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  • Greetings and welcome to an episode of LGR Oddware! Where we're taking a look at

  • hardware and software that is odd, forgotten, and obsolete! And today it is

  • this thing right here: the Datasonix Pereos cassette tape storage device

  • from 1994. You could get around a gigabyte of storage on a teeny

  • tiny little cassette tape that is a smaller than anything else that was ever

  • made on the consumer market. Yeah how does this work? Well let's dive right

  • into it! So this is the Datasonix Pereos, introduced at the end of 1994

  • for a suggested price of $795 US dollars. It is a data backup system that connects

  • via the parallel port and weighs just 10 ounces fully loaded, or around 280 grams.

  • And it fit in the palm of your hand and ran on just two AA batteries. So a

  • very tiny thing and that was a big selling point, but the most important one

  • was that is stored up to 1.25 gigabytes of data on tapes the size of a

  • postage stamp, being the equivalent of over 850 floppy disks. And this was at a

  • time when a 300 megabyte hard drive would still be considered quite large.

  • Even the Iomega ZIP drive introduced around the same time only held 100 megs

  • per disk and was much larger, and required an AC adapter to be plugged in.

  • So how did it pull it off? Well it all starts with these rebadged Sony NT

  • tapes, the smallest cassette tapes ever made. With these from Datasonix

  • costing $34.95 each on introduction. But yeah they really are just Sony NT tapes. They

  • were digital micro tapes that were originally launched in 1992 for use in

  • Sony field recording and dictation devices like the NT-1 and NT-2.

  • Sometimes marketed as the Sony Scoopman, they recorded digitally instead of the

  • analog method used on the more common Compact Cassette and Microcassette

  • recorders. And the resulting audio quality was notably high as demonstrated

  • in a short YouTube video by Techmoan some years back. A video that I do

  • recommend, so check it out! But yeah the NT was subsequently adapted for

  • data storage use in the early 90s by Datasonix, the company co-founded by

  • Juan Rodriguez: the serial entrepreneur and pioneer in development of computer

  • data storage products in and around Boulder, Colorado. And man this guy is

  • fascinating but the gist of his technical career is that he started at

  • IBM in 1963 where he left to co-found the Storage Technology Corporation,

  • aka StorageTek, in and around Louisville, Colorado in 1969. They became a Fortune

  • 500 company by making tape and disk drives for various business computer

  • systems throughout the 1970's and early '80s. Rodriguez then founded Exabyte

  • alongside ex-StorageTek engineers in 1985, innovating in the area of higher

  • speed more reliable tape backup systems using helical scan technology. Their

  • breakout product was the EXB-8200 which they claimed was the world's first eight

  • millimeter helical scan computer storage subsystem. Then he was approached in 1992

  • about a new tape backup system in development using Sony's NT format. And

  • it was promising enough that he helped co-found the Datasonix corporation to

  • sell it under the name Pereos. Perry-ohs? Per-AY-ohs? I'm going with Pereos. And

  • why do they choose that name? Well, I can't find the original intent but I did

  • find that in Esperanto "pereos" is the future tense of "pereo," which means that

  • it translates to "impending doom" or "will perish." A great name for an ambitious new

  • product if I've ever heard one. Anyway the Pereos storage system was

  • achieved by building on the NT's non-tracking system, which "NT" stands

  • for, by the way. This meant instead of tracing each tape track individually the

  • rotary head inside could read multiple tracks at once. So it divided your data

  • into blocks of information all across the tracks of the tape in order to

  • achieve higher capacity and read/write speeds. To quote Mr. Rodriguez on the topic:

  • *Mat from YouTube channel 'Techmoan' reads the on-screen quotations*

  • Hmm funny how Juan Rodriguez sounds just

  • like Mat from Techmoan, what a coincidence...

  • Anyway the challenges Datasonix faced were immediately apparent, even with some

  • positive buzz in the press. It quickly dropped in price over the next two years

  • hitting $499 by 1995 and even after updating the software for Windows 95 it

  • was not long for this world. The product was dead by 1996 and the company along

  • with it, having produced only around 12,000 units. This was due to a variety

  • of factors and one of the biggest ones was that costs were just too high from

  • the very beginning, both at the end user level and manufacturing. Sony charged

  • them more than they had initially promised for the drives and tapes then

  • the final nail in the coffin was the value of the yen dropping from 110 down

  • to 79 per US dollar. And yeah it was just over for Datasonix. Mr. Rodriguez went

  • on to found Ecrix and improved the same package storage technology to develop

  • the VXB tape backup system, now owned by Overland Storage's Tandberg Data. And

  • along with some consultation work Rodriguez is currently an adjunct

  • professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder. But yeah enough backstory let's open

  • the box and try this thing out! It took me quite some time to find one of these

  • things and so far it's the only complete example I've seen show up on eBay.

  • Well almost complete as it didn't come with the manual or the original disks.

  • But like I said it's the only one I found so I'll take it! It did come with a backup

  • CD-R of the software as well as an original Datasonix NT tape. And yes

  • you can just use regular Sony NT tapes as well. There's also an external power

  • supply in here if you don't want to use batteries. And the adapter that connects

  • to the base unit to provide the parallel cable connector and the compartment for

  • your two AA batteries. And finally there's the Pereos drive itself, tucked

  • away in this neat little box. And this is a very basic but rather pleasing design

  • if I do say so myself. It's about the size of an action camera

  • like a GoPro Hero or something, or maybe a small bar of soap. Feels good in

  • the hands and only has the one button on it, which is for ejecting the tape slot.

  • And like the Sony NT recorders it has this dual action mechanism going on

  • where one press opens the slot and the next one presents you the tray.

  • *satisfying tray-opening noises commence*

  • Now that is just satisfying. But yeah you get your tape installed in there and then plugged

  • into the adapter to get the parallel port and battery situation going on. And

  • then you plug this into your computer of choice, and this is Windows 3.1

  • compatible. So yeah it's plugged in let's get the software installed and get to

  • backing up some stuff on the world's smallest cassette tape! Right so I've got

  • an HP Vectra VL5 Pentium 133 system from the mid-90s that I found was pretty

  • appropriate for the era that this thing was in its prime. And the installation

  • was very straightforward, nothing really special there, you just install it. And

  • then it detected that the Pereos was plugged in and the parallel port was

  • configured correctly, and it seems to be. Let's go ahead and back some stuff up!

  • And yes this is the Datasonix Pereos software version 6.20. Yeah it is from

  • 1997, this was distributed by J&J Peripherals in Colorado a little bit

  • after Datasonix went under. They sold this thing at a discount through the end of

  • the 90s or maybe even the very early 2000s from what I can tell from their

  • website archives. And yeah it's the Windows 95 version of the software. There was a

  • Windows 3.1 like I mentioned earlier but that's not what mine came with. So we're

  • just gonna go ahead and use this. The configuration is pretty simple, you can

  • do some stuff like setting up a password and select your different users, so you

  • can just have certain users doing certain things as far as backing up of only

  • certain stuff, if you want to protect things. You can clean the drive, erase the

  • tape and the label, repair it, and stats and all sorts of stuff. What does this drive

  • status do... alright cool, so yeah it tells me that I have it plugged in via AC

  • power, which I do. I don't have any batteries in there right now. Attached to

  • LPT1 and it is, uh yeah cool. Recommends that you clean

  • it every 12 hours. And yeah there were a few different things that it wanted me

  • to check out here and this is what I did: the "select optimal settings." And it did some

  • tests and this is what it came up with for as quick as I can because I have a

  • ECP/EPP enabled. Yeah let's go ahead and start saving some files!

  • Alright so here are the contents of my hard disk drive, it's only a couple gigs

  • this entire drive. Yeah let's just do something small here at first. I'm just

  • gonna back up the "Media" folder and that's it. Session name, okay yeah let's

  • just call this the "LGR Session 1." And here we go looks like it is going to try

  • and save some stuff on this blank tape that I have hmm.

  • How exciting! Oh my. It's making noises. I don't know how well you can hear that

  • let me get a little bit closer with my phone camera.

  • *tape drive noises do their thing*

  • Yeah it seems to be doing its thing.

  • That is awesome, it's at least making noise and spinning around and

  • numbers are happening so that's a good sign.

  • Alright it says it wrote everything to the tape, didn't have to do any

  • repositioning or rewrite counts. Compression is 1.17 to 1. Yeah,

  • it is automatically compressing those files just a little bit, although there's

  • not a whole lot to compress in this case. But yeah alright cool.

  • Well let's see if we can recover them! Man this is exciting. It sounds like I'm

  • being sarcastic but no seriously, this is exciting. I love using weird backup

  • systems, especially from tape. There's just something special about it. So it

  • shows my session here that we just had. Yeah here's the files available from

  • tape, that's everything! Uh, there it is! Now what I want to actually do here is

  • backup an entire game, like, several hundred megabytes. So it's probably gonna

  • take a little while. But I want to do it and just see if it gets everything

  • correctly -- oh crap I don't want to do that, no, don't -- I accidentally told it to

  • backup the entire hard drive. I mean, that'd be quite the test as well.

  • Uhh.

  • Sure why the hell not I mean, it's only 800 and something megabytes. Just

  • gonna call this "Vectra HDD," no password. Actually no I do

  • want a password. No I don't want a password. And yeah let's just reinitialize it, so

  • it's just gonna wipe out everything here and give the volume a new name. We're gonna

  • call that "LGR Backup." And here we go, so yeah this is the erase and labeling

  • tape setup process here, which it had me do when I was setting up the drive for

  • the first time. All right well that took a good couple minutes, a little longer

  • than it did to just wipe the initially blank tape. Which I guess that makes

  • sense because I had written some things on there. But now it's you know, doing the

  • backup process. All right there goes: 7,246 files,

  • around eight hundred and seventy three megabytes, yeah. Well I fully

  • anticipate this is gonna take a while so I'm gonna go ahead and cut off the

  • camera and then come back as soon as it's complete! So this is interesting, it

  • reached 95% of the 830 megabytes or so and it's saying that

  • both sides of the one tape are full. Oh well I do have another tape here, so I'm

  • gonna go ahead and let it keep going. Alright well that took just shy of three

  • hours, about two hours and 50 minutes. Had several repositioning cycles and a bunch

  • of the rewriting attempts, however it does seem to have gotten everything

  • saved. Although again it didn't actually do it all on one tape, I had to split it

  • up amongst one and a half. Yeah this was the exact amount that we tried to back

  • up here, 880 megabytes. Let's see if we can recover some of them now, so we go

  • back to introduce volume here and it's the same process all over again. I will

  • just let you know after this if it was able to fully recover a good chunk of my

  • files or not, be right back. Alright so it took almost exactly one hour to recover

  • that 168 megabyte game. I chose "POD." Let me go ahead and see if it did it

  • successfully. Nice! Well it runs like crap because this pretty much just running

  • software directly on a crappy like, 1 megabyte video chipset. So it runs like

  • garbage but it does run. That means it recovered everything that it needed to

  • to get the game loaded from the hard drive so that

  • is pretty friggin great. Gotta say it is mighty slow... but it does the job.

  • But I guess that's a trade-off that you make for not only using the parallel

  • port but also just being such a ridiculously portable audio format

  • that's been reconfigured for data storage. Still it works without a hitch,

  • that's something! Well that's about it for this episode of Oddware on the

  • rather fascinating Datasonix Pereos cassette tape backup system. I'm just

  • super amused that the Sony NT format was reused/repurposed for data storage.

  • I mean you know why not, right? There are plenty of tape-based storage

  • backup systems and of the others that I've used, especially those from Colorado

  • and Quantum and whatnot, this is the most interesting by far. Just due to the fact

  • that it uses this teeny tiny little postage stamp-sized things But at the

  • same time I also see why it didn't exactly succeed in any sense of the word.

  • It was just so expensive and you really didn't need to move around that much

  • storage very often. And if you did you're probably gonna go with one of the more

  • established tape backup systems, and so people did. But you know I'm glad

  • to have one of the 12,000 here, and I hope that you enjoyed taking a look

  • at it with me! And if you did then awesome, thank you very much. And perhaps

  • you'd like to stick around and see more of my videos: Oddware and hardware and

  • software and all sorts of stuff in-between every Monday and Friday. Also,

  • special thank you to Mat from Techmoan for supplying his voice! Seriously his

  • channel is awesome and if you haven't checked it out I highly recommend it. And

  • as always thank you very much for watching!

Greetings and welcome to an episode of LGR Oddware! Where we're taking a look at

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B1 tape backup storage sony rodriguez cassette

LGR Oddware - Datasonix Pereos Cassette Backup System

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/03/06
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