U.S. Nuclear Program Still Running on Floppy Discs: What will it cost to upgrade to Custom Software Development?

Jun 24, 2016 10:00:00 AM

u.s nuclear program custom softwareFrom 1967 through 1976, eight-inch floppy disks were the latest and greatest thing. That was before Apple computers was even founded, before Jimmy Carter became President, and before the world even had home video consoles or personal computers. Many of today's generation don't even realize that the reason they called the old, hard-cased 3.5 inch discs "floppy discs" is that the original 8-inch and 5.25-inch discs were, in fact, floppy, if you held them up and waved them around. That was a long time ago.

The Country's Oldest Technology Controlling Its Most Dangerous Weapons

Yet the U.S. nuclear program still runs on 8-inch floppies, on an original IBM Series 1 computer, just like those dear old Grandpa used in the late 1970's. Since the technology is obsolete, it is almost impossible to keep the systems up and running at all.

All of this information is brought to us courtesy of a new report released by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). The report exposes the fact that the U.S. government's $80 billion annual IT budget is going primarily towards operating and maintaining old, outdated, antiquated systems. Only a fraction (about $1 of every $4 spent) goes toward updating these technologies with custom software.

Most of the Federal IT Budget is Used to Keep Antiquated Technologies Running

Don't worry! The only things the government is using outdated systems to run are nukes, your retirement benefits, and your money.

The nuclear program is not alone; the problem is pandemic across government agencies. The U.S. Treasury, for instance, still relies on software code written in assembly language, which came into use during the 1950's and isn't even taught in today's computer science and programming courses, meaning there are few programmers around who can even write for or maintain the system. Yet this system is responsible for assessing tax liabilities of taxpayers, generating refunds, and keeping track of taxpayer accounts. As of now, the Treasury Department has no plans to upgrade to a more modern system.

A similar situation exists in the Social Security Administration, the agency responsible for determining the amount of social security income a retiree is eligible to receive. Their system is written in a computer language called COBOL, which was also developed back in the 1950's and is rarely seen in today's business software. Unlike the Treasury, however, the Social Security Administration does have plans to update to a more modern software system.

What will It Cost the Government for Custom Software Development?

The Pentagon does plan to replace the old IBM Series 1 Computer and its gigantic, outdated floppy discs by the end of next year. Which brings up another question ... what's up with the U.S. government spending billions of dollars on custom software development? The majority of what they do can be done with any number of off-the-shelf products. The rest is usually a fairly straightforward system that can be done by experienced developers in a matter of weeks, for far, far less than millions of dollars.

Though it is unlikely that the federal government will learn the value of a dollar (or billions of dollars) anytime soon, there's no need for your business to follow suit. You can have the latest, most-advanced, custom software development done for a very reasonable cost. Contact us at AndPlus today to get started.


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Topics: Custom Software

Brian Geary

Written by Brian Geary

Brian is a true believer in the Agile process. He often assists the development process by performing the product owner role. In addition to his technical background, he is an experienced account manager with a background in design and marketing.

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