Since the introduction of the first rotary head videotape recorder in 1956, initially for use in broadcast television recording, videotape recorders have been adapted for use in many other data recording requirements. Some examples of these recording applications are radar, high transfer rate serial instrumentation data, wideband spectrum data, random access file systems for digital and analog image data and many special electro-optical systems. In many cases rotary head recording systems have been used in high environment airborne and even space-borne data systems. Unfortunately, much of the equipment that has been supplied into these hostile environment usages has had a rather poor record of reliability, particularly in the early stages of product evolution. Those products which offered the highest performance in terms of bandwidth, dynamic range and linearity were, until the recent past, without exception, very expensive. A new tape transport approach and scanning method have been developed over the past few years however, which together have resulted in a marked improvement in performance and reliability, significant reduction in size, weight and power, and dramatic initial investment and operating cost savings.All the above mentioned factors enter into user decision making when selecting a recorder system. Performance, reliability, ease of maintenance, and cost of ownership for the three principal categories of rotary scan recording systems will be compared.