Ejecting a floppy disk in space

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2017/04/18/ejecting-a-floppy-disk-in-spac.html


So that’s why Apple got rid of floppies from all macs back in the late 90’s - so they could better sell laptops to NASA.


That is one small click of a button for man, and on giant leap for disk-kind


They use floppies?

What are these “floppy disks” you speak of?

NASA uses older computer technology on purpose - it’s had more time to for engineers to work out all the bugs. Reliability is of paramount importance when you are hurtling through the void.


Actually, I really like that philosophy. Back in an earlier century, I had a girlfriend who bought one of the very first Pontiac Fieros. Fieri. Either way, it was a constant nightmare of repairs and recalls. At a young age, I learned not to be an early adopter.

I still don’t use floppies.


They used floppies. This footage is from 1991 and the machine is a Mac Portable.

Today there’s a big mix of Thinkpads, iPads, and others like some MS Surface tablets up on the ISS used to interface with various systems. For those systems they don’t have to be as reliable because they’re just the interface to a more robust system that’s controlling the various systems. If one does break they can just use another one to connect to the same system.


thirty years ago, yes.

didn’t you notice that was a thirty-year-old Mac?

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They use 15 year old Thinkpads now.

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Ah, microgravity - the best place to use a Mac Portable.

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Yes, but I didn’t notice it was a 30-year-old video. I thought they actually had a Mac Portable, and maybe one of those phones with a pterodactyl inside too.

This Thinkpads used on the ISS have a good reputation for reliability and repairability, even then they are tested to make sure they can handle the conditions. The tablets are tested but don’t have the repairability of the Thinkpad.

They use the A31 and T61p, which are about 10 to 15 years old now.


I’m not too sure how well that Mac Portable would be in zero/micro gravity. It’s from the era when Apple didn’t believe in cooling fans, so without any convection cooling, it might overheat easily.

Hopefully they never hit anything important.

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Well, sort of. The validation process for certifying computing hardware for space is onerous and time consuming, mostly due to bureaucracy driven by valid budget concerns. I can remember NASA contractors buying 486s long after Intel stopped selling them, because there was no more modern x86 processor that was permitted in a mission critical role on a spacecraft.

You can use what you want in stuff that’s not mission critical, like cubesats for example, and people certainly do!

Also less vulnerable to Cylon cyberattacks.

No joke- when on a tour of JPL I was somewhat surprised to learn that tape-drive data storage had still been used on some of their spacecraft until fairly recently. Once they’ve got something that works for them, they really do like to stick with it.

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