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Some of NOAA’s satellites are still dependent on floppy disks

Molly Wood Oct 13, 2017
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Satellites dishes on the roof of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Kimberly Adams / Marketplace

To find out how your trusted weather app gets its intel, look no further than the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Getting that intel takes a lot of equipment. There’s a building in Maryland where NOAA pulls that information down from space, using giant antennas and dishes on its roof.  It’s got a massive server room where the data they collect gets stored and sent out.

The interior of the NOAA offices in Virginia.

The interior of the NOAA offices in Virginia.

“When you get the data down from the satellite, it’s only as good as where you can send it,” said Bill Carter, IT systems specialist at NOAA’s Satellite Operations Facility.

Some of the machines are older than the people working in the building. “A lot of the equipment is from 1986, ’87,” said Carter, pointing out the openings for the 3.5″ floppy disks, which they still use. “If you do the proper maintenance, you can make things last for a long, long time.” 

Carter gave Marketplace Tech a tour of the NOAA facility — click the audio player above to hear the tour. 

CORRECTION: The original version of this piece included the wrong location of the facility. It is located in Maryland.