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Tech Time Warp: Silicon Valley’s Struggle with Legacy Systems

Media: with AI, Silicon Valley is destroying opportunities for everyone
Silicon Valley: City of San Francisco still uses 5 1/4″ floppy disks to load its train system. In 2024.

Despite the current velocity of tech innovation, we still rely on outdated technologies on a daily basis. Its because of a concept known as “technical debt”.

San Francisco’s Muni Metro light rail system is a great example. It runs on 5.25-inch floppy disks—a technology some thought was extinct. The floppy disks are for booting up and loading the Muni’s ATCS software running on their central servers.

As Muni plans to overhaul its systems in 2025, this vintage approach is scheduled to stay until 2030.

Here’s what this reveals about our current state of tech and the nature of technical debt:

1. Legacy Systems Persist: Despite advances, older technologies still underpin critical infrastructure, highlighting a widespread issue of technical debt.

2. Transition Time: Transitioning from old systems to new is a complex, lengthy, and costly process, even for a tech hub like San Francisco.

3. Reliability vs. Risk: The existing system works, but with every passing year, the risk of data degradation—and catastrophic failure—grows.

4. Workforce Challenges: Maintaining these systems requires niche expertise in outdated programming languages, reflecting a gap between current educational focuses and real-world needs.

5. Budget Constraints: Comprehensive overhauls face financial hurdles, often relying on a mix of dwindling internal resources and external grants.

As we integrate AI and modern tech into our workflows, we must navigate the complex journey of phasing out legacy systems, all while managing risk and ensuring continuity. It’s not just about keeping the trains running on time but doing so in a way that prepares us for the future.

What are your thoughts on technical debt and replacing legacy systems?

#LegacySystems #TechnicalDebt #Innovation #SanFrancisco #PublicTransit #FloppyDisk #InfrastructureUpgrade #AI #GenerativeAI #AITransformation

Data: ArsTechnicaAc

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