WHEN physicists throw the “on” switch on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), between three and six gigabytes of data spew out of it every second. That is, admittedly, an extreme example. But the flow of data from smaller sources than CERN, the European particle-research organisation outside Geneva that runs the LHC, is also growing inexorably. At the moment it is doubling every two years. These data need to be stored. And that need for mass storage is reviving a technology which, only a few years ago, seemed destined for the scrapheap: magnetic tape.
Tape is the oldest computer storage medium still in use. It was first put to work on a UNIVAC computer in 1951 and although tape sales have been falling since 2008. But although they dropped by 14% in 2012, according to the Santa Clara Consulting Group, this fall has gone into reverse, with a 1% rise in the last quarter of that year and a 3% rise expected this year. […]