Nuclear Launch Floppies

Photograph by Audriusa, on Wikimedia Commons.

Did you know that America’s nuclear arsenal still runs off floppy disks? I didn’t, but the idea doesn’t really scare me that much in the light of Ruben mentioning to me just the other night that older technologies are often more reliable than the new ones today.

A Sydney Trains staff member was opening up several ticket barrier machines last night as I voiced my curiosity to see what was inside. Apart from his prior knowledge (the bastard), with his tall stature, Ruben was easily able to see the wiring inside and thus gain some estimation of the age of those machines. How old and simple these machines are possibly is testament to how infrequently they break down in comparison to the ticket dispensing machines.

Like America’s floppy-disk run nuclear system though, a potential upside to such old hardware is possibly more security as well given their age and relative simplicity. Old is not always bad, although hearing of the loss of media to degradation is not quite as good news.

Speaking of old systems, I could see a cause for concern for any rail network hardware still running Microsoft XP as we have seen on several occasions given that Microsoft has stopped security updates to it. I hope they have made the necessary steps to switch over, though other Microsoft OSs haven’t exactly filled me with confidence either.

At 23 years old, the deputy missileer said she had never even seen a floppy disk before finding one that can help wreak untold carnage on planet Earth.

Funnily enough, I’m most disturbed by this quote, but they most likely mean specifically 8-inch floppy disks, rather than the more common 3.5-inch ones that even I grew up on — hey, they’re both called floppy disks. I guess we can’t all have parents (or partners, for that matter) who have old technology stashed away. o.O

On the other hand, we were never fancy enough for zip disks or, god forfend, jaz disks. There was always at least one machine in my high school library with a zip disk reader, but I never got the chance to use it..