The University Record, March 26, 1996

100,000 MTS tapes to be disposed of by June

By Andrew Fabbro
Information Technology Division

"Tape Owners Please Claim Your Tapes!" pleaded a 1989 edition of the U-M Computing News. If you didn't heed that plea then, you must now, because the Information Technology Division (ITD) is disposing of all MTS tapes before MTS ceases operation in June.

After almost 30 years of operation, the volume of MTS tapes is staggering, and user cooperation is vital to the proper disposal of old tapes.

Before there were floppy drives, CD-ROMs, and multi-gigabyte hard drives, there were tapes. Between 1978 and 1994, ITD mounted 10,000­23,000 tapes each month. Thousands of research projects, dissertations, programming data, and a myriad of other information was stored on MTS tapes over the years.

Unlike floppy disks you could slip into a shirt pocket, MTS tapes were large reels that users deposited at computing centers so they could request mounting when they needed to access the data.

One of the challenges ITD faces is the vast quantity of tapes that have been forgotten or left unclaimed by their owners. With nearly 100,000 tapes on hand, ITD has begun the process of identifying owners and asking them to retrieve their tapes. Some of these tapes date back to the 1970s, and while the initial urge might be to simply destroy them, there is a significant chance that they may contain important archival material.

Sixty to 90 percent of user tapes are associated with research projects, many with outside or federal funding. Because the MTS system was used for many research projects by both ITD users and external customers, ITD feels it has a responsibility to make an effort to return the data to its owners.

The following outlines the timetable for disposing of 11 MTS tapes:


January and February: MTS tape owners were contacted. MTS system and filesave tapes created before July 1, 1988, were destroyed. Output delivery, tape submission, and tape retrieval at the NUBS Computing Resource Site was discontinued.


April: Tape submission and retrieval at the Computing Center Building will be discontinued except by special arrangement. MTS system and filesave tapes created before July 1, 1994, will be destroyed. Unclaimed user tapes created be fore July 1, 1988, will be destroyed.


May: Unclaimed user tapes created before July 1, 1994, will be destroyed.


June: All remaining unclaimed user tapes will be destroyed.

Users who have MTS tapes have two options: requesting the return of the tape or authorizing its destruction.

If you have an MTS tape and have not been contacted, please contact Nita Patterson (, or 763 -4908). Even if you no longer need the tape, identifying it and authorizing its destruction will save ITD time, paper work, and postage.