By Arden Dier …..
To anyone born after 1995, the floppy disk is better known as that thing that resembles the “save” icon. To the Pentagon, it’s the gizmo that controls America’s nukes.
A report from the Government Accountability Office finds US government agencies spend $60 billion a year operating and maintaining outdated systems—three times more than is spent on upgrades, per CNN. One such system: the Pentagon’s IBM Series-1 computer which uses 8-inch floppy disks “in a legacy system that coordinates the operational functions of the nation’s nuclear forces,” including intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear bombers.
For youngsters, the big floppy disks were the precursor to the 3.5-inch ones, before the CD came around.
“This system remains in use because, in short, it still works,” a Pentagon rep tells the AFP, per the BBC, which notes you’d need 130,000 8-inch floppy disks to get the storage capacity of a 32GB memory stick. “However, to address obsolescence concerns, the floppy drives are scheduled to be replaced with secure digital devices by the end of 2017,” the rep says.
Other system upgrades are expected by 2020.
“Maybe we’ll have Nintendo Gameboys controlling our nukes by the next presidential election,” quips CNN’s Jake Tapper. The Treasury, Commerce, and Veteran Affairs departments should also look into upgrading. The report finds all three use computer code introduced in the 1950s, per the Verge.
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At first I was surprised and alarmed. Then I realized that to some degree that may even have a level of safety we don’t think about. Those older systems were working just fine … for their time. And that was before computer breaches and theft were rampant. It could very well be that since this is older technology and no one was hacking systems to the degree they are now, maybe nobody knows how to break in to them. Just a thought.
Well, it’s an interesting thought, and maybe it’s true. But Congress (both parties) hasn’t funded upgrades in a decade. While it may be safer because of outdated technical details, it’s efficiency is horrifying. Your smartphone is waaay more sophisticated and powerful then the technology used to put a man on the moon. Imagine what we could have done with today’s technology back in 1969. The point is, that if we are relying on 20 year old technology to control and protect our nuclear arsenal, then we better do something about it.
Amen to that. I would have thought the US military would be right on top of these things. but jeesh … our nukes? very troubling.
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