A Helpful Illustrated Guide to Computer Tapes

LTO / Ultrium

The LTO (Linear Tape Open) Ultrium tape cartridge format was developed by Seagate, Hewlett-Packard and IBM (the “LTO Consortium”) as a high-perfomance alternative to proprietary tape formats. The first generation drive, the LTO1 (or Ultrium 1), was released in 2000. The data is written in 384 tracks onto half-inch wide tape packaged in a 102 x 105.4 x 21.5 mm plastic cartridge. This cartridge contains a single reel; there is a takeup reel inside the tape drive and has a native (uncompressed) capacity of 100GB.
The LTO2/Ultrium2 was the next stage of evolution in the “Linear Tape Open” tape cartridge storage format. The drive was released in 2003 and writes data in 512 tracks onto half-inch wide LTO-2 cartridges. It has a native (uncompressed) capacity of 200GB.
The LTO3/Ultrium3 drive was released in 2005 and writes data in 704 tracks onto half-inch wide LTO-3 cartridges, which have a native (uncompressed) capacity of 400GB. It was the first generation Ultrium LTO drive to support WORM (Write Once Read Many).
The LTO4 / Ultrium4 drive was released in 2007 and writes data in 896 tracks onto half-inch wide LTO-4 cartridges, which have a native (uncompressed) capacity of 800GB. It was the first generation Ultrium drive to support hardware encryption.
The LTO5/Ultrium5 drive was released in 2010 and writes data in 1280 tracks onto half-inch wide LTO-5 cartridges, which have a native (uncompressed) capacity of 1.5TB. It was the first generation Ultrium drive to support LTFS (Linear Tape File System) format which allows the tapes to be mounted as a random access device (ie native file system volume) across many different environments (MacOs, Linux, Windows etc)
The LTO6 Ultrium6 drive was released in 2012 and writes data in 2176 tracks onto half-inch wide LTO-6 cartridges, which have a native (uncompressed) capacity of 2.5TB.
The LTO7 / Ultrium7 drive was released in 2015 and writes data in 3584 tracks onto half-inch wide LTO-7 cartridges, which have a native (uncompressed) capacity of 6TB.
The LTO8 / Ultrium8 drive was released in 2017 and writes data in 6,656 tracks onto half-inch wide LTO-8 cartridges, which have a native (uncompressed) capacity of 12TB.

DLT / SDLT

The TK50 backup tape format was introduced along with the TZ-30 drive in 1984 by DEC. It featured a half inch (1/2″) wide tape packaged in a “CompacTape” plastic cartridge containing a single reel. The drive wrote 22 serpentine tracks, delivering a capacity of 94MB.
The TK50 cartridge was superseded in 1987 with the introduction of the TK70 tape, which increased capacity to 294 MB by writing 48 tracks to an upgraded CompacTape II tape cartridge
In 1989, DEC superseded their previous cartridge types with the CompacTape III (later DLTtape III) format, which 128 tracks and a capacity of 2.6GB, which was later increased to 10 GB.
In 1995 the DLTtape IIIXT was introduced along with the DLT2000XT drive. These had a native capacity of 15GB
In 1994 the DLT IV was introduced along with the DLT4000 drive. These had a native capacity of 20GB. With the introduction of the DLT7000 & DLT8000 drives, native capacity was expanded to 40GB
In 1997 the SDLT (or “Super DLT”) was introduced along with the SDLT220 drive. These had a native capacity of 110GB. In 2002, the SDLT320 drive increased native capacity of SDLT1 tapes to 160GB
In 2004 the SDLT2 tape was introduced along with the SDLT600 drive. These had a native capacity of 300GB.

4mm DAT / DDS

The Digital Data Storage (DDS) magnetic tape data storage format was developed by Sony and Hewlett Packard in 1989 as an evolution of Digital Audio Tape (DAT). The tape medium itself is nominally 4mm (actually 3.8mm) wide, packaged in a compact plastic cartridge containing dual reels, and was originally 60 or 90 meters long. Initial native (uncompressed) capacity was 1.3GB on a 60 meter tape, and 2GB on 90 meter tapes.
1993 saw the release of the DDS-2 standard, with a native capacity of 4GB on 120m tape.
1996 saw the release of the DDS-3 standard, with a native capacity of 12GB on 125m tape.
1999 saw the release of the DDS-4 standard, with a native capacity of 20GB on 150m tape.
2003 saw the release of the DAT-72 standard, with a native capacity of 36GB on 170m tape.
2007 saw the release of the 8mm wide DAT 160 standard, with a native capacity of 80GB on 154m tape.
2009 saw the introduction of the final version of DDS/DAT format: the DAT 320, with a native capacity of 160GB on 153m tape.

8mm / Data8 / Exabyte / Mammoth

Originally developed from Video8, Data8 tapes were introduced with Exabyte’s EXB-8200 drive and come in a variety of lengths: 15m, 54m, 112m & 160m.
The 160mXL was the longest of the MP (Metal Particle) tapes designed for use with Exabyte’s EXB-82XX/85XX/87XX drives.
Exabyte introduced their Mammoth drive in 1996. This uses Advanced Metal Evaporated (AME) tapes that come in four lengths: 22m, 45m, 125m, and 170m.
Exabyte introduced the Mammoth 2 (M2) drive in 1999. This uses Advanced Metal Evaporated (AME) “Smart Clean” tapes that include a 2m length of cleaning tape. They come in three lengths: 75m, 150m, and 225m.

9-track reel-to-reel 1/2" tape

800 bpi/cpi NRZI ½” reel-to-reel 9-track magnetic tape was introduced by IBM in 1964

1600 bpi/cpi PE was the next generation ½” reel-to-reel 9-track magnetic tape
3200 bpi/cpi DPE was the next generation ½” reel-to-reel 9-track magnetic tape
62500 bpi/cpi DPE was the final generation of ½” reel-to-reel 9-track magnetic tape

Exabyte / Ecrix VXA

Ecrix developed the VXA format and were bought by Exabyte in 2001. There were four generations of VXA drive: VXA-1, VXA-2, VXA-172, and VXA-320. There were seven types of tape for these; the V6 had a capacity of 12/20GB.
The VXA V10 tape had a capacity of 20/40GB.
The VXA V17 tape had a capacity of 33/60GB.
The VXA V23 tape had a capacity of 80/160GB.
The VXA X6 tape had a capacity of 20/40GB.
The VXA X10 tape had a capacity of 40/86GB.
The VXA X23 tape had a capacity of 80/160GB.

Sony AIT

Sony released their first AIT drive in 1996. The SDX1-25C tape stores 25GB.
The SDX1-35C tape stores 35GB.
The Sony AIT1 Turbo stores 40GB.
The SDX2-50C tape was released along with Sony’s AIT-2 drive and stores 50GB.
The Sony AIT E Turbo was a budget AIT tape that stores 20GB.
The SDX3-100C tape was released along with Sony’s AIT-3 drive and stores 100GB.
The SDX3X-150C tape was an extended AIT-3 tape that stores 150GB.
The SDX4-200C tape stores 200GB and was released with Sony’s AIT-4 tape drive.
The SDX4-200C tape stores 400GB and was released with Sony’s AIT-5 tape drive.

1/2" IBM 3480/3490E/MAGSTAR 3590/3592/TS11XX

The 3480 tape format is a half-inch wide magnetic tape developed by IBM in 1984. The tape is on a single reel packaged in a 4″x5″x1″ plastic cartridge. The data is written in 18 tracks and a single tape cartridge can store 200Mb. in 1986, IBM added a hardware-based data compression option, IDRC (Improved Data Recording Capability) which typically doubles capacity to 400Mb. 3480 tapes with IDRC are called 3490
In 1991 IBM released the 3490E, which has a native capacity of 800MB.
In 1995 IBM introduced the 3590 B Model (3590 B11/B1A), which has a native capacity of 10GB (20GB on extended cartridges)
In 1999 IBM introduced the 3590 E Model (3590 E11/E1A), which has a native capacity of 20GB (40GB on extended cartridges)
In 2002 IBM introduced the 3590 H Model (3590 H11/H1A), which has a native capacity of 30GB (60GB on extended cartridges)
In 2003 IBM introduced the 3592-J1A (“Jaguar”), which has a native capacity of 300GB
In 2005 IBM introduced the TS1120 (3592-E05, also nicknamed “Jaguar”), which has a native capacity of 700GB
In 2008 IBM introduced the TS1130 (3592-E06), which has a native capacity of 1TB
In 2011 IBM introduced the TS1140 (3592-E07), which has a native capacity of 4TB
In 2014 IBM introduced the TS1150 (3592-E08), which has a native capacity of 10TB
In 2017 IBM introduced the TS1155 (3592-55E/F), which has a native capacity of 15TB

QIC / Quarter Inch Cartridges

QIC tape is a quarter-inch wide, and packaged in a plastic cartridge on an aluminium base plate containing dual reels moved by a drive belt/capstan arrangement. DC300 tapes (QIC-11) are 300 feet long and have a capacity of 12MB
DC300XL are extended length (450 ft) QIC-11 tapes with a capacity of 20MB
DC600A are 600 ft QIC-24 tapes with a capacity of 60MB
DC6150 are 620 ft tapes with a capacity of 120MB when written by a QIC-120 drive, or 150MB when written by a QIC150 drive
DC6250 (also called “SLR1” by Tandberg) have a capacity of 250MB when written by a QIC-250 / SLR1 drive
DC6525 (also called “SLR2” by Tandberg) have a capacity of 525MB when written by a QIC-525 / SLR2 drive
Magnus 1.2 (SLR3) tapes have a capacity of 1.2GB
SLR4 tapes have a capacity of 2.5GB

SLR / MLR (Tandberg)

SLR5-8GB tapes have a native capacity of 4GB
SLR6 (also known as SLR24) tapes have a native capacity of 12GB
SLR32 (also known as MLR1) tapes have a native capacity of 16GB
SLR7 (also known as SLR40) tapes have a native capacity of 20GB
SLR50 (also known as MLR3) tapes have a native capacity of 25GB
SLR60 tapes have a native capacity of 30GB
SLR75 tapes have a native capacity of 38GB
SLR100 tapes have a native capacity of 50GB
SLR140 tapes have a native capacity of 70GB

Mini-QIC / DC2xxx / QD2XXX / Irwin / colorado / DITTO/ TRAVAN

DECTape II (TU-58) cartridges were released by Digital Equipment Corporation in 1978. The tape is 0.150 in (3.8 mm) in width and they have a capacity of 256KB

QIC Mini Cartridge (MC)
were similar to the larger QIC tapes but in a smaller format (2 3⁄8 inches (60 mm) by 3 1⁄8 inches (79 mm) in size) originally released for use with QIC-40 drives. The DC2000 has a native capacity of 40MB. The longer 2000XL stores 60MB. Sony branded these tapes QD-2000

DC2080 were released for use with QIC-80 drives. The DC2080 has a native capacity of 80MB. Sony branded these tapes QD-2080
DC2120 were released for use with QIC-80 drives. The DC2120 has a native capacity of 120MB. Sony branded these tapes QD-2120
MC3000XL were released for use with QIC-3010 drives. They have a native capacity of 340MB. Sony branded these tapes QW-3000XLB
TR1 were released for use with Travan drives. They have a native capacity of 400MB. The longer TR1EX (“Extra”) tapes hold 500MB
QIC-3020 drives also used MC3000XL tapes. They have a native capacity of 670MB. Sony branded these tapes QW-3020XLF/B
TR2 were released for use with Travan 2 drives. They have a native capacity of 800MB. The longer TR1EX tapes hold 500MB
TR3 were released for use with Travan 3 drives. They have a native capacity of 1.6GB. The longer TR3EX (“Extra”) tapes hold 2.2GB
TR4 were released for use with Travan 4 and QIC-3095 drives. They have a native capacity of 4GB.
TR5 were released for use with Travan 5 drives. They have a native capacity of 10GB.

Sony DTF1 / DTF2

Sony released the  Digital Tape Format in 1994. The GW-240S held 12GB

The GW-730L was the long-format DTF tape. It held 42GB
Sony released the second generation Digital Tape Format (DTF-2) in 1999. The GW2-60GS held 60GB
The GW2-200GL held 200GB