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National Preservation Week

Obsolete Media Highlight: U-matic Tapes

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Have you ever had a day at work where the stars align, fortune unexpectedly smiles on you, and something great happens? We had a day like that yesterday . . . almost.

One of the U-matic tapes found at the Library. Although it reads "Impeachment of Andrew Johnson," we suspect it's from the 1970s, not the 1860s.

One of the U-matic tapes found at the Library. Although it reads “Impeachment of Andrew Johnson,” we suspect it’s from the 1970s, not the 1860s.

GHL staff discovered a small stash of old U-matic tapes from the 1970s and 1980s, tapes that we’d weeded from our collection years ago but hadn’t actually gotten rid of. We marveled at the old U-matic tape’s bulky containers and dorky instructions*. Some staff reminisced about using U-matic tapes back in the day, while others were baffled by the aesthetics of this plastic-brick technology. We scratched our heads for a day, trying to figure out what to do with the tapes. The library doesn’t have a U-matic player and we figured the tapes should probably go into to our Obsolete Media Museum as a warning against failing to migrate resources off aging electronic media.

The inside of the U-matic player, with the top cover removed. The tape is inserted from the right, and the tape should be pulled around the central cylinder.

The inside of the Archives’ new U-matic player, with the top cover removed. Tapes are inserted from the right, and the tape should be pulled around the central cylinder.

On a lark, we called down to Matthew Waehner at the State Archives to see if the Archives happened to have a U-matic player. Lo and behold! They did! Not only that, but they’d just–JUST–gotten the player and they were dying to know if it actually worked. The problem was that they didn’t have any U-matic tapes they could test it with. A perfect match!

As you may (or may not) know, U-matic tapes were early video tapes from the 1970s. The U-matic format was the first widely used videotape packaged within a cassette container, replacing the widespread use of reel-to-reel tapes in video production. Today, they are known as physically unable and their playback machines are notoriously finicky. Our hopes were not very high.

In fact, Archives warned me that they were pretty sure the U-matic player wouldn’t work at all. It might even eat our tape up and destroy it. When the Archives team turned the machines on, it made a sad sort of moan with an abrupt end, which wasn’t a good sign.

When Archives turned on the U-matic player, it made a sad sort of moan (rumble?).

Jim Willard (Historic Sites) and Linda Fox (Archives, photo lab technician) gathered around while Matt tried the first tape. To our giddy surprise, the machine actually took the tape and didn’t destroy it! We were very impressed. Only problem, the player wasn’t actually pulling the tape from the cassette, and pressing the play button did nothing (you can hear Jim asking “Did it wrap around the head?”).

“No waaaay! It took it, Jim. . . . Tapes go inside of it.” – Matt

We may be able to fix the machine, or perhaps we’ll have more good luck and a working player will fall in our laps. In any case, we’ll keep you posted!

Matt Waehner and Jim Willard investige the innards of U-matic player, determining why the tape isn't being taken up.

Matt Waehner and Jim Willard investige the innards of U-matic player, determining why the tape isn’t being taken up.

 

For more resources about obsolete media, check out these posts from our blog archive:

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Preservation Week Quiz: Tuesday’s Question of the Day

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As part of Preservation Week 2015, the State Library’s Government and Heritage Library is partnering with the State Archives on a Preservation Week Question of the Day – a series of questions related to the preservation of materials both physical and electronic. Visit the State Archives’ blog to see their question of the day.

Which of the following outdated digital media is NOT in the picture below?

Obsolete Media - Preservation Week Quiz, 2015

Hint: Click the image to zoom in.

  1. 8-track cartridge (produced mid 1960s – early 1980s for music recording and playback)
  2. 5.25” floppy disk (produced 1976 – 1990s for data storage)
  3. 8” floppy disk (produced late 1960s – 1990s for data storage)
  4. compact cassette (produced early 1970s – late 1990s, for music recording and playback)
  5. ZIP™ disk (produced 1994 – late 1990s, for data storage)

Do you know the answer?  Find out below the cut.

 

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Preservation Week Quiz: Monday’s Question of the Day

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As part of Preservation Week 2015, the State Library’s Government and Heritage Library is partnering with the State Archives on a Preservation Week Question of the Day – a series of questions related to the preservation of materials both physical and electronic. Visit the State Archives’ blog to see their question of the day.

Roughly, what percentage of cultural institutions need additional conservation/ preservation training for their staff and volunteers?

  1. 10 %
  2. 25 %
  3. 50%
  4. 70%

Do you know the answer?  Find out below the cut.

 

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Preservation Week: Free Webinars

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It’s that time of year again! National Preservation Week started yesterday, and for the next week we’ll be bringing you preservation-related information, resources, and quizzes. One resource we’re especially excited about is the series of free online webinars offered by the Association for Library Collections & Technical Services.

Date Topic Presented By
April 28 Moving Image Preservation 101 Siobhan C. Hagan
April 30 Digital Preservation for Individuals and Small Groups – The Government and Heritage Library and State Archives will be hosting a viewing of this online webinar at the State Archives and Library building in Room 208 2-3pm. Mike Ashenfelder
May 1 Disaster Response Q&A Nancy E. Kraft

The first of the two webinars are geared towards individuals and preserving personal materials (digital and moving images), and the third webinar is about institutions’ disaster response procedures.

You can watch all three webinars from your home computer. For April 30th’s Digital Preservation for Individual and Small Groups webinar, you can also join staff of the State Library and State Archives to watch the webinar in Room 208 of the Archives & History–Library building.

Love the webinars and want more?

Watch past years’ recorded webinars on YouTube! http://www.ala.org/alcts/confevents/preswk/alctsevents

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