IBM began an effort in the summer of 1960 to develop greatly superior tape storage units using one-inch wide tape. Such a product was announced in October 1961 with the roll-out of the IBM 7340 Hypertape Drive and the IBM 7640 Hypertape Control Unit.
The Hypertape system offered the highest data rate then available in the industry: 170,000 characters per second at a tape speed of 112.5 inches per second. The drive's single capstan was able to accelerate the tape from stop to full speed in only 2.5 milliseconds. Initially, the 7340 was connected to the IBM 7074 Data Processing System using the IBM 7907 Data Channel and IBM 7640. As many as ten 7340 Hypertape Drives could be connected with each 7907 channel.
Among the 7340's features were:
The Hypertape system used two-reel cartridges for ease of handling and tape protection. The cartridge was 17 inches long, 10.2 inches high (including the handle) and 2.2 inches wide. Once mounted, the tape was automatically loaded. It was drawn out of the cartridge so as to pass by the read-write head, leaving slack in either side of the head in the form of a tape loop in two vertical vacuum columns. Automatic tape loading was performed in less than 10 seconds.
First deliveries of the Model 1 Hypertape drives and control units were made to the National Revenue Service of Canada in May 1963.
Prior to the 7340's announcement, IBM had began a project to provide a similar product for smaller computers. The data rate was reduced from 170,000 to 34,000 characters per second, and only single channel operation was provided. The resultant Model 2 was introduced in April 1963, just two days after the debut of the celebrated System/360. It was never shipped outside IBM and was withdrawn from marketing in February 1971.
A new Model 3 of the 7340 was developed to provide a double-density option of 3022 bytes per inch, in addition to the 1511 bytes per inch of the Models 1 and 2, thereby doubling the data rate to 340,000 bytes per second. The Model 3 was announced in April 1964, and the first customer shipment went to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service in West Virginia in mid-1965. A second unit was shipped to the Boeing Company in Seattle. Although both customers received good performance from their Hypertape units, the 7340 did not enjoy widespread acceptance elsewhere because many potential customers did not wish to incur the costs of converting existing half-inch tape libraries to Hypertape.