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Air Force finally ejects 8-inch floppy disks long used in U.S. nuclear strike system

Years after computer floppy disks went the way of the dodo for most users, the U.S. Air Force still employed 8-inch floppy disks for a few things — like passing on orders to launch the nation’s arsenal of nuclear missiles, according to Popular Mechanics.

No more, says Lt. Col. Jason Rossi, commander of the Air Force’s 595th Strategic Communications Squadron, reports defense news site C4isrnet.

A new “highly-secure solid state digital storage system” replaced the old-fashioned floppy disks in June, according to the publication.

A 2016 government report says the Strategic Automated Command and Control System ran on an IBM Series/1 computer from the 1970s, noting the system was due for an upgrade.

The 8-inch disks, older even than the 5.25-inch or 3.5-inch versions now also outdated, held just 237 kilobytes of memory, Popular Mechanics reported.

One “missileer” interviewed by “60 Minutes” at a Wyoming nuclear command center in 2014 said she had never seen one of the disks before she began working with the system.

The system also cost about $61 billion a year to maintain, Popular Mechanics reported.

But the antiquated system did have some advantages, Rossi said — you can’t hack an 8-inch floppy disk, for example, C4isnet reported.

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Don Sweeney has been a newspaper reporter and editor in California for more than 25 years. He has been a real-time reporter based at The Sacramento Bee since 2016.
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