IT Finds: What do you associate with it?

Join us on a journey into the past: what is this device and what do you personally associate with it? Tell us your story!

Our IT find piece to guess with
Our IT find piece to guess with

For some, it’s obvious. For others, it’s less than clear. This device is a tape eraser that protects material from further unauthorised use by erasing all content.

The Weircliffe Bulk Eraser Model 8 has been stationed at ETH Zurich’s computer centre since at least 1981. It was used to delete round 7-track tapes (later 9-track), which were relinquished by a user and assigned to a new user.

Data security was already lived and breathed back then: the deletion had to ensure the new user couldn’t access the previous user’s data or programs.

At least 38 years of service

Even today, the tape eraser is still in use at ETH Zurich:

  • For the tape robot’s cassettes
  • For internal and external hard disks

Basically all storage media based on magnetisation can be erased in this way. They simply have to be small enough to fit into the slot. Because it is not just the magnetisation of individual magnet traces that are overwritten, even forensic analysis can’t recover the content after such a brutal erasure procedure.

Attempt to erase a USB stick

We tried to erase a USB stick with this device. However, since its memory technology is based on (electrical) flash storage, the magnetic fields didn’t affect it.

A find on the web

Our history

The tape eraser was discovered years ago by Daniel Locher, an ITS Server employee and thus part of System Services of IT Services. He was in a warehouse of the computer centre in the RZ building. Bruno Loepfe, part of High Performance Computing at the Scientific IT Services of IT Services, has compiled the details of the find for us.

Your story

What links you to this device? Did you or your institute own one? Or do you only know it from a museum or from hearing about it? We look forward to your stories and comments on this post. And if you have an IT Find for our inside|out section, please contact us.


The inside|out Editorial Team

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