Why The U.S. Nuclear System Still Relies On Floppy Disks

How is the technology in your office? A little behind the curve? Bet everybody in the place wishes they had the latest software, or a bit more memory so those spreadsheets wouldn’t get hung-up so often, right?

Oh, well, at least your not responsible for the nation’s nuclear defense. That system still runs in floppy disks. It’s true! The Pentagon’s Strategic Automated Command and Control System (SACCS), the communications system for issuing launch instructions for intercontinental nuclear missiles and bombers, runs on vintage 1980’s tech.

As shocking as that seems, there is a very good reason for retaining this throwback technology. Using the disk-based system keeps our nuclear launch system off the internet and makes it inaccessible to hackers. Cyber-engineers have declared the floppy system very safe and reliable.

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This is deeply reassuring when you think about how often we hear of government computer systems, including Defense Department websites, being penetrated by bad guys and mischief-makers. Remember when the Office of Personnel Management’s computers were breached, releasing information on 22 million Americans?

So, yeah, I’m good with running our nukes on floppies. Sometimes newer isn’t better.

That said, the Defense Department says it will soon upgrade SACCS’s technology, probably to a flash memory system. That’s cool, so long as we’re not talking about running our defenses off thumb drives that can get lost at the bottom of a messenger bag, or left in a pants pocket and get run through the wash.

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