US Nuclear Bomb System Still on Floppy Disks

This is from last Friday’s i paper. It should strike fear into all of us. Or perhaps it says much about how solid and reliable they are. They may lack volume, but they are a lot harder to hack into or interfere with short of them being physically stolen. If they ain’t broke, don’t fix them seems to have been the logic, or just lack of funds.

The computer system that co-ordinates America’s nuclear armoury relies on outdated 8in disks, it has been revealed. The 1980s storage devices are being used by the US Department of Defense’s system that runs the operational functions of forces such as intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear bombers and tanker support aircraft.

In 2015, more than $60bn (£40bn) was used to maintain almost obsolete “legacy” investments, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office. The report, entitled Federal Agencies need to address ageing legacy systems, said the system runs on an IBM Series 1 computer, which dates back to the 1970s.

“Federal legacy IT investments are becoming increasingly obsolete: many use outdated software languages and hardware parts that are unsupported. Agencies reported using several systems that have components that are, in some cases, at least 50 years old,” the report said.

Lt-Col Valerie Henderson, a spokeswoman for the Pentagon, said the floppy disk system was still being used because it “still works”. However, “to address obsolescence concerns”, the floppy drives will be replaced with digital devices by the end of next year, she told AFP.

“A full system replacement is scheduled to be completed in fiscal [financial] year, the report said.Other ageing systems included the Treasury’s use of an assembly language code, initially used in the 1960s. the systems that retain tax data on individual taxpayers and on individual business income taxpayers both have a reported age of 56.”

One thought on “US Nuclear Bomb System Still on Floppy Disks

  1. Unsettling to realise how quaint the 8″ floppy looks now. And I remember heaving about the first removable disc packs – the size of suitcases – which were such a spectacular advance on the dreaded punched tape.


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