“Bake until ready”: who saves rare tape recordings in such an unusual way

Employees of the Library of Congress use “baking” to stop the degradation of the film until digitization, and enthusiasts save not only records, but also old-school games.


Photo Michal balog / Unsplash

Why does it work

Over time, magnetic tape – in coils, cassettes, and cartridges – degrades, its playback speed slows down. One of the causes of degradation is the so-called stickiness syndrome. In this case, the binder that holds the magnetic powder is destroyed. Particles of powder fall on the heads of the tape recorder, interfering with playback, and the tape itself begins to stick to adjacent turns.

Heating the film in an oven (at a temperature of about 54 ° C) allows eliminate the first signs of destruction. When the damaged tape heats up, the binder melts, stops crumbling, and the reel becomes playable again.

Who uses this method

The curators of the US Library of Congress bake bobbins to digitize an extensive collection of audio recordings. Among them are among NBC news broadcasts and “Voices of America“, As well as the work of a virtuoso guitarist Forests of Paul (Lec Paul), who is considered one of the inventors of the electric guitar.

Coils in the collection of the Library – approximately 200 thousand pieces. The films themselves after processing are stored unwound. As such, they remain usable for longer.


Photo Ingo schulz / Unsplash

DJ Dave Lee, also known as Joey Negro, also bakes and translates old-school records into numbers. For several years he collected audio cassettes with master records of disco compositions. He used these songs to create remixes – last year the whole album “Remixed with love“.

Using high temperatures, films are restored not only with audio recordings, but also with computer programs. Engineers from Strand Gamesbaked»Old cartridge Tk50to extract the source code for the old school game The Guild of Thieves.

Her company released Magnetic scrolls at the end of the 80s. Now developers are working on its remaster – they add new locations, objects, puzzles and optimize them for working on modern computers.

Electronics Repair

The warm-up method not only helps stop the degradation of the magnetic tape, but also in some cases bring the electronics back to life. One of the editors of Gizmodo magazine said that he was able to restore the laptop motherboard, by placing her into a hot furnace. One of the residents of Hacker News in the thematic thread notedthat similarly restored the Nvidia 8400M GS graphics card.

Instructions for “baking” iron can be found on Habré. The approach is applicable only if the malfunction occurs due to microcracks between the contact and the solder holding the chips on the board. In the furnace, the solder melts and again touches the contact pad, revitalizing the electronic component. Although this approach is at your own peril and risk.


Additional reading in the “Hi-Fi World”:

Bobbiniki: a brief history of reel tape recorders and a growing interest in the audio gadget today
Radio recorders from the USSR: a brief history of audio systems in Soviet cars
Forgotten audio formats: 8-track Stereo 8 tape


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