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U.S. Nuclear Weapons Still Use Floppy Disks

     
10:17 am on May 26, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I was somewhat surprised to read about this, but it seems the Pentagon's Nuclear Weapons systems still use floppy disk-based equipment. Somebody must still be making the disks and the hardware!

The report said that the Department of Defence systems that co-ordinated intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear bombers and tanker support aircraft "runs on an IBM Series-1 Computer - a 1970s computing system - and uses eight-inch floppy disks".

"This system remains in use because, in short, it still works," Pentagon spokeswoman Lt Col Valerie Henderson told the AFP news agency. U.S. Nuclear Weapons Still Use Floppy Disks [bbc.co.uk]
10:23 am on May 26, 2016 (gmt 0)

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By coincidence I had just finished reading this on the BBC website when this post came up. It seems hard to believe but it it is clearly true.
10:47 am on May 26, 2016 (gmt 0)

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It's ironic that I found some old 3.5 inch floppy disks last weekend. These ones used by the Pentagon are huge, and probably the original floppy disk format.
I read it on the BBC, so it must be true. LOL
10:08 pm on May 26, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I guess it is true. American government organizations are not known for their innovative approach to automation systems. Many of the space shuttle's control systems were built around 8086 processors [nytimes.com] and running out of stock was one of the reasons to close down the program.

Looking at the specs of the IBM Series/1 with a 16 bit processor and a maximum of 128 kbytes of RAM, it shouldn't be too difficult to write an emulator in let's say the Raspberry Pi and run the US nuclear missile control system on that, instead of on that 30 year old beast.
1:35 am on May 27, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I was somewhat surprised to read about this

Doesn't surprise me in the least. I learned a while back that individual FBI agents didn't get personal computers (as in: the machine that sits on every desk in every office in every country everywhere) until right around the turn of the century. That is, ahem, the present century.
12:21 am on May 29, 2016 (gmt 0)

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There's a huge systems upgrade currently in the works
2:28 am on May 29, 2016 (gmt 0)

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There's a huge systems upgrade currently in the works

They're replacing the typists' manual typewriters with Selectrics?
4:05 am on May 29, 2016 (gmt 0)

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If it ain't broke...
4:17 am on May 29, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Well, nuclear deterrents need to be relevant or they're not a deterrent.
2:55 pm on May 29, 2016 (gmt 0)

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they're not a deterrent.

Our nuke's (floppies) are bigger than your nuke's (floppies).
6:16 pm on May 29, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Our nukes (floppies) are bigger than your nukes (floppies).

At this point, all we need is one speaker of South African English to enter the discussion, and the whole thing will go straight down the tubes.
7:45 pm on May 29, 2016 (gmt 0)

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it's genius, really.
even if some spies steal the floppy disks they won't be able to read them, because nobody's got a floppy drive anymore
8:33 pm on May 29, 2016 (gmt 0)

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The floppies on the beast are 8 inch. I doubt many people ever used that size on their home computer.
10:50 pm on May 29, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Had 5 1/4" floppy drives on my TRS-80 Model I. I think Shugart made them. Never launched any nukes with them.
11:53 pm on May 29, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Too many legacy big iron machines out there.... so these units are still in manufacture, just no longer consumer grade (as if the 8" were ever consumer grade).
1:42 am on May 30, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Had 5 1/4" floppy drives on my TRS-80 Model I.

Yup, same on the Apple //e. Couldn't do a thing without two of 'em. Moving on up to the 3" version was a big exciting step. 8" disks were before my time, though. (Did anyone ever use them on a home machine? I do remember tape drives, but only as A Thing That Existed; I don't think I ever personally saw one.)
2:21 am on May 30, 2016 (gmt 0)

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In the late 1960s & early 1970s I worked with tape drives on Univac & IBM mainframes. They were larger than most refrigerators. Data input was done with key-punch cards fed manually through a shoot.
8:27 pm on May 30, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Probably because they aren't a target to be hacked. Old technology is something most not all forget about. Dos make some sense but who knows with our country.
8:36 pm on May 30, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I worked with tape drives on Univac & IBM mainframes. They were larger than most refrigerators. Data input was done with key-punch cards

Oh, sure, I remember those in my father's lab. But I was thinking of the cassette-tape systems that worked with some personal computers.
9:02 pm on May 30, 2016 (gmt 0)

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if my memory of floppy discs is correct, all you'd need to do to disarm the missiles is spill a bit of tea on them
2:05 am on May 31, 2016 (gmt 0)

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No, that would only prevent you from changing the missile's current state, whatever it might be. If, in the course of instructing a new agent, you program one missile to take aim for Dijon at 11:30AM the Thursday after next, and then spill tea on the floppy before your trainee can finish reverting the program ... Oh, dear, oh, dear.
3:49 am on May 31, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Us yanks drink coffee
 

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