22 February 2017

RDA Data Rejuvenation Spa

The theme for day 5 of International Love Your Data Week 2017 is Data Rescue.  At the RDA, we don't just do Data Rescue, we offer total Data Rejuvenation at our Data Spa™.

At the RDA, saving data from death by bit rot is just one of our many services.

Boxes of tapes from various universities and the National Archives in Denver awaiting the RDA Data Rejuvenation treatment.
You want a scenic locale?  Can Canyon Ranch or Ojai Valley Inn top this?

This is not photoshopped.  It actually looks like this when a late Spring storm snows on the Continental Divide while it rains at the lower elevations.

The plush treatment for these lucky tapes began during their journey to the NCAR, but most boxes of tapes arrive without any cushioning.

These tapes were lovingly packed with cushy materials.

First, the tapes are bathed to bring out their natural beauty.

Tape cleaner, the first data rejuvenation spa treatment.
Then they are read.

Is the old data packed in 6-bit words instead of the now-standard 8-bit word?  Does it have an extra parity bit for error checking?  No problem.  They will be matched by our data whisperer, Bob Dattore, to the right tape reader that can understand their language.
We have two 9-track tape drives and one 7-track one.  6-bit words?  Parity bit?  No problem!
Atmospheric and oceanic data may be sanity checked by RDA data specialists cross-trained in meteorology or oceanography.  If needed they can be translated to modern data formats and outfitted with modern metadata, readable by both humans and machines.

Then the data is put on transfer disks, ready for their owner to pull over the internet using NCAR's blazing fast network.

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