Floppy Discs Live at the DoD

Here is a surprising story and one that demonstrates how government can lag behind in respect to technology – although this is ridiculous. Prepare yourself.

America’s nuclear arsenal is still being controlled by an outdated computer system that takes 8-inch floppy disks, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office.

The title of the report on the government’s information technology infrastructure — “Federal Agencies Need to Address Aging Legacy Systems” — is what I would classify as an understatement.

“Agencies reported using several systems that have components that are, in some cases, at least 50 years old,” the report says.

One of those very old systems is the Pentagon’s Strategic Automated Command and Control System, which coordinates US nuclear forces like nuclear bombers and intercontinental ballistic missiles. Failry important stuff would you not agree?  As the report clearly states, it is running on an IBM Series/1, a minicomputer that started out with 16K of memory. What?!

It also has a disk drive that uses 8-inch floppy disks. For anyone younger then 30 here is what these floppy disks look like:


Many of us already were aware that these antique systems were in use since at least 2014, when CBS aired a report on the day-to-day life of nuclear missile launch officers. At the time, the Air Force told CBS using such aging equipment was actually a good thing, “since no modern day hacker would ever be able to break in to old equipment that’s not connected to the Internet.”  I did not agree when I heard this in 2014 and I still do not.

Thankfully two years later it looks like this is finally changing.

It has recently been reported that that the Department of Defense is planing to update “data storage solutions, port expansion processors, portable terminals, and desktop terminals by the end of fiscal year 2017.

Better late then never I guess.

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