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Author Topic:   Attempts at digitizing NASA data tapes
apollo16uvc
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From: Next to LEM, Descartes Highlands, Moon
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posted 02-15-2018 02:19 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for apollo16uvc   Click Here to Email apollo16uvc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I am in contact with someone who will help me read NASA data tapes from the 60s to 70s. This person has experience reading these type of data tapes, as he has done so before for JPL.

This would be an example of one such tape, though not the same mission as I have seen so far.

Some quick looks at the tapes showed Lunar Orbiter, Apollo, Skylab and satellite 1/2 inch width and 10.5 inch diameter computer tape reels. If we get any data out of them, they will be uploaded as public domain to archive.org

Below are relevant parts of a conversation we are having:

Me: Today I played part of the tape through an AKAI X201D. I did not expect to get any usable data, maybe a faint signal.

You can find WAV files and spectrograms here. Test001 through Test003 were manually moved along the heads. Test004 and test006 were fed along the heads via the capstan at 3 3/4. Test005 is played at 7 1/2 inches per second.

Test005 has a continuous tone. Test006 is the very beginning of the tape, and has weird bursts at the beginning.

Contact: Having done a number of these for JPL, I'd say that this is a 7-track 800 BPI NRZI tape. Depending on the exact tape drive, it can probably be read on a 729-equipped 1401. Making sense of the data, however, is another story. Early 1960s NASA tapes tended to be 7090/94 ones, with later ones, Univac 1100 series right up through the early 1980s.

Or you can send it to me and I'll extract the data. My contacts at JPL say there are thousands of these things kicking around.

Me: Can you any sense out of the sound recordings I have made? What are the short bursts on test006 and the tone on test005.

I would be incredible thankful if you could extract the data. How to best ship a tape? I have to send mine from The Netherlands to your place, which I assume is America. Any further tapes I get I might have shipped directly to you from a seller in America. Whatever you want. I know a lot of people will be excited to look at the recovered data.

Is it possible you can try and get the tape identified by the people at JPL? I did scrub off the upper label to reveal the lower label with some more information.

Contact: No, I do not think that I could do anything with your audio. Perhaps an examination with a magnetic developer (such as Kyread) and a low power microscope would verify my suppositions. That would at least tell you how many tracks are involved and define the inter-block spacing, if applicable.

There's a faint possibility that these might also be analog telemetry tapes, but a view with a magnetic developer would verify that. However, what I can see of the partially-covered label seems to indicate a standard digital tape, but the note on the label that says "audio" is puzzling. Were that the case, you should be able to get something using an audio recorder to play these back.

I was under the impression that tapes used for analog telemetry back in the 60s was very different from standard 10.5" 1/2" tape, but you never know.

They're definitely digital tapes if you have blocks of data separated by approximately 3/4" of erased space. That's standard 7 track format.

Finally, a lot of these tapes are simple recertified "scratch tapes" — that is, used tapes returned to the scratch pool and run through a certifier (which erases all data). A tape label that specifies contents and the name of the programmer holds out the best hope, but even so, in the lots I've handled, about 10% were recertified scratch. NASA, like a lot of government operations, re-used tapes heavily, trimming off tape at the beginning when it wore out and applying a new BOT marker. Some of the tapes that I've worked on have several hundred feed sacrificed.

A lot of this stuff is mixed-format data (some text, a lot of binary) data that may be very difficult to suss out without the program that created it. For example, here's one of the tapes that I did: Mostly 7094 floating-point data with a few bits of 7090 BCDIC mixed in.

Me: Really cool that you worked on NASA tapes before, how did that come to be? And how do the tapes usually end up in the 'wild'?

There are many unknowns, but with small steps I believe we can figure this out.

I looked around for Kyread, and buying from their website the shipping cost alone is 150 dollars. I can buy magnetic viewing film much cheaper, do you think it has enough resolution to view the tracks?

If it does have analog telemetry, is there a special type of audio recorder we need to play them on? or will any 7 track multi track recorder do? I do not know if a 1/2 inch 7 track audio recorder exist, 1/2 inch 8 track tape recorders were more common. Today I spooled the tape through my 1/4 inch 4 track stereo recorder again, this time there were 4 to 5 distinct frequency tones in the spectogram instead of one. Could it be overlapping tracks?

Is it possible rectifying a tape causes this continuous tone? I may get some NASA tapes soon that have a greater potential to hold data.

Contact: My tapes came directly from NASA JPL in Pasadena. I do not own them — and they were returned after data retrieval, along with the data retrieved from them. In other words, it's JPL's property, not mine and I treat it that way.

Kyread is nothing more than 1 to 3 micron iron particles in a fast-evaporating fluid (it used to be a type of Freon, but since that was banned, methyl perfluoroisobutyl ether is used). It is relatively inert, so it does not affect the coating or base material. You shake the bottle up and drop a drop of the suspension on the tape and allow the solution to evaporate. Since the iron particles are so small, you can visualize very small features in the tape. With a decent chemistry lab, it should not be difficult to mix some of this up in your location, assuming that the carrier liquid is legal in the EU.

When I have a new tape, unless I'm very certain about the content, this is always the first step. Tapes labeled as 9 track often turn out to be 7 track and vice-versa. What are you going to believe, your eyes or some lying label?

The other thing is preparation of the medium. Normally, the procedure is to "bake" the tape, then run it through a tape cleaning machine. Additional treatment may be necessary, such as lubrication, to get the tape to read. After all, you have no idea of the storage conditions during the 50 or so years that the tape has been in storage. It's not uncommon for splicing tape (used to attach leaders) to dry out and let go, so you have to be prepared for that. BOT and EOT markers similarly dry out and fall off...

The tapes you pictured above are certainly data tapes and definitely 7-track (9 track tapes don't usually occur with even parity). But you can't get your expectations too high. The Apollo program involved hundreds of subcontractors who generated probably tens of thousands of tapes. The GE tapes you show above may be nothing more than engine test data — and like such things, you need a Rosetta stone to interpret it, since it's unlikely that the data will contain any clues. Before the days of high-speed telecom and big disk drives, tape was king. Outfits like NASA ordered tapes by the truckload.

But, if you're willing to take a shot, I'm willing to have a go at it.

Our conversation continued in private and got quite technical. I will try to get the tracks visualized on the tape currently with me and am looking into getting it played on a multitrack 1/2 recorder, if it is analog telemetry we might get something.

As for the data tapes, my contact will handle those.

apollo16uvc
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From: Next to LEM, Descartes Highlands, Moon
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posted 02-15-2018 02:21 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for apollo16uvc   Click Here to Email apollo16uvc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
So what is going on right now?
  1. Several data tapes are being sent to my contact.

  2. Several more will get an attempt to be bought, if I have no competition at bidding their price will stay reasonable. Currently there is a tape from Apollo 16 for sale, which is my top priority to get. The other ones for sale are from Skylab.

  3. I will try to get the tracks on my "Audio" tape visualized with magnetic viewing film. I will also try to get someone with a 7 to 9 track 1/2 inch multi-track audio recorder to play It. If the tape contains analog telemetry this may be possible.
Can you help?

Yes! If you have any tapes lying around, know the location of tapes, auctions of tapes, or would like to donate money to digitize as much tapes as possible; please contact me via my email at: apollo16uvc@gmail.com.

apollo16uvc
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posted 02-17-2018 01:39 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for apollo16uvc   Click Here to Email apollo16uvc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Tape: NASA Automatic Data Processing 4141 has arrived. Update written by contact:
The tape arrived today — the photos don't do it justice(?). The reel is chipped and absolutely filthy — it looks as if it spent the past 50 years on the floor of someone's garden shed.

At this point, it's difficult to tell how much of the tape is intact. This is my plan:
  1. Bake the tape for a day or two
  2. Run it through the cleaning machine a couple of times to remove as much of the dirt as possible
  3. Clean the reel and re-spool the tape
  4. Try to see if there's anything readable
And then:
Well, I unreeled a bit of the tape; I didn't find a BOT marker, so I suspected that the first few meters of the tape are history

Here's what I see when I look at the tape:

9-track, not 7! If the date on the tape is correct, this means it was produced on an IBM System/360, as almost nobody else had working 9 track drives then. Even in 1965, IBM was shipping the first S/360s out with 729 7-track drives. It took them awhile to get the bugs out of the 2400 series drives.

Testing the very beginning of this very wrinkled tape shows data on the first few cm, so if there was a leader, it's been long gone.

I'll bake and clean the tape and attach a BOT marker about 3 m in and see what I can see with my 9-track drives. This may take a few days.

apollo16uvc
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posted 02-18-2018 06:37 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for apollo16uvc   Click Here to Email apollo16uvc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The tracks on the tape visualized with a magnetic viewing solution:

apollo16uvc
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posted 02-25-2018 05:12 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for apollo16uvc   Click Here to Email apollo16uvc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A closeup of the tracks:

Buel
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posted 02-25-2018 06:08 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Buel   Click Here to Email Buel     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This is fascinating! Please keep us posted...

apollo16uvc
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posted 03-03-2018 06:28 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for apollo16uvc   Click Here to Email apollo16uvc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The NASA ADP tape may not be readable with conventional computer tape drives, as the ADP contains telemetry and not data. We may figure out a way to digitize it eventually.

We have had a success with two other tapes though! Switch-Action TP 1820 and 2909 have been read and successfully converted to .tap and ASCII text. I have had a look and think it is absolutely fascinating.

When I have the time and some more info I will make a public archive and put the files there. Can't wait to share this with you!

SpaceAholic
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posted 03-03-2018 06:45 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceAholic   Click Here to Email SpaceAholic     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Have you attempted to read tapes from the Apollo Command Module Data Storage Equipment? Retain a DSE on this end and there is some interest in ascertaining if it still holds mission vox/data.

Dave_Johnson
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posted 03-03-2018 10:20 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dave_Johnson   Click Here to Email Dave_Johnson     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'm curious about the solid 4th track on the tapes that has a constant signal. Presumably it's a sort of sync track that allows the drive to determine if the bit is 0 or 1 on the other tracks as compared to that track?

apollo16uvc
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posted 03-04-2018 03:27 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for apollo16uvc   Click Here to Email apollo16uvc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by SpaceAholic:
Have you attempted to read tapes from the Apollo Command Module Data Storage Equipment?
I am not reading the tapes, I send them to an American that has a data recovery company and he has digitized tapes for NASA before.

Is that a flown item? if so it may be of extreme historical significance to digitize the tape. I can forward you to the person that has been taking care of my tapes, but I doubt he will be able to do much with your drive and tape. His experience are with computer tapes, not telemetry and vox. The Switch Action tapes are computer tapes.

Your best bet may be to contact NASA about your drive and tape. Please keep us updated about it.

apollo16uvc
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posted 03-04-2018 04:28 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for apollo16uvc   Click Here to Email apollo16uvc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The tapes with their files can be found here. Here is a photo of tape 1820.

All thanks go to Chuck for reading the 7-track tapes for me. This would not have been possible without his help. More tape recovery may come from him later so stay tuned.

apollo16uvc
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posted 03-17-2018 12:29 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for apollo16uvc   Click Here to Email apollo16uvc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Two more tapes have arrived this week, a quick update below:
The second set of tapes arrived in good form. At first blush, they seem to be more switch panel data, but we'll know more later.

Unlike the last batch that were equipped with poly "tape hanger" strips, these were in 60s-era 3M hard styrene cases. That was good news and bad news. The good news is that the cases use a weatherstrip-type rubber foam to seal the edges of the two case halves. The bad news is that the foam has gone the way of all old rubber and deteriorated, essentially gluing the case halves together. With some coaxing and hard pulling, however, they came apart. I removed the bad foam so that this won't be a problem in the future.

I baked and cleaned the tapes (1179 was a bit sticky) and did a quick run-through of them.

2090 reads perfectly; no issues — the data looks much like the previous tapes; 132-character records of what I'm supposing are switch legends. Only one single parity error (I can isolate it to a single byte). 14,404 records amounting to about 2 MB.

1179 starts off the same way, but after about 663 blocks, everything goes to hell. Parity errors, short blocks, incomplete records. The only way I can think of resurrecting anything is to simply read without retrying all the data I can, and then trying to make some sense of the result. My suspicion is that the tape was stored (for years) close to a magnetic field and so became partially erased. Physically, the tape is in fine condition; not shedding or displaying any other physical damage.

apollo16uvc
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posted 03-18-2018 03:13 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for apollo16uvc   Click Here to Email apollo16uvc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
2090 has been uploaded.

apollo16uvc
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posted 03-20-2018 11:59 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for apollo16uvc   Click Here to Email apollo16uvc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
We are currently brainstorming on the best way to digitize 1179. When processing the BCDIC data to ASCII we get mostly garbage and the occasional readable string.

The best way might be to read it without any retries and try and make something out of it, this may requirements a firmware hack of the drive. The .TAP format does support forward and backwards retries but it reads the same errors each time.

A photo of a tape drive with 1179 mounted:

apollo16uvc
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posted 06-07-2018 09:25 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for apollo16uvc   Click Here to Email apollo16uvc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Four more tapes have been sent and received. This time relating to the Pioneer 10 and/or 11 probes.
The tapes showed up today in a single box. Each tape is shrink-wrapped; so far so good.

Judging from the labels, I suspect that this is imaging photopolarimeter (IPP) data from Pioneer 10 or 11. Neither spacecraft had a real camera per se; images were constructed from the IPP data. University of Arizona optical science center was the force behind the design and test of the IPP. The IPP, to my understanding, operated a bit like the old mechanical Baird television system. The IPP had an aperture and was spun to create a "scan" pattern, digitized and returned as a bit stream of data.

Since I've seen papers from 2014 using the original Pioneer IPP data to assess background radiation, I suspect the data is still very much around.

As to how to interpret the data on the tapes, we'll have to see what we get.

If we are able to read them I will try to contact some people that have bought the other seven tapes and will try to borrow them for data recovery. Updates will follow.

apollo16uvc
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posted 06-07-2018 10:40 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for apollo16uvc   Click Here to Email apollo16uvc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
One of the four tapes:

oly
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posted 06-18-2018 06:38 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for oly   Click Here to Email oly     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I found this article from a photography site that describes a team that did something similar with the Lunar Orbiter photo data from 1966.

apollo16uvc
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posted 06-25-2018 06:23 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for apollo16uvc   Click Here to Email apollo16uvc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
An update on the Pioneer tapes:
I had a go at the first of the new tapes (qk7992h); it's a 800 NRZI 9-track tape and it's EBCDIC on the first couple of records. The tape is about 6MB and largely seems to be binary data. The header mentions that this is May 21, 1978 and contains the word "VESTA" and apparently the name of the person responsible "ZELLNER".

By and large, the tape read just fine, with only a couple of single-byte errors. So now I have some tinkering to do before I can give you much more.

apollo16uvc
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posted 07-04-2018 02:56 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for apollo16uvc   Click Here to Email apollo16uvc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'm starting here with the tape QK7992H from NASA in the lot of 4. I suspect that it's the best as it's probably the original.

At any rate, count this as a test only — there appears to be only one uncorrected parity error in block 130.

Note that any text in these is EBCDIC, not ASCII. The data structure appears to be fixed length records of 83 (total) bytes, each record starting off with its number in EBCDIC. Initial records are entirely in text; subsequent records are binary data.

For example, the first physical block (translated from EBCDIC to ASCII) is...

[Code omitted]

More discovery — the University of Arizona tapes (3 of them) turn out to be 7 track, not 9, unlike the NASA-provided tape. I've got to see if I can discover what mainframe the UofA science department was using before I can make sense of them.

apollo16uvc
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posted 07-30-2018 07:39 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for apollo16uvc   Click Here to Email apollo16uvc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The data on QK7992H has been converted to ASCII which reveals more metadata, such as exposure and processing information.

Three Pioneer tapes have been read but none are readable. A fourth one with Pioneer 11 data has been send.

I have successfully digitized a NASA fortan punchcard from an eBay photo but I failed to acquire the lot. Hopefully I can come in contact with the buyer and borrow the +2400 cards. They seem to contain data on the Saturn-5C nuclear. Orbit, debrish and launch calculations on a Saturn V nuclear stage.

One card says the following:
V/3K/SOS Lunar Direct Ascent

Anybody got an idea what that means?

apollo16uvc
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posted 08-04-2018 02:28 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for apollo16uvc   Click Here to Email apollo16uvc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NASA Switch Action Tape 1179 has finally been digitized with minimal read errors. With some new code and recalibrated read-amplifiers the results have gotten much better.

It has been uploaded to archive.org.

Two Pioneer 11 tapes have arrived, what we know now:

The tapes have arrived in good shape today. They are that at the first inspection labeled "1600 bpi," so 9-track PE density, which is usually much more more reliable than NRZI 800 (7 or 9 tracks).

Looking closely at the two tapes that just arrived, I've found a puzzle. Both have labels that indicate that they're 7-track 556 BPI. But one also has a later label indicating 9-track 1600 BPI. As to what they
actually are will be determined once they're out of the "oven."

apollo16uvc
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posted 08-23-2018 02:51 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for apollo16uvc   Click Here to Email apollo16uvc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
And now for something different: Punchcards!

Some time ago there was a lot of +2500 NASA punchcards for sale, I didn't win the auction unfortunately. I am processing the eBay photos, I got about 9 cards.

They seem to contain FORTAN code.

Here are two photos: 1 | 2.

Thanks go to Micheal for writing the code, you can find an old version here.

Has anybody got an idea what the Switch Action Table tapes were used for?

apollo16uvc
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posted 08-29-2018 02:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for apollo16uvc   Click Here to Email apollo16uvc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I got great news: We have processed the first image from one of my Pioneer tapes.

All thanks go to Leo for processing the first image on Pione-QK7992H tape. Thanks a lot for your work Leo!

Some info: The image data should contain two colour channels, blue and red, but for now we have just processed everything as grayscale. We are not sure yet how to process the colour channels. The image data is 6-bit with 64 intensity values. It has been processed into a PNG.

RAW image:

Contrast equalized:

Buel
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posted 08-29-2018 05:41 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Buel   Click Here to Email Buel     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks for these. Can I ask what the image is?

apollo16uvc
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posted 09-08-2018 04:10 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for apollo16uvc   Click Here to Email apollo16uvc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I have talked with Ted Stryk, and going from the info on the tape, he thinks it are zodiacal light observations. He has not yet replied to my images though.

apollo16uvc
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posted 09-08-2018 04:12 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for apollo16uvc   Click Here to Email apollo16uvc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Okay, so someone has been looking through a lot of documents to try and solve the mystery behind our Switch Action Table tapes. Here is what he has found so far, some really great stuff. If anybody could try and find the documents he is looking for that would be great.
Check out these two extremely detailed docs: You won't find a definition of the the actual Switch Action Table tape format, but the tape is clearly describing the configuration information for the SLCC system.

On page 3-9/3-10 (56 in the PDF) of the programmer's manual, it mentions the "Discrete Executive":

The Discrete Executive initiates logging at both computers. There are a number of different types of discrete tables each containing specific data. These tables are:
  • LDO and MDO Profile table
  • LCCC and MLC Discrete Status tables for IODC's 5 and 7
  • General Discrete Log table (LDI, LDO, and MDI Changes)
  • MDO Issue table
Section 4.1.1 on 4-3 (p.66) describes "Launch Vehicle Input/Output, Discrete Input/Output" and give details on LDI/LDOs and MDIs/MDOs, which as suspected are LCCC/MLP Digital Input/Outputs.

73V1201 contains the test procedures for verifying the LCC computer software and interface to the launch vehicle are operating correctly. There's a lot of interesting details here, but first check out "Discrete Initialization and Modification (NT98/NT99)" (p.24). Section 5.2.2 (p.27) says:

5.2.2 Place cards in the card reader to perform the following action table modification:
  • MDI 0010 0N - LDO 1200 issued ON
  • MDI 1200 0N - LDO 0010 issued 0N
  • LDI 0033 0N - MDO 0619 issued 0N
  • LDI 0619 0N - MDO 0033 issued ON
There are numerous references to specific LDI/LDO/MDI/MDO numbers in the test procedures and while all of them don't match up with the data in the file, many do. On page 39 while testing the $DMON display monitor program, LDI0346 and MDI0459 are associated with the "ground camera arm switch" on the vehicle camera networks panel.

Another interesting example is the Launch Vehicle Data Adapter communication interfaces. See the "LVDA STATUS CODE CONVERSION CHART" on p.146. For example, if MDI0736 and MDI0734 are ON that indicates "PREPARE TO LAUNCH WITH A PLATFORM."

That sounds an awful lot like our tapes. My guess is they're the input data for the NT98 Discrete Initialization Program, which unfortunately isn't described in detail. If anyone can locate the following documents, I bet we'd find what we need there:

  • Specification for the Operating System for the Saturn V Launch Computer Complex, Volume 1, Revision 1: MSFC No. III-4-440-4

  • Operator Reference Manual for SLCC Progranrning System, MSFC No. lII-4-440-5, IBM No. 68-F11-0003, dated 15 June 1968.

  • User Instructions for Saturn V Launch Computer Complex Operating System and Test Programs: MSFC No. III-4-462-1

apollo16uvc
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posted 09-29-2018 01:56 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for apollo16uvc   Click Here to Email apollo16uvc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
We have converted all six image files from the Pione-QK7992H tape to PNGs, and have processed multiple versions from them (contrast equalized, inverted, different colour combinations for duo-colour images).

All of the files will be published soon, together with information we could gather about the other six files we don't know how to process yet. We have asked for help from old Pioneer scientists and employees to process the six remaining files.

All files have their own folder with the PNGs, binary data, metadata and miscellaneous info.

We asked a collector who bought the other 8-something Pione tapes if he wants his tapes digitized for free. But unfortunately he has no interest in preserving his collection for future generations, a shame!

We are still looking for the documents mentioned in the previous reply, if you know where we can find them, please email us!

apollo16uvc
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posted 12-24-2018 01:12 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for apollo16uvc   Click Here to Email apollo16uvc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Since last week I have bought four NASA tapes from eBay. It is 1/2 inch tape on a 10.5 inch reel and has 7 tracks. The tapes are recorded with Ampex FR-100 and Ampex FR-600 instrumental recorders. On the tapes are analog telemetry signals from satellites, recorded at NASA stations in 1963.

It seems that there are six telemetry tracks, and one voice track.

I do not have have Ampex FR-100 or FR-600, and they are very scarce. Nor do I have a 1/2 inch 8-track recorder.

What now? There are 8-track 1/2 sound recorders. The height difference between 8 and 7-track is so small, I think you can play a 7-track tape on an 8-track recorder.

If you adjust the 8-track head up and down, to align it with one track at a time I think we can pick up a good signal. I have talked with someone, and he says the tracks are just analog waveforms. I once played a 9-track 1/2 tape on a 1/4 4-track recorder, and I received an unusable but stable signal.

I and others would really appreciate it if someone makes his (or hers) 8-track 1/2 inch recorder available. The tapes will have to be shipped from the Netherlands. For this to work, the head must be adjustable. It would be best to use an Ampex FR-100 and FR-600, but I think it's unlikely that we will encounter them.

I also tried to win an auction of an other computer tape, but unfortunately the bids went way out of my budget. The tape was related to this document and have it send off the Chuck for data recovery. The writing on the tape is as follows:

Programmer:
Radd

Identification:
Presto (Fortran IV)
File I - Source
File II - Binary
File III - Test Case

Tape ID: B40968-B4-6-2

We hope to be able to contact the collector and offer our services to recover data from the tape. He represents a museum, so it would be great if we could digitize more tapes and film from their archive with our equipment.

Buel
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Posts: 584
From: UK
Registered: Mar 2012

posted 12-24-2018 01:50 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Buel   Click Here to Email Buel     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I think what you are doing is just tremendous!

apollo16uvc
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Posts: 77
From: Next to LEM, Descartes Highlands, Moon
Registered: Jan 2017

posted 12-24-2018 02:23 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for apollo16uvc   Click Here to Email apollo16uvc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks! it has been a pleasure.

Unfortunately the seller of magtape B40968-B4-6-2 prefers not to contact the buyer about my data recovery service. I also asked if I could just know the name of the museum, but alas.

(Next bit may include some venting)

So far there has been one buyer, who bought the other six-something Pioneer 11 tapes who declined my offer. And two sellers who prefer not to contact their buyers, in fair of damaging business relationships. One lot were +2500 NASA/IBM punchcards that I suspect were used for some kind of Saturn V and LM development. The other lot was the Radd tape mentioned above.

They claim it may decrease the value of those items. This is nonsense, in the last three decades NASA and other sources have been putting terrabytes of audio, video and photos online. Yet singular slides and tapes still sell for several hundreds of dollars.

And not contacting the museum is just ridicules. The sole and absolute purpose of a museum is to preserve an item for future generations and educate people. If this does not happen, it might as well not exist. I do not know about that museum, but most do not have a large budget, and exotic mediums like tape are especially expensive and difficult to digitize. A real shame I won't be able to help.

In the end, I just think it is sad some people only see money, and not the journey ahead of them, and the importance to preserve these items for future research.

Not to end on a sour note, I would like to thank everybody who volunteered so far.

I am also talking with a dutch fellow about loaning a 1/2 8-track tape recorder from him to try and play back the telemetry tapes. I suspect we will be able to at least listen to the voice channel (Trk 7).

Also, here is a colour-image recovered from magtape QK7992H.

Stay tuned for more!

Buel
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Posts: 584
From: UK
Registered: Mar 2012

posted 12-24-2018 04:35 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Buel   Click Here to Email Buel     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
What on earth (or not) could that be? Please keep up the perseverance!!

apollo16uvc
Member

Posts: 77
From: Next to LEM, Descartes Highlands, Moon
Registered: Jan 2017

posted 12-29-2018 06:06 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for apollo16uvc   Click Here to Email apollo16uvc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks for your support!

In order to celebrate (almost) new year, I have decided to release an unfinished version of the processed data from Pione-QK7992H done by Hans. There are 12 files on the tape, of which we have confirmed six to be image files, and have decoded them. There are three B/W images and three duo-colour images (file 1, 2, 6, 7, 11, 12).

As to what is on them, we do not yet know. If you know anybody that could help, tell him about me!

As for the six remaining files, we are not sure what those are. Their ASCII metadata is similar to the image files, but the data is different. By processing some of the remaining files anyway, we get weird patterns that could hint to some kind of image format, but we don't know!

Hans has separated the binary data from all 12 files from the SIMH file and put each in their own folder. When applicable he converted them to images. Each folder is supplied with the raw binary data and readable ASCII metadata.

Note this is unfinished, as some non-image files have only their metadata supplied, not the binary data. This will be done later when Hans has the time. Enjoy!

Hopefully the satellite tapes will arrive in the next two weeks, then I will be able to judge their condition, and if they need to be baked or not. But because the SSS might be in the middle or end, and not at the start, its going to be difficult as I can't unspool all of the tape.

Is there anybody who can try and identify the satellites? This are the sat identifications on the documentation and tapes:

1963 30B
1963 14B and 14C
?? 63 14A and B
6330213 (or) 63302|3
I am talking with somebody in the Netherlands who has several 8-track 1/2 machines, but has not used them for years and doesn't know if they work correctly or not. If none work, one may have to be repaired. I'll then loan the machine for my tapes. I will also work out if I can buy the repaired recorder or not, that would be great for future projects!

If I setup a crowdfund for the repair would anybody be willing to help fund it?

Currently I am digitizing two 1/4 inch home recordings of Mercury and Gemini news coverage, including John Glen's flight! will be up soon. My Akai X-201D and Revox A77 MK 4 need repairs too but that's an other matter. The Akai X-201D gets a noisy channel after a while (Especially when you turn it off and on) and the Revox A77 has mechanical and relay problems.

Will keep you guys updated!

Have a happy and safe new year. For many discoveries in 2019! — Niels

minipci
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Posts: 336
From: London, UK
Registered: Jul 2009

posted 12-30-2018 03:10 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for minipci     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by apollo16uvc:
Is there anybody who can try and identify the satellites?
Perhaps this might help for those 1963 satellites. For example, look for 1963-030B, and so on.

SpaceDust
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Posts: 113
From: Louisville, Ky USA
Registered: Mar 2006

posted 12-30-2018 03:48 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceDust     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NASA's Master Catalog put them as the following:
  • 1963 30B = TRS 1(ERS 9)
    Alternate Names were TRS 1(D), TRS-4, ERS9

  • 1963 14B = ERS 5
    Alternate Names TRS 2, TRS 1(B), DASH 1, and ERS5

  • 1963 14C= ERS 6
    Alternate Names TRS 1(C), TRS 3, and ERS 6
Here I'm taking that the "??" is 1963. In that case the catalog has them as:
  • 1963-14A = MIDAS 6
    Alternate Names Missile Defense Alarm System 6, West Ford (2)

  • 1963-14B = 1963 14 B (see above)

apollo16uvc
Member

Posts: 77
From: Next to LEM, Descartes Highlands, Moon
Registered: Jan 2017

posted 01-12-2019 06:08 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for apollo16uvc   Click Here to Email apollo16uvc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Four satellite tapes have arrived. I have good and bad news; first we look at the good:

As you can see in the photos, the reels and tape are in good condition. All reels were carefully packed with original documentation in an aluminum holder. This holder was in two layers of cardboard. The cardboard seems to have a bit of water damage, but the tape has remained protected in the holder, which also has no rust. The reel has no scratches and dents.

The tape does not smell and looks good. I do not notice any mold or rotting. Optically, the tape is clean with little scratching on the playback side.

I have unspooled part of the tape and I do not notice any Sticky Shed Syndrome, although of course I could only check the beginning.

Now then, I dared to attempt to play the tape on my Akai X201D 1/4 4-track tape recorder. I did this by unwinding a piece of the tape and guiding the tape through the tape path guides and capstan. The tape gets pulled through the capstan in another box. With clean gloves, I make sure that the tape runs over the heads at the right pressure.

This was a success in itself because I received a number of signals. By carefully moving the tape up and down, I can try to focus on 1 track. Further than this I did not come.

The bottom sound file are the interesting pieces from a few minutes of play on 7-1/2 I.P.S

The tape number on the boxes and documentation is 3141/2N003. The number on the reel itself is 10786-16-8.

Satellite: 1963-014A & B (ERS5)
Recorder: FR-100
Speed: 15 I.P.S
Station Name: GFORKS
With this we have proven that something is on the tape, and it can be picked up with a sound head.

I am talking to Peter about borrowing an 8-track tape recorder. His Otari MX-5050 8 unit is most interesting since it can play two speeds, 7/1-2 and 15 I.P.S which is what I need.

After taking a look, and all mechanical functions appear to be working. Playback, fastforward/rewind. When he sends a sound from the build-in tone generator to the recording input, all VU meters register correctly and there is sound.

But... there is no sound on playback! its possible there is nothing on the tape, he will try and find an other one to test once he has the time.

Neither of us have the parts, equipment and time to repair and calibrate such a machine. So its likely we have to hand it over to a company for repairs and calibration.

And now the bad news: Two tapes I tried to play have audio, but two have not! I get no signal, just as if there was no tape at all. Maybe this tape has been erased, or recorded with another recorder that does not play on my Akai. Or I can not unspool the tape far enough.

Will keep you guys posted once there is an update.

apollo16uvc
Member

Posts: 77
From: Next to LEM, Descartes Highlands, Moon
Registered: Jan 2017

posted 01-13-2019 03:46 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for apollo16uvc   Click Here to Email apollo16uvc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Given the FR-100 and FR-600 recorded signals on tape as frequency modulation, I assume the digitized signals would need to be de-modulated? I think a timing/reference channel would need to be used for this to account for tape speed fluctuations and coating irregularities.

Any idea whether the telemetry from these kinds of sats was analog, or from a digital computer?

Some of the tapes are from Winkfield, so its likely they were recorded with this machine.

apollo16uvc
Member

Posts: 77
From: Next to LEM, Descartes Highlands, Moon
Registered: Jan 2017

posted 01-29-2019 09:47 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for apollo16uvc   Click Here to Email apollo16uvc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I've got good, and great news.

First the good news, I assembled a small setup to be able to play more of the tapes on my 1/4 inch 4-track recorder. I played the tapes that I previously was afraid had no signals at all, and after some time (8-10 minutes) they too give the expected signals. So far I got six tapes, five of which hold signals.

The great news I've got, is that I have recorded the reference track briefly by moving the tape up and down. The reference is a 10Khz tone on track 4, as seen on the attached document. Skip to (2:35) on the attached .mp3 file. Its exactly 10Khz on the recording.

Later on when I will make proper scans of all documentation and cases.

It would be useful if we knew the track geometry of the FR-100, FR-600 and Otari MX-5050 8. We should be able to actually see this on the tape by using a magnetic developer solution. They are very expensive to buy and ship, so I have talked with Chuck on how to make it myself. It is quite simple, and he tried it on a floppy disk with good results and no damage to the data. With detailed macro photos we can figure out how well the tracks align. Stay tuned!

apollo16uvc
Member

Posts: 77
From: Next to LEM, Descartes Highlands, Moon
Registered: Jan 2017

posted 03-01-2019 05:42 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for apollo16uvc   Click Here to Email apollo16uvc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In the mean time I have acquired five ESA satellite tapes, also appear to be telemetry.

I have tested out three of the five ESA tapes with a magnetic viewing solution, and all three clearly showed seven tracks like the NASA tapes. This means they have not been degaused or overwritten with an audio recorder. The tracks look like raw telemetry, not computer tapes. One tape has a label that clearly says it came from a tracking station. I think we should be able to digitize these too eventually. The tracks are very clear.

The tapes I have tested are:

  • TD-1 (Tape ID: 1117-09-08-B)
  • ESRO 1A (Tape ID: 800 645 08 10B)
  • HEOS A2 (Tape ID: 1115 06 11B)
I have made two videos on it in Dutch. First, a tutorial on how to make your town magnetic viewing solution.

And second, a video where I visualize the magnetic tracks on three tapes:

Here are some photos of the tracks. I promise I will publish a big archive with detailed scans and photos of all ESA and NASA tapes currently in my possession.

I have also make zip archives for all seven NASA satellite tapes I've got so far. They can be found here. The seven zip files mentioned here start with "Sat-" and will be updated and renamed to later versions when hopefully we manage to digitize the tapes and process the telemetry.

apollo16uvc
Member

Posts: 77
From: Next to LEM, Descartes Highlands, Moon
Registered: Jan 2017

posted 03-12-2019 04:11 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for apollo16uvc   Click Here to Email apollo16uvc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Some interesting new finds, did we play telemetry?'

Last week I took the time to play some ESA tapes (1/2 inch 7-track) on my Akai X201D (1/4 inch 4-track) The tapes played:

  1. SAT: ESRO 1A
    TAPE ID: 680841-292-230
    ESOC/Section TLM: 13496
    DATE: 24 JULY 70

  2. SAT: 720,141
    TAPE ID: 1135 05 10A
    ESOC/Section TLM: 21554
    DATE:

  3. SAT: TD-1
    TAPE ID: 1117 09 08 B
    ESOC/Section TLM: 16837
    DATE: "Day 089"

  4. SAT: TD-1A
    TAPE ID: 1118 07 09 A
    ESOC/Section TLM: 16672
    DATE:
To give you an idea of how satellites sounded in the 60s and 70s check out this website with recordings.

I made a video where I play the tapes and show it on an oscilliscope:

Some remarkable details: ESRO 1A has a lot of activity at the beginning, it looks like a reference signal that is being adjusted. There pitch changes and there are periods of noise. Eventually we receive a stable signal which is certainly more complex than a simple sine wave.

ESRO 1A:

TD-1 TD-1A A lot of new information that will take some time to process.

It seems to me quite possible that this is the received data. If we find documents from the relevant satellite with information about telemetry, should it be possible to create a program or circuit that processes the signal? A program could convert it to a spreadsheet. How much volts the battery outputs every second for example.

I do not know anything about it, but the ESA recordings do not seem to be FM-modulated, since such a wave looks very different. The NASA recordings are usually not, so apparently AM and FM modulation was not common in recordings from this time. The NASA documentation usually also has "Direct" recordings and not "FM".

I am looking for people who may be able to help with the relevant satellites, and who are more acquainted with this kind of work.

Also, have finally finished v1.0 of the archive for the NASA satellite tapes.

apollo16uvc
Member

Posts: 77
From: Next to LEM, Descartes Highlands, Moon
Registered: Jan 2017

posted 03-13-2019 05:36 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for apollo16uvc   Click Here to Email apollo16uvc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by SpaceAholic:
Have you attempted to read tapes from the Apollo Command Module Data Storage Equipment? Retain a DSE on this end and there is some interest in ascertaining if it still holds mission vox/data.
What an amazing artifact! No, I have not attempted to digitize anything like this.

I am working on several projects to digitize old NASA tapes. These range from audio, computer data, telemetry data to video. Together with volunteers we’ve had some great discoveries and successes.

I have recently used a home-made magnetic viewing solution on several tapes to visualize the magnetic tracks. This works, and I was able to clearly see details in the tracks. This does not harm the tape or the data, I am using the recipe used by an owner of the data recovery company. It is basically a mixture of carbonyl iron power and methanol. He has used it on 3.5 1.44mb floppy disks without data loss. After photos have been taken it can be removed with a cloth and some alcohol.

The tracks can become so detailed, that it would be possible to determine content of the tracks (Vox, direct, FM, AM, frequency). Only tiny parts over the lenght of the tape (+/- 10cm) are needed, at several random locations along the reel.

I am interested to know more about this artifact, and digitize the contents. By using a magnetic viewing solution, we can determine if there is anything on the tape, how strong the tracks are, and what kind signal might be on the tracks.

For this, good lightning and a macro lens or scanner is required, as I have noticed the best detail can be photographed before the solution has dried out. Preferable from several different angles.

I have made two video’s as a tutorial, one on how to make it, and shows me using it on some NASA satellite tapes to visualize the tracks. They are in dutch, but I can run you through it if you want.

Of course, if you make a solution it should first be tried on other tapes to make sure it doesn’t damage the contents. On a VHS, audio or floppy disk for example. As long as you whipe it off without any warping and don’t damage the case it should be fine.

I will be happy to answer any questions. This seems like an awesome opportunity to do something grand with such an important artifact.

All times are CT (US)

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