A tape head is a type of transducer used in tape recorders to convert electrical signals to magnetic fluctuations and vice versa. They can also be used to read credit/debit/gift cards because the strip of magnetic tape on the back of a credit card stores data the same way that other magnetic tapes do. Cassettes, reel-to-reel tapes, 8-tracks, VHS tapes, and even floppy disks and early hard drive disks all use the same principle of physics to store and read back information. The medium is magnetized in a pattern. It then moves at a constant speed over an electromagnet. Since the moving tape is carrying a changing magnetic field with it, it induces a varying voltage across the head. That voltage can then be amplified and connected to speakers in the case of audio, or measured and sorted into ones and zeroes in the case of digital data.
This article's factual accuracy is disputed. (June 2017)