[clug] Data archaeology vendors? [SEC=PERSONAL]

Davis, Ron Ron.Davis at dva.gov.au
Mon Mar 15 17:51:28 MDT 2010

Hi Stuart

The tape is (most likely) a 3400 series tape, or (much less likely) a
2400 series tape.
The 3420 tape was the ubiquitous medium for data interchange between IBM
sites from the early seventies to the late nineties.
Virtually every site maintained one, even after they had long been
superseded by other technologies, simply because most software vendors
distributed their products on that medium.

But nowadays of course most software is distributed over the net and as
a result the last 3420's have been decommissioned at virtually every
At my site we got rid of our last one about 10 years ago, IIRC.  I
scavenged a box of degaussed tapes for "old times sake."
(Naturally we copied all data on 3420's to modern tapes before dumping
the last drive.) 

I'm not aware of anybody in AU who's still running a 3420 drive, but
these guys:
Would almost certainly be able to help.
If you're not familiar with mainframe tape technology there's a lot of
good stuff in their tutorials.

Regarding the punch cards, the first thing I'll do is shout:


If you do, and there is no sequence number on the card (there may or may
not be) there may be no way to EVER get them back in the right order
This could make them worthless, depending on the nature of their
contents and whether or not there is a sort field punched on the card.

The one good thing about cards is that they don't even need a machine to
read them, although tedious you can do it by eyeball.
I wonder if the cards contain source code or object (machine) code? You
won't be able to tell until you get a look at them. 

Hopefully, if they're source code the value of the punches will be
printed in human-readable form along the top of each card.
Otherwise you'll need to decode the punches. See:
For a description of how to read the punches (assuming they are
"English" rather than binary.)

If you can't find a site with a working card reader in AU (and it might
be hard, I haven't seen one since 1975) then I'd write a program to read
and translate a scanned image I think.
Tedious doing the scanning, but less tedious than doing the translation
by hand. 

If you don't want to do it yourself then try these guys:
At a few cents per card that's the way I'd go.

Okay, so you've got the data and the programs, now what? Do you have a
mainframe to do the processing?
Yes you do! :)
If you only have program source code there are compilers available for
almost all the common mainframe language on the Hercules platforms so
you'll easily be able to compile and run your programs.
Hercules is great, just like a real mainframe!

There's something of a learning curve to mainframes though so be
prepared to do a little study, getting your programs and data readable
will only be half the battle.

Disclaimer: Other than Hercules (which I use, and which is free and open
source) I have no connection or experience dealing with the other
organisations mentioned. 

Hope this all helps!



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