In 1958, the DoD’s first contracting software was launched, using an early computer language called COBOL. As of 2017, that software still manages Pentagon contracts. It’s one of the oldest computer programs still in use.
According to Technology Review, the program known as MOCAS, Mechanization of Contract Administration Services, began its life on punchcards. Eventually it was updated to green screened, terminal-style computers.
Though a new-looking graphic interface often replaces the antiquated green text prompts, the insides are still very much the same. A series of new additions and plug-and-play storage devices hides an eight-gigabyte RAM system that manages $1.3 trillion in Pentagon contracting.
The reason the system was never replaced is due to the fact that its replacement would have to immediately take over the entire system as a whole to ensure that no contract — and none of the money — is lost in the transition.
The U.S. government has sent out multiple requests for proposals, but the cost of a replacement is a prohibitive factor.
It wasn’t always this way. The U.S. military is usually known for being on the cutting edge of technological development.
Although the F-14 Tomcat is no longer part of the U.S. Navy’s airborne arsenal, the Tomcat was using a 20-bit microprocessor in 1970, the year before Intel created the world’s first single-chip four-bit microprocessor.
The 28-point chipset controlled the fighter’s swing wings and flight controls.
MOCAS isn’t the only antiquated military technology. The U.S. nuclear missile force is known to run on 8-inch floppy disks, and spends $61 billion every year to maintain that system.
The Army’s COMPASS system, which tracks the shelf life of Army equipment, is 52 years old.
Furthermore, COBOL, FORTRAN, and Windows 3.1 are commonly found in government systems. Do you think they’ll ever stop using the oldest computer programs on the planet?