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One can’t imagine a Nuclear arsenal being controlled by an old technology like an 8 inch floppy disk. But that is true. The US nuclear program still uses a computer system from the 1970s along with the earliest floppy disks.
The Government Accountability Office released the report that detailed some of the branches of the Federal Government that still relies on archaic technology. The GAO hopes that their report will help speed up the process of moving to modern systems.
America’s Ballistic Missile, Tanker Support Aircraft and Nuclear Weapons are controlled by the Department of Defense. It runs on a computer system released in 1970s – the IBM Series/1 Computer. 8 inch floppy disks are used alongside the ancient system. The earliest floppy disk – the 8 inch model being used by the DoD – was invented in the 1960s. They were later replaced by the smaller 5.25 and 3.5 inch floppy disks. Once the CDs became popular, everyone everyone switched to the new technology, except for some branches of the Federal Government.
The nuclear program isn’t the only culprit when it comes to using out of date technology. The US Treasury systems still relies on code written in assembly language. Assembly language code is usually just a step up from the machine language – something which runs directly on the hardware.
Using a legacy system comes with a steep price: the government has to spend more than $60 billion dollars a year to maintain it. That’s three times the amount needed to maintain a modern IT system. The good news is that Pentagon has plans to get rid of this system. The whole system will be replaced by 2020 while the floppy disks will be phased out even sooner: by 2017. The only reason that it has been in use for such a long time is because “it still works” as told by Lt Col Valerie Henderson who is the spokesperson for the Pentagon.
Hopefully, systems like these will be decommissioned soon enough and they will be replaced by something that’s out of the 21st century.