Re: Keep old drives
I can still feed a tape leader on VAX machine in my sleep. I remember I never felt happy with the self loading tapes unless I did the finger dance as the machine made the noise of an asthmatic inhaling an orange.
That's a fair description of the TU/TA77/78 (Pertec) drives, indeed. To get them loading reliably they needed vacuum and pressure settings juuuuust right. There's a Kennedy 9100 in our collection that's even more hairy.
The later TSV05 was an front-loading auto-loader that was much less fussy. We've got one that was stored for at least 15 years, probably more like 20. Powered on, slid a tape in and it loaded without a hitch.