|Media type||Magnetic cassette tape|
|Capacity||Up to 120 or 180 minutes (consumer tapes on non-LP mode)|
|Read mechanism||Rotating head|
|Write mechanism||Rotating head, helical scan|
|Extended to||Digital Data Storage|
Digital Audio Tape (DAT or R-DAT) is a digital signal recording and playback medium developed by Sony and introduced in 1987.
The first consumer-oriented PCM format used consumer video tape formats (Beta and VHS) as the storage medium. These systems used the EIAJ digital format, which sampled at 44.056 kHz at 14 bits. The Sony PCM-F1 system debuted in 1981, and Sony from the start offered the option of 16-bit wordlength. Other systems were marketed by Akai, JVC, Nakamichi and others. Panasonic, via its Technics division, briefly sold a digital recorder that combined an EIAJ digital adapter with a VHS video transport, the SV-P100. These machines were marketed by consumer electronics companies to consumers, but they were very pricey compared to cassette or even reel-to-reel decks of the time. They did catch on with the more budget conscious professional recordists, and some boutique-label professional releases were recorded using these machines.
Other examples include dbx, Inc.'s Model 700 system, which, similar to later Super Audio CDs, used a high sample-rate delta-sigma modulation rather than PCM; Decca's 1970s PCM system,
Sony released its last DAT product with the DAT Walkman TCD-D100 in 1995 and continued to produce it until November 2005 when Sony announced that its remaining DAT machine models would be discontinued the following month.
In the late 1980s, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) unsuccessfully lobbied against the introduction of DAT devices into the U.S. Initially, the organization threatened legal action against any manufacturer attempting to sell DAT machines in the country. It later sought to impose restrictions on DAT recorders to prevent them from being used to copy LPs, CDs, and prerecorded cassettes. One of these efforts, the Digital Audio Recorder Copycode Act of 1987 (introduced by Sen. Al Gore and Rep. Waxman), initiated by CBS Records president Walter Yetnikoff, involved a technology called CopyCode and required DAT machines to include a chip to detect attempts to copy material recorded with a notch filter.
This opposition by CBS softened after Sony, a DAT manufacturer, bought CBS Records in January 1988. By June 1989, an agreement was reached, and the only concession the RIAA would receive was a more practical recommendation from manufacturers to Congress that legislation be enacted to require that recorders have a Serial Copy Management System to prevent digital copying for more than a single generation. This requirement was enacted as part of the Audio Home Recording Act of 1992, which also imposed taxes on DAT recorders and blank media. However, the computer industry successfully lobbied to have personal computers exempted from that act, setting the stage for massive consumer copying of copyrighted material on materials like recordable CDs and by extension, filesharing systems such as Napster.
In December 1987, The Guitar And Other Machines by the British post-punk band The Durutti Column, became the first commercial release on DAT. Later in May 1988, Wire released their album The Ideal Copy on the format. Several other albums from multiple record labels were also released as pre-recorded DATs in the first few years of the format's existence, in small quantities as well. Factory Records released a small number of albums on the format, including New Order's best-selling compilation Substance 1987, but many planned releases were cancelled.
Main article: Digital Data Storage
The format was designed for audio use, but through the ISO Digital Data Storage standard was adopted for general data storage, storing from 1.3 to 80 GB on a 60 to 180 meter tape depending on the standard and compression. It is a sequential-access medium and is commonly used for backups. Due to the higher requirements for capacity and integrity in data backups, a computer-grade DAT was introduced, called DDS (Digital Data Storage). Although functionally similar to audio DATs, only a few DDS and DAT drives (in particular, those manufactured by Archive for SGI workstations) are capable of reading the audio data from a DAT cassette. SGI DDS4 drives no longer have audio support; SGI removed the feature due to "lack of demand".