Saturday, February 02, 2013


kw: computers, backups, photographs

I used to use Sony QW 5122 tapes for backup. I had quite a system going; 3 pairs of tapes, used quarterly, and a tape used for incremental backups if I did something significant. Each of these tapes holds 400 MBy, so two of them have a bit more capacity than a CD-ROM. Backup used to take an hour.

I stopped using tape in 2000, when a full backup went from taking about 600 MBy to several GBy. I went to fast  CD-ROMs at first, but by 2002 I was using DVDs. Now I have a 1TB external drive and do only data backups to it. They take up about 20 GBy and take 10 minutes. I don't do full backups, which would add another 50 GBy or more.

I needed to dispose of these. They are mounted to a thick metal plate, so even industrial-size shredders won't grind them up. Maybe a tree-eater… Anyway, at first I tried using an ax, with the cartridge on a block of wood. The result is seen to the right. I aimed the ax to split the full spindle. It did most of it, but you can see at top right some tape still on the spindle. It is about 50 feet, and I just spun it off by hand.

A different scheme was needed. I took the rest of the tape inside.

As it happens, the metal back is held by just two tiny screws. Out with the jeweler's screwdriver set! It takes a little prying to get the plastic top off, and this is the result.

The full spindle lifts out easily, but it contains 400 feet of tape. It might be fun to string it all about, doing an unwinding dance. But I wanted the tape unreadable, and I didn't want to burn it because it is Mylar®, and also I don't know how much cobalt is in the ferrite coating. So I hied myself to the kitchen.

It takes about 15-20 seconds, sawing away with a butcher knife (holding the central spindle with pliers) to get this result. Good enough. I "decommissioned" the 6 remaining tapes this way.

This may seem a little paranoid, about 14-year-old data. I've seen programs, though, about old disks and tapes being read off in "digital chop shops"—most are in India—to look for financial data and SSNs. So I remove the hard disk from any computer I discard (I have a box full in a closet). I've left orders for my executor to have them destroyed (not just discarded) upon my demise.

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