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JorgeA

U.S. government agencies still using Windows 3.1, floppy disks and 1970s computers

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U.S. government agencies are still using Windows 3.1, floppy disks and 1970s computers
 

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Some U.S. government agencies are using IT systems running Windows 3.1, the decades-old COBOL and Fortran programming languages, or computers from the 1970s.

A backup nuclear control messaging system at the U.S. Department of Defense runs on an IBM Series 1 computer, first introduced in 1976, and uses eight-inch floppy disks, while the Internal Revenue Service's master file of taxpayer data is written in assembly language code that's more than five decades old, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office.

The funny thing is... my first reaction to the headline was, "What a bunch of fools!", but then I read down to the following:

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For example, the DOD's Strategic Automated Command and Control System for nuclear forces, running on an IBM Series 1, is a "tertiary" system that maintains 99.99 percent uptime, said Terry Halvorsen, CIO for the agency.

...and suddenly it didn't sound so foolish or ridiculous: 99.99 percent uptime translates to less than an hour of downtime per year -- that is, approximately one hour every 59.5 weeks. Can our modern Windows systems (let alone Windows 10 systems :ph34r: ) boast that they go out of service for an average of one minute a week?

--JorgeA

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7 hours ago, JorgeA said:

...and suddenly it didn't sound so foolish or ridiculous: 99.99 percent uptime translates to less than an hour of downtime per year -- that is, approximately one hour every 59.5 weeks. Can our modern Windows systems (let alone Windows 10 systems :ph34r: ) boast that they go out of service for an average of one minute a week?

--JorgeA

Actually it means MUCH MORE than "99.9% uptime", it means 99.99% RECORDED uptime in the LAST 30 years (or more), i.e. a recorded, verified extremely high reliability over an extremely long period. :), not foolish at all.

As I like to remember people in my work field (construction), we know for sure that a Roman arch or tunnel can stand 2000 (two thousand) years substantially unscathed after having gone through numberless earthquakes, thunderstorms, hot/cold cycles, floods and *what not* while bridges and buildings built in the 19th century and even in the 20th century need to be rebuilt or heavily repaired after as low as thirty to fifty years since construction, there might be REASONS for this. ;)

jaclaz
 

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As the old saying goes, "If it's not broke, don't fix it.".

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Assembly (D)OBOL and Fortran are the basis of -

1- Speed (ASM)

2- Ease of Code Construction (Human Speech friendly(

3- Scientifically Accurate

2 and 3 "translate" to 1 above.

AFMC used mainly COBOL-II, with Assembly for tight calculation (besides direct Memory access for in-RAM tables) and (some) I/O subroutines and FORTRAN-IV for intricate calculations (easier to program than Assembly).

So... makes sense and *will* run on the old hardware that's much like the Eveready Bunny.

IOW, no surprises here.

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"If it ain't broke don't fix it," indeed! Considering the telemetry issues with Windows 10, I don't think we'd want something like that running a nuclear control messaging system, backup or not.

I've been thinking recently with some of the news that's come out of the technology sector, particularly the Vault 7 leaks. After a certain point, does using old technology provide a layer of security of its own?

I'd assume that most cybercrime or espionage is going to be focused on poking holes in the systems that see the most use, so as time goes on, knowledge of and access to methods to crack older systems fades away.

Granted, security through obscurity alone is a bad idea ...

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