As long as there has been data, there’s been a need to back it up. With punched cards, decks were duplicated. When hard disks entered the scene, another medium was needed. Magnetic tape, first used to record sound in the 1920s, was adapted for data use in the 1950s. It has now been a data storage medium for over 50 years.
The first magnetic tapes were reel-to-reel, making the sight of spinning tapes a common one in datacentres. However, these tapes were cumbersome to handle and store, and were vulnerable to damage.
IBM introduced a cartridge tape drive in 1984, although reel to reel tapes still remained common. In 1987, Exabyte introduced 8mm tape cartridges, and in 1989, HP and Sony defined the DDS format for data storage on 4mm DAT tapes. Today, virtual tape (disk systems that emulate tape to backup software) provide the necessary speed to back up large volumes of data in a short time.