Vintage Data Processor
Refurbishing a 729 is a ambitious project. First there is the availability of parts and a controller. Then there is the cost , a system to attach it to and the available system time to transfer the data to another media. And, while I have great respect for IBM technology. Who knows how reliable a 40+ year old 729 tape drive will be when it comes to processing that many tapes. There may be better alternatives. Here are a few:
. A GOOGLE search on "tape drive" followed by a within search, "7 track". Turned up at least one firm that specializes in tape data recovery. For a project of this size and sensitivity you should deal with a firm that has experience and understands how to handle fragile materials.
. There are newer 9 track drives capable of reading 7 track reel tapes available. Finding one that is available along with system time may be a bit of a challenge. But if you put out the word hopefully someone will respond with an offer.