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San Francisco’s light rail to upgrade from floppy disks

The Register: “Those taking public transport in the tech hub of San Francisco may be reassured to know that their rides will soon no longer be dependent on floppy disks. San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s director of transportation Jeffrey Tumlin told ABC that the city’s automatic light-rail control system is running on outdated tech and “relies on three five-inch floppy disks” to boot up. The reporter was holding a 3.5-inch disk in the broadcast, so may have just skipped the word “point”. The system is working just fine, but we know that with each year the risk of data degradation increases “It’s a question of risk,” Tumlin explained in a three-minute segment about the floppy replacement project. “The system is currently working just fine, but we know that with each increasing year the risk of data degradation on the floppy disks increases and that at some point there will be a catastrophic failure.” The agency noted that its system was installed in 1998, when floppies were still in common use and, er, “computers didn’t have hard drives.” That doesn’t exactly match reality, since hard drives were already very common at the time – here’s a tale from 1998 about drives sold at the time, in sizes ranging from 5GB to 16.8GB. That’s right: gigabytes! How would anyone ever fill one of those up? For the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) to adopt floppies in that year would not be the first time organizations have acquired outdated tech and just kept using it rather than enduring the expense of an upgrade…”

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