May 21, 2024

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Why in the middle of Silicon Valley nothing works without floppy disks

Why in the middle of Silicon Valley nothing works without floppy disks

Floppy disks live. Many years after being made obsolete by CDs, USB drives, and cloud storage, floppy disks are still in use — especially in critical locations, like a Japanese office or a Boeing 747-400.

Self-driving cars versus floppy disks

Now there's another purpose for storage media, which was especially popular in the 80s and 90s, and it's amazing. Because in San Francisco, of all places, the city in the heart of Silicon Valley in the mecca of IT, where self-driving cars fill the streets, nothing works in local transportation without floppy disks.

Such as regional television station ABC7 News mentionedOut of necessity, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency relies on floppy disks when it comes to its train control system. According to the California Transportation Authority, this system was still new when it began operating in 1998.

Floppy disks should go into the drive every morning

Because the linked computer does not have a hard drive, the program must be loaded using a floppy disk – and this has been the case every morning for 26 years. “The dial is one component of the system that automatically controls our trains within the subway. But our citywide subway system is made up of many components,” project manager Mariana Maguire told ABC7 News.

The system was originally designed to last 20 to 25 years. This means: the transition to a control system that can be controlled wirelessly is already overdue.

Modernization costs hundreds of millions of dollars

However, according to agency director Jeffrey Tomlin, this would cost several hundred million US dollars – and take another decade. The goal is to eventually have a single, modern control system for all train and rail traffic in the region.

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But waiting is not an option either. The system is currently working perfectly. “But we know that with each passing year, the risk of data loss on disks increases, and that at some point a catastrophic failure will occur,” Tomlin said.

San Francisco hopes to get grants

Now the San Francisco Transportation Authority hopes to receive financial subsidies from the budgets of the United States and states. The rest is paid from the city's treasury, which is becoming increasingly empty, according to the authority.

This ancient technology is now collectible

By the way, San Francisco's BART subway and light rail system doesn't rely solely on floppy disks. A future train fleet now runs using only MS-DOS, Windows 98, and eBay.

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