/Laser series etc. On the US market, let's not forget the likes of Tandy MC-10 and Mattel Aquarius which just like the Timex Sinclair products didn't fly.

The closest to a cheap computer with relatively wide appeal in the US was the price cuts on the Atari 400 by 81-82.

 

But there was never a spectrum experience, and computers pushing floppy bundles or having it built in helped with that cheap computer being hard sale without proper backing. It would also have to appeal to various demographics like the speccy did.

 

Tandy had the low end floppy cheaper computer market on lock. Unless you didn't mind weak monochrome pcs. Without major support you would have problems pushing a cheap tape computer on a large scale in the US.

 

Considering how big car audio cassette decks were you'd think one of the major manufacturers of those would have tried it, but the ones that did other electronics pushed floppy in their comouters too.

 

Not that I'm complaining, Tape never sounded good to me imo. But I think the UK had ZX spectrum to thank for prolonging Tape usage and popularity, along with larger price gaps between Tape and Floppy than In the US.

 

Edited by Leeroy ST

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2 hours ago, zzip said:

Most people say cassettes were unreliable but I saw at least one post that said theirs was reliable.

Once you had the azimuth angle correct, I found that the C2N was quite reliable both in slow speeds and with Turbo Tape 64 that in theory does up to 3000 bps though I understand that the practical rate tends to vary. Perhaps the azimuth angle was the problem on other systems too, except those didn't have a hole in the case for you to shove down a screwdriver and change the position of the R/W head. If a tape was recorded at a slightly different angle, it most likely would bail out with errors.

 

Regarding systems using a standard tape recorder, I haven't used those that much but out of the ones I have used in the 21th century, I found they work rather well. Many run around 1200 bps if I understand correctly. But incorrect azimuth angle of the R/W head probably is a common problem with these as well, even if it is the computer that does the A/D conversion instead of the recorder itself.

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Tape reliability with normal cassette decks improved between 1976 and 1980. Some of that was better QC at the tape manufacturer; a holiday in the coating would be enough to make any computer recording fail. Some of that was improvements to encoding scheme switching from pulsed modulations with frequencies in a similar band to the frequency shift key with a wide separation of frequencies. Those truly interested could read the online archives of Kilobaud magazine which focused on cassette tape interfaces more than any other US publication. The CUTS standard (BBC Micro, MSX, BASICode) and the "1500" bps standard (Apple II, TRS-80 Model III, Tarbell, IBM PC) were very reliable. The major UK computers to use cassettes were introduced after cassette interfaces were largely debugged. 

 

The TS-2068 was sold at the same price as the Spectrum factoring in currency conversion and the removal of the VAT. The problem for the TS-2068 was the incredible discounts to the TI-99/4A. It would have been impossible to cut the price of the TS-2068 sufficiently to challenge a $49 TI-99 let alone the $100 packages that include TI-99, cassette, and a complete software package. The 350,000 TS-2068s wound up being sold outside the US. Note that at roughly the same time, the Coleco Adam was able to sell every unit they could make at a much higher price. The Adams were returned soon after because of build issues but it does indicate that the US market was much more willing to stretch the budget than the European market. 

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21 minutes ago, Krebizfan said:

Tape reliability with normal cassette decks improved between 1976 and 1980. Some of that was better QC at the tape manufacturer; a holiday in the coating would be enough to make any computer recording fail. Some of that was improvements to encoding scheme switching from pulsed modulations with frequencies in a similar band to the frequency shift key with a wide separation of frequencies. Those truly interested could read the online archives of Kilobaud magazine which focused on cassette tape interfaces more than any other US publication. The CUTS standard (BBC Micro, MSX, BASICode) and the "1500" bps standard (Apple II, TRS-80 Model III, Tarbell, IBM PC) were very reliable. The major UK computers to use cassettes were introduced after cassette interfaces were largely debugged. 

 

The TS-2068 was sold at the same price as the Spectrum factoring in currency conversion and the removal of the VAT. The problem for the TS-2068 was the incredible discounts to the TI-99/4A. It would have been impossible to cut the price of the TS-2068 sufficiently to challenge a $49 TI-99 let alone the $100 packages that include TI-99, cassette, and a complete software package. The 350,000 TS-2068s wound up being sold outside the US. Note that at roughly the same time, the Coleco Adam was able to sell every unit they could make at a much higher price. The Adams were returned soon after because of build issues but it does indicate that the US market was much more willing to stretch the budget than the European market. 

I dont think so.

 

Along with Tape never getting the traction floppy did even with cheaper computers at the time, the 2068s reception was torn, and consumers found it lacking to a comparably priced computer.

 

So when cheap versions of those computer brands that people knew of came out that priced below the 2068, the perception was it was a cheap junk computer that couldn't do what the other similar priced computers could do, and you'd be better off buying an entry priced computer from those same manufacturers if you wanted something cheaper and compatible.

 

The biggest problem I believe, again, is no one tried to market and sell themselves like the Spectrum did in the UK. If you fail or half ass the consumers won't pay attention.

 

I dont think it's as much Americans being more willing to stretch the wallet than all the above. 

 

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35 minutes ago, Leeroy ST said:

I dont think so.

 

Along with Tape never getting the traction floppy did even with cheaper computers at the time, the 2068s reception was torn, and consumers found it lacking to a comparably priced computer.

 

So when cheap versions of those computer brands that people knew of came out that priced below the 2068, the perception was it was a cheap junk computer that couldn't do what the other similar priced computers could do, and you'd be better off buying an entry priced computer from those same manufacturers if you wanted something cheaper and compatible.

 

The biggest problem I believe, again, is no one tried to market and sell themselves like the Spectrum did in the UK. If you fail or half ass the consumers won't pay attention.

 

I dont think it's as much Americans being more willing to stretch the wallet than all the above. 

 

The TI-99/4A was selling in quantity, even before the final sales. The TI-99/4A required the large and expensive PEB for a floppy drive at first but few PEBs were made. Americans weren't put off by the cassette nature of the TI-99/4A. Timex had put together reasonable price points for the TS-1000 (at $100) and TS-2068 (at $200) based on the $500 TI-99 and $300 Vic-20. But when both of those heralded the way to a massive reduction in prices, it was hard to Timex to cut prices as much. The TS-1000 wound up at $10 and still only sold because Commodore offered a $100 rebate to those that gave Commodore their old computer when upgrading. People would have needed to have been paid to take the TS-2068 leading to a massive inventory. 

 

This didn't just happen in the US. The unhappy story of the Acorn Electron shows that buyers would rather spend a little more to get a much better computer. 

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