US uses floppy disks to coordinate nuclear weapons

A US government report has revealed that the forces responsible for controlling the country’s nuclear weapons still use a 1970s-era computer system that includes floppy disks. 

US uses floppy disks to coordinate nuclear weapons

The report, issued by the Government Accountability Office, claims that the Department of Defense “uses 8in floppy disks in a legacy system that coordinates the operational functions of the nation’s nuclear forces”.

An IBM Series/1 computer sends and receives emergency messages relating to the US nuclear forces, ballistic missiles and tanker support aircraft. This data is then stored on an 8in floppy disk – a piece of hardware dating from the 1970s that stores 80kb of data. The report explains that a modern flash drive can hold data “from the equivalent of more than 3.2 million floppy disks”.

It goes on say that US taxpayers spent $61bn (£41bn) a year maintaining museum-ready technologies, which is three times more than the investment in modern IT systems.

The current system is due to be replaced with digital devices in 2017 to “address obsolescence concerns”, Pentagon spokeswoman Lieutenant Colonel Valerie Henderson told the news agency AFP.

“This system remains in use because, in short, it still works,” Henderson said, adding that “modernisation across the entire nuclear command, control and communications enterprise remains ongoing”.

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