[[caption-width-right:300:[[ItBelongsInAMuseum That belongs in a]] [[http://www.computerhistory.org/ museum!]] ]]

->''"Whoa, whoa, what's this? Are you kidding me? Are we using tape reel computers? Noooo! Wait ... are those slots for punched cards?"''
-->-- '''Gordon Freeman''', ''Machinima/FreemansMind''

In older movies and TV shows, made before the invention of the personal computer, all computers had large nine-track reel-to-reel magnetic tape drives, which were always moving back and forth. They usually had banks of blinking lights as well. Most viewers were left with the impression that the tape drive ''was'' the computer.

This was primarily done because the computer itself is very visually uninteresting when in operation. [[RuleOfPerception When a Tape Drive is operating, there is obviously something going on.]]

No longer as common, since in RealLife, almost everybody[[note]]except certain industrial class backup systems[[/note]] has stopped using the old-fashioned 9-track mag tape reel because of size and cost, e.g. a 6250 bpi, 1600 foot tape could hold, at most, a little over 100 megabytes of data,[[note]]the normal maximum block size is 32760 bytes, and each 32760-byte block takes, with the gap following it, 5.992 inches[[/note]] and costs about US$12. By 2012, it was possible to walk into a stationery store and buy a microSD card the size of a man's thumbnail for close to $12, and it would hold at least 4 billion bytes, or about 50 times as much as the above tape reel. And that's not even the cheapest example. A top-of-the-line 4 terabyte[[note]]that's 4 ''trillion'' bytes[[/note]] hard drive could often be purchased at or under US$200. That means data storage on modern hardware is ''[[ReadingsAreOffTheScale thousands]]'' of times cheaper today, and that's before factoring in inflation.[[note]]It's impractical to use because of extremely slow random access, not because of low capacity and high cost. Most have moved on to modern tape cassette drives, which have a capacity of up to [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tape_drive#History 5 terabytes.]][[/note]]

In modern works, this trope shows up only in period pieces set before approximately 1975, or when dealing with technology built before then. Interestingly, although the use of audio cassettes for data storage on home computers was quite common in the late 70s and early 80s, no one ever mistook a tape deck for a CPU box.

Superseded by ComputerEqualsMonitor. It might seem weird though, but [[http://www.securitronlinux.com/bejiitaswrath/computer-tape-drives-coming-back-to-the-computers-of-2012/ the tape drive is not exactly extinct]] as a storage medium, and modern ones can store up to 8 TB of data. Their niche today is generally backups for large multinational enterprises, though, given the low retrieval speeds and extremely high storage capacity. As for appearing in film, most filmmakers give the modern drive a pass since modern LTO tape drives don't look anything like those tape drives of old and are so uncommon that not many people have seen one; the tapes look like small videocassettes (nothing like the big open-reel tapes that used to be common) and the drives mount in the same bays as CD/DVD drives. Not to mention that the lack of activity indicators on one and the inability to see the tape reels spinning, as well as the above-mentioned speed issue, makes it a very boring subject to film.


[[folder:Anime and Manga]]
* In ''LightNovel/KinosJourney'' one country obviously has very highly advanced technology, but the computers there apparently still use tape drives.

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* In the original ''Comicbook/XMen'' comic in the '60s, Cerebro (!) had a tape drive.

* In ''Film/TheItalianJob1969'', all the traffic lights in Turin were controlled by computer. The heroes caused a massive traffic jam by sneaking into the computer center and hanging a magtape that made the whole system go haywire. Presumably the control software read the tape automatically, as no other interaction was needed. It shouldn't have worked anyway - when the tape is shown being read, it's actually [[SurroundedByIdiots twisted]] over the heads, and should therefore be unreadable
* In the film ''Film/FailSafe'' a (for then) large mainframe computer is focused upon, complete with tape drives.
* ''Franchise/StarWars Episode IV: Film/ANewHope'' had one of the Imperial brass on the Death Star mention that said superweapon's plans were stored on tapes. The opening does say that the series is set a long time ago.
** [[http://www.irregularwebcomic.net/67.html Cue]] Webcomic/IrregularWebcomic:
-->'''Darth Vader:''' We have the ability to destroy a planet and ''tape'' is the best backup medium we have?
** In ''Film/RogueOne'' we get to see said tapes, along with many others at the Imperial data center on Scarif. Makes one wonder whether it's an accident the storage units look so much like VHS boxes.
* In ''Film/CaptainAmericaTheWinterSoldier'', Cap and Black Widow stumble upon an old SHIELD lab and an early 80's-era computer complete with this function. It turns out that the computer is [[BrainUploading much more advanced]] than they initially thought.
* In ''Film/IronSky'', the moon-nazi scientist doesn't believe that a smartphone is really a computer. He points to, yes, a room-filling beast of a computer with tape reels and blinky lights and says, "That's not a computer. ''This'' a computer!" He's forced to admit his machine is woefully out-of-date upon actually ''using'' said phone. He then reverse-engineers the phone's USB jack and uses it to [[spoiler: run a space cruiser]].

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* ''Series/IDreamOfJeannie'': The giant, billion-dollar, brand new NASA computer in "The Girl Who Never Had A Birthday".
* ''Series/StarTrekTheOriginalSeries'' had "memory tapes." (The TNG era sensibly replaced them with "isolinear chips", which seem to be a combination of flash memory card and processing element.)
** At its premier, TOS was virtually an ''aversion'' of the trope: yes, they were tapes, but they were hand-held tapes (about the size of a deck of cards) that could store HUGE amounts of data and be accessed very quickly, which at the time was laughably far-fetched. It would be the equivalent of a standard magnetic platter hard-drive the size of a postage stamp that could store the entire internet. [[WordOfGod The creators]] have actually come out and said that they ''didn't'' want to expressly use tapes or "normal computer processing noises", but thought it would have been [[WillingSuspensionOfDisbelief been too unfamiliar and broken the glamor]].
* ''Series/DoctorWho'' in the 1960s, of course, although some episodes set in the future eschew the tape drives for more blinking lights. An {{JustForFun/egregious}} example in the First Doctor serial ''[[Recap/DoctorWhoS3E10TheWarMachines The War Machines]]'': [=WOTAN=], the MasterComputer, is expectedly chock full of blinking lights and tape drives - but ''so are the titular War Machines'', which were built on the mastercomputer's specifications. But that's not the best bit. The War Machines, which were largish mini tanks that roamed the streets of London, had the tape drives mounted on the outside.
* From ''Series/{{Thunderbirds}}'', Thunderbird 5, the manned observation satellite from which poor, neglected John Tracy monitored the world's radio airwaves for distress calls, used reel-to-reel memory exclusively.
* In ''Series/{{Lost}}'', the computer room in the first hatch (Desmond's, the Swan, 2nd season) has 'em. Whether or not the inclusion is realistic, it's good for maintaining that Forbidding Doomsday Computer vibe. The overall effect of pairing this visual with the song "Make Your Own Kind of Music" is positively surreal (especially compared to the outdoors setting that formerly predominated).
** It's established later in the series that the installation and computer were set up in the late 70s and then [[spoiler: mostly]] isolated from the outside world, so the tape drives (and monochromatic text-prompt computer interface) are completely era-appropriate.
* In the Gerry and Sylvia Anderson series ''Series/{{UFO}}'' a montage of flashing lights, spinning tape drives, blocky letters on coloured monitors, swaying female buttocks, and rows of large luminous buttons accompany every RedAlert.
* Averted in ''Series/AForAndromeda'' (written by astronomer Fred Hoyle who used computers in his work). The protagonist has to destroy ''all'' the components of the MasterComputer to be sure it won't be rebuilt.
* Graeme's computer in ''Series/TheGoodies'' featured a large, obvious tape drive, although that was far from the oddest thing about. Spoofed in the 2005 "Return of the Goodies" documentary where a now middle-aged Graeme tries to insert an enormous disk (or possibly tape cartridge) in his computer.
-->"I'll pop it on the laptop. Hang on, it's not compatible. I shall give it an upgrade. ''([[PercussiveMaintenance hits it with a mallet]])''
* ''Series/{{Banacek}}'': In "If Max Is So Smart, Why Doesn't He Tell Us Where He Is?", the object stolen is Max, a 1970s supercomputer with spinning tape drives and blinking lights that takes up half a room.

* Lampshaded in ''Machinima/FreemansMind'' when Gordon enters an old but still in-use rocket test site. Despite being under attack from an EldritchAbomination, it is the sight of a tapedrive (and punchcards, see the page quote) that sends him to a raging rant.

* The [[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fEiwzcbKq0Q music video]] for the song "Computer Games" by {{New Wave|Music}} group Mi-Sex was filmed on location at what was then Control Data Corp's [[UsefulNotes/{{Sydney}} North Sydney]] processing centre. In 1979. It does overlap with ComputerEqualsMonitor though.

* ''Pinball/{{Pinbot}}'' has the "Computer Equals Blinking Lights" version, a giant robot with a bank of flashing multicolored lights in its chest. Turning on all the lights opens the visor to enable multiball.
* Creator/{{Zaccaria}}'s ''Pinball/{{Robot}}'' has a band of multicolored blinking lights around its torso.

[[folder:Video Games]]
* The memory banks from the videogame ''VideoGame/EvilGenius'' are big mainframes with a nine-track tape drive, which makes sense since the game is a 1960's DiabolicalMastermind simulator.
** Also somewhat justified in that those items are pure memory banks, and the actual computing is done with a separate item looking more like a large desk (think N.A.S.A. computers in ''Apollo 13'')
* Surprisingly, most videogames - even current ones - where you get to see large, room-sized server farms (or mainframes, or whatever) seem to have at least one instance of a spinning tape animated texture slapped on a large block of metal.
** It's justified in ''VideoGame/TeamFortress2'' as well, since it takes place in the ''actual'' 1960s. Granted, this world has been shown to have more advanced science than its period (or our own, or [[MST3KMantra the laws of physics]]), but nothing that would have been out of place in a sci-fi flick of the period, which still probably would have featured tape drives.
* The computers in ''VideoGame/{{Fallout}}'' are often found with tape drives. In ''VideoGame/{{Fallout 2}}'', these are described as being very modern reel-to-reel devices. Justified, given the slightly twisted alternate history the games exist in (e.g. the transistor was never invented in the ''Falloutverse''; the background went right on with a 1950s-esque vision of the future for more than a century, right up until the bombs fell).
* The Black Mesa facility in ''VideoGame/HalfLife1'' apparently still uses these in some areas. Seeing as many areas are converted Cold War-era missile silos and bunkers, it's possible some of the outdated equipment hasn't been replaced.
* Human computers in ''VideoGame/TheBureauXcomDeclassified''. Since it's set in 1962, totally justified.
* Despite its future setting, the Vandenberg labs in ''VideoGame/DeusEx'' have a few tape decks running. Apparently they're capable of managing a Universal Constructor.
* The computers in ''VideoGame/BioShock2'''s "Minerva's Den" DLC feature visible, spinning tape drives like any computer from the period. Odder is the fact that the computer in question is able to dump its core data onto a device small enough for Dr. Tenenbaum to keep on her person.
* In the first mission in ''VideoGame/JazzPunk'', you run into a FemBot prostitute who has tape reels for breasts. The game doesn't take itself particularly seriously, if you hadn't guessed.
* ''VideoGame/WolfensteinTheNewOrder'' zig-zags this; the game is set in an AlternateUniverse where Nazi Germany won World War II thanks to [[StupidJetpackHitler super-science]] provided by the BigBad Deathshead. As a result, the Germans have personal computers and even an elaborate moon base in the 1960s... but the launch codes for a stolen nuclear submarine (which are stored at said moon base) come in the form of punchcards.
* ''VideoGame/CallOfDutyBlackOps'' features them, given its '60s setting. Memorably, one is used in the fourth mission as the basis for a [[PressXToNotDie Quick Time Event]] right before the shooting starts, wherein you sneak up on an unsuspecting guard and smash his head into the tape reel.

[[folder:Web Comics]]
* In ''Webcomic/TheInexplicableAdventuresOfBob,'' not only does the [[Film/TheAdventuresOfBuckarooBanzaiAcrossThe8thDimension Yoyodyne]]-built [[http://bobadventures.comicgenesis.com/d/20071208.html computer]] in the Generictown University Science Department have a tape drive (to be fair, the Dean's personal computer is a [[http://bobadventures.comicgenesis.com/d/20071229.html TRS-80),]] but so does a random [[http://bobadventures.comicgenesis.com/d/20091229.html gizmo]] on the alien planet of Butane.

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* In ''WesternAnimation/DuckTales1987'', Glomgold's computer in "Wrong way to Ronguay" is of this type.
* Played with in ''WesternAnimation/MegasXLR'' in the episode "Viva Las Megas", which features [[MonsterOfTheWeek R.E.C.R]], a giant military robot built in the 60's. It has a tape reel and a "massive" 56-kilobyte processor; Coop taunts it by telling it he's got ten-year-old video games that are more technologically advanced than it is.
* In ''WesternAnimation/TheVentureBrothers'', the computer system that stores [[spoiler:the minds of the Venture brothers]] is apparently run on tape.
** In another episode, [[spoiler: malevolent supercomputer]] M.U.T.H.eR. is on a reel-to-reel mainframe. {{Lampshade|Hanging}}d when M.U.T.H.eR. [[spoiler:tries to launch a nuclear missile]]; while everyone else is panicking, Pete White mentions that a computer that runs on such an ancient mainframe (and uses a dial-up modem) can't act very quickly.
* In one of the numerous ''WesternAnimation/SpongeBobSquarePants'' TV specials, the Atlanteans have a giant machine which can shrink people down to the size of viruses, and everyone's data gets stored on a magnetic tape drive.
* A first season episode of the ''WesternAnimation/SuperFriends'' featured the G.E.E.C., a computer that could replace all the world's laborers. It filled many rooms, and sported several reel-to-reel tape drives.
* In one episode of ''WesternAnimation/{{Futurama}}'', Bender hangs a pinup of a tape deck computer. [[spoiler: Fry approves]].
** Fry had just hung a pinup of a girl in a bikini. The large round tape reels in Bender's picture have just the right placement to invite comparison to certain large round objects in Fry's picture.

[[folder: Real Life]]
* Magnetic tapes are the precursors of today's hard drive. Surprisingly, they ''are'' still used in the modern day, and new developments are still being made; as of December 2017, Ultrium LTO-8 tapes are available, storing 32TB of data. They're mainly stored in a backup location far from the main site of the source data, used as a long-lived backup and/or to replace data in case of a disaster. The reason is that magnetic tapes can be easily swapped quickly (since only the tape needs to be replaced) while hard drives cannot (unless the center pays for a hard drive that can, which can cost thousands). Also, when properly stored, in a dry and climate-controlled environment, magnetic tapes last for ''decades'', moreso than hard drives or [=CDs=].
* In the [[UsefulNotes/The8bitEraOfConsoleVideoGames 8 bit era]] of home computers (Commodore 64, Sinclair ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Dragon, TRS-80 and the like) software was available on cassette tapes, which were the exact same format as the Compact Cassettes that younger tropers associate with the 1990s for some reason (but were actually invented in the 1960s and were just as prevalent in the 1980s).
** In fact certain systems (the ZX Spectrum and TRS-80 Color Computer in particular, as well as the Apple ][) actually used standard cassette players as their tape "drives" and you could hear the software when if you played the software tapes in a standard Hi-Fi (which also meant that a dual deck cassette deck of the sort that was common in the early 1990s made a perfect copying device!). If you did your own programming you could record to them as well, making them the exact precursor to home use floppy drives.
* Donald E. Knuth's seminal ''[[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Art_of_Computer_Programming Art of Computer Programming]]'' includes how to best sort data on one or two tape drives, and whether the tape can be read backwards or not. First published in 1973 when tape drives were much more common.