American nukes, floppy disks, and 40-year-old computers

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The American military has added some seriously high-tech tools to its arsenal in recent years. Unfortunately, its nuclear program is still tethered to hardware that’s four decades old.

Yes, the systems responsible for command and control of the U.S. intercontinental ballistic missiles that carry nuclear warheads today have been doing that job since the 1970s. According to a recent report, they’re IBM Series/1 machines — a 16-bit beast the company rolled out back in 1976.

Here’s a sweet photo of the IBM Series/1 machines

Seems like frighteningly outdated equipment to be in charge of grave task, doesn’t it? It gets better, though. The Pentagon also still needs floppy disks to keep things running. And not those newfangled 3.5-inch doohickies either. Floppy disks that are actually floppy, like the 5.25 and 8-inch ones.

This doesn’t come as a complete shock, of course. Things can move at a snail’s pace in Washington — and the more important the thing, the longer it takes to make any sort of change. You’ve got to think that the military minds who are in charge of the Strategic Automated Command and Control System are extremely reluctant to make any sort of changes to it.

No one wants to be the guy who green-lights the overhaul that goes off the rails and leads to an international incident. Then again, is that any worse than being the guy who keeps putting off the upgrade until the old equipment finally fails and disaster strikes?

One thing’s for sure: someone will be willing to approve an exhaustive and extremely expensive analysis at taxpayer expense to figure out what the best possible solution is.

You can read the full GAO report here: https://www.gao.gov/assets/gao-16-696t.pdf

sourced – CNBC TECH

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