Restoring Old Paper Tape

Charles Anthony at
Thu Jan 21 20:04:43 CST 2016

On Thu, Jan 21, 2016 at 5:56 PM, Jason T <silent700 at> wrote:

> I'm tossing this out here as a conversation-starter more than a
> request for help, although I may end up putting the knowledge to use.
> Today I received a set of original HP paper tapes for the 2115a
> machine.  I don't know if they've been archived or not - there are
> dozens of HP tapes on bitsavers and I'll have to make a P/N list and
> compare them.  The real problem is they're in horrible shape.  Decades
> of basement moisture and likely a few critters have turned them
> blackened, moldy and stuck together.
> So, what to do?  How to get to the data without a bio-hazardous
> payload along for the ride?  My thoughts go toward sunlight and/or U/V
> light (like a hair salon sanitizer,) rubber gloves and a mask,
> isopropyl alcohol, careful picking apart of layers, etc.  I'd think
> one thing in our favor is that holes in paper are going to be easier
> to read than ink on paper.  So Part 1 is getting them into readable
> condition, with part 2 being the actual reading.
For part 2, personally, I would take movies of the paper tape moving and
doing image analysis to recover that data; this occurs to me because I've
done a fair bit of image recognition software, so this solution may not be
feasible for all. If you sent me a sample movie, I would make a stab at
writing some data recovery software.

-- Charles

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