Tech Thursday: HP Data Cartridges


The Woodson recently received a collection of old technical manuals and documentation. Among the materials are several boxes marked with Hewlett Packard logos, inside of which one can find several magnetic tape cartridges and their user manuals, still secure in their original plastic wrapping. The shipping labels on the boxes are all addressed to Dr. J.D. Wise at the Abercrombie Lab, Electrical and Computer Engineering. There are no dates on the labels, but the printing dates on the manuals indicate that these materials came to Rice in late 1987. It seems the lab was outfitted with HP 9000 Series 300 workstations, and the cartridges carried software updates.

This one is an update for FORTRAN, a programming language suited for “numeric computation and scientific computing.”

FORTRAN update

FORTRAN update

These two were updates for the Programming Environment (PE) and the Application Execution Environment (AXE) for the HP-UX operating system.

Programming Environment update

Programming Environment update

Application Execution Environment update

Application Execution Environment update

I can’t quite tell the specific format of the cartridges, but they are definitely Quarter-inch cartridges (QIC), and I think they are SLR, Tandberg Data’s brand of QIC (According to Wikipedia, Tandberg is the only company that still manufactures QIC drives).

The cartridges are accompanied with about 10 binders-worth of documentation, and it’s a little strange to see it all in such pristine condition.



I noticed when I was researching for this post that there are services which can convert the formats like SLR to DVD or digital formats. I haven’t had a chance to look, but I wonder if the programs on these cartridges might be worth converting for preservation.


One thought on “Tech Thursday: HP Data Cartridges

  1. That is about when I started working at HP. Internally, those were called “Linus tapes”, because the code name for the original tape drive was “Linus”. Not “Linux”, that was much later.

    I doubt they are worth preserving for Rice’s sake, since there is nothing Rice-specific on them.

    Here are two sites run by HP collectors. I did not see anything about HP-UX or the Linus tapes.

    I believe that HP has a corporate archive now, maybe even an official historian. Chuck House would know for sure:

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