San Francisco’s rail system still uses 5¼-inch floppy disks

After nearly twenty years in use, the San Francisco Muni Metro’s Automatic Train Control System (ATCS) continues to function thanks to more than outdated technology: 5¼ inch floppy disks.

This technological relic, which was introduced in 1998is a crucial part of the transportation system, but its longevity is coming to an end.

Every morning, the SFMTA (San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency) loads three floppy disks to run the software on Muni Metro’s central servers. These disks are part of the ATCS, which controls various aspects of the transportation system, including the trains’ propulsion and braking systems. However, the SFMTA is ready to take the technology leap.

Jeffrey Tumlin, SFMTA transportation director, explained that the current system still works well, but The risk of data degradation on floppy disks increases every year. Not only is this outdated technology expensive to maintain, but it also makes it difficult to find staff trained to operate it.

The upgrade project involves not only eliminating floppy disks, but also a complete overhaul of the system, including central and local servers and communications infrastructure.

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