microtape

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microtape /mi:'kroh-tayp/ /n./ Occasionally used to mean a DECtape, as opposed to a macrotape. A DECtape is a small reel, about 4 inches in diameter, of magnetic tape about an inch wide. Unlike those for today's macrotapes, microtape drivers allowed random access to the data, and therefore could be used to support file systems and even for swapping (this was generally done purely for hack value, as they were far too slow for practical use). In their heyday they were used in pretty much the same ways one would now use a floppy disk: as a small, portable way to save and transport files and programs. Apparently the term `microtape' was actually the official term used within DEC for these tapes until someone coined the word `DECtape', which, of course, sounded sexier to the marketroids; another version of the story holds that someone discovered a conflict with another company's `microtape' trademark.


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