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I'm about to attempt to archive a 1976 copy of Altair 8k basic to a digital audio file. My concern is this probably already was well used back then, and it may not survive the playback process. Are there methods to prepare the tape so to increase the chance it won't just break or flake apart? I saw a video about re-lubricating old tapes, is that a recommended operation for vintage computer cassettes? the tape is in an un-rewound state, is it generally safe to use a tape deck rewind to rewind it, or should I use a slower method to prevent breakage.

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One problem found with very old magnetic tape is sticky-shed syndrome. The tape becomes stuck together because of "a breakdown in the binder (the glue) that holds the oxide particles on the tape" (from the Wikipedia article).

The common technique is to bake the tape for some hours. This is not a trivial task and will have an effect on the cassette mechanism.

(You'll get a lot more out of researching this subject online, rather than me or others copying the text onto an answer here. It's complex and quoting small sections of a large subject would just be misleading.)

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  • Is this an issue with audio cassettes? I've only seen it with reel-to-reel tapes.
    – Edders
    Commented Apr 10 at 11:10
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    @edders That's an issue with just about any magnetically coated media - floppy disks, cassettes, QIC tape, ...
    – tofro
    Commented Apr 10 at 11:35

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