Exabyte Tape Cartridges

Exabyte Corporation pioneered the 8mm magnetic tape data storage backup format for use on computer systems. The format was also known as Data8, in many cases abbreviated to D8 and also sometimes written as D-Eight. The cartridges are mechanically the same as tapes used in camcorders and 8mm video format recorders.

Until the development of the AIT data cartridge, Exabyte were the sole vendor of 8mm format tape drives. Exabyte Corporation was created with the aim developing the 8mm video format to be suitable for storing digital data. Using the available 8mm video tape technology they built a reliable mechanism and data format. The last Exabyte data cartridge, the Mammoth-2 was developed in 1999, making them obsolete and usually only seen for data conversion or data recovery when old archive tapes fail to restore.

Exabyte Data Cartridges

Exabyte cartridges used Metal Particle (MP) tape, first developed in 1987 with the EXB-8200 drive range was capable of storing up to 7GB of data using the EXB-8205XL drive using software compression on a 112m tape cartridge. The earliest models did not feature high-speed search, an important feature introduced with the EXB-8200SX drive. The EXB-8500 drive released in 1990, improved the data transfer speed and added hardware compression with the 8500c model.

The EXB-8505 drive introduced in 1992, further improved the data transfer speed, also increasing the capacity using a 112m tape to 10GB. Two years later the EXB-8505XL was introduced to allow data to be written to the newly developed 160m XL data cartridge, allowing 14GB of data to be stored. The EXB-8700 introduced a desktop top loader in 1995 and the Eliant 820 in 1998 failed to add any new features, probably due to the introduction of the Mammoth tape cartridge, leaving the Exabyte range of drives behind the competition.

Exabyte Mammoth Tape Cartridges

The Exabyte Mammoth tape cartridges use Advanced Metal Evaporated (AME) tape. The Mammoth drives provided read-only capability for data write to MP tape cartridges. The EXB-8900 drive was introduced in 1996 was capable of storing 20GB of data in native format on a 170m data cartridge. The EXB-8900 tape drive featured an LCD for displaying the status of the drive.

The Exabyte Mammoth-2 (M2) introduced in 1999 also made use of AME tape cartridges, which introduced an integrated 2m cleaning tape header, named Smart Clean. Three new cartridges were introduced, the 75m AME (20GB Native), the 150m AME (40GB Native) and the 225m AME (60GB Native) for use in the drive. The Mammoth-2 drive was capable of writing to AME media used in the original Mammoth drive, but unable to read the original Exabyte data cartridges.

Exabyte and Mammoth Data Recovery and Conversion

The Exabyte and Mammoth data cartridges are rarely used, except for some legacy systems. Most data cartridges of these types contain archive data, normally only required when specific archived data is required, often as the result of an E-Disclosure order. Such data should be transferred to new media on a regular basis, as the tape media will slowly deteriorate over time.

With the lifespan of most Exabyte and Mammoth tape cartridges having expired, it is all too common for a cartridge sent for data conversion to require data recovery, due to the presence of a media flaw. Such tapes should only be handled by a professional data recovery company who can handle the extraction of data blocks from damaged media and have the required knowledge to abstract the data files from the backup format held on the tape cartridge.

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