The SMC drive I've been using by default has been fine so far, but I've noticed that I've been getting "please clean the SMC drive" type messages popping up... and I've been cleaning it but still getting the messages. Now, I don't know if this is an automatic message that appears after a predetermined amount of time, or if the drive is detecting read/write errors and having to keep retrying.
Anyway, I placed in the first of my spare SMC drives but it would either fail to format the tape, or would just mangle said tape. Luckily I've got a pretty good stock of tapes; old and new.
The drive was clean but the rubber drive roller wheel is perished. If it "looks" ok, when you clean it if it leaves a black tar like substance on the cleaning wipe, the wheel has had it.
Ok, on with the second drive. This had exactly the same problem.
So I'm down to one working drive currently. However, all is not lost.
The two faulty drives seem to be electrically sound and are in pretty good condition; it's just these rubber wheels.
I contacted http://www.dicolldata.co.uk in the UK to see if they could service the drives for me. I had a great chat with Mark there but unfortunate the best they could offer were replacement drives; they are almost 30 years old and it's not possible to get spare parts.
He said he would checkout the drives and let me know. A couple of hours later he called back but it was bad news. The drives they have also have perished wheels. It turns out that the rubber will perish on these wheels no matter how you store the drives. I'd hoped that them being stored correctly would preserve them. However, he gave me the number of another company who he had spoken with, and they had several working drives in stock. I gave Karl at http://www.ultratec.co.uk/ a call but after a chat he was also concerned that his drives were in a poor condition as well. He did offer to pull them from stores and check them over for me and I'm awaiting a call back sometime this week with luck.
On a whim, I found Tandberg in Norway and dropped their support department a pleading Email Supportemea@tandbergdata.com
Quick as a flash I received an Email back from one of their support engineers and too my surprise told me he has three wheels and he will happily send them to me.. free of charge.
What a result.
All being well, I can get the other two drives up and running and have a spare for my currently working intermittent drive.
This has been a really positive experience. Mark and Karl could have easily sold me drives with perished wheels that may have worked for a while before breaking, and Tandberg could have just thrown my email in the bin and ignored me.
So guys, if you happen to read this... many thanks for all your help and honesty.