America's Nuke Program Runs on Floppy Disks

And not even the tiny ones
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted May 26, 2016 10:50 AM CDT
Updated May 26, 2016 11:01 AM CDT
America's Nuke Program Runs on Floppy Disks
Remember this thing?   (AP Photo/Adam Butler, File)

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the Government Accountability Office finds US government agencies spend $60 billion a year operating and maintaining outdated systems—three times more than is spent on upgrades, per CNN.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. (Floppy disks are partly to blame for lost scientific data.)

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