Those of us who’ve been around and using technology for a while remember the era of floppy disks. You know, they look like “save” icons, but they were real pieces of plastic with magnetic media inside that stored a trivially small amount of data. You might not use floppies anymore, but some industries are stuck with the technology of yesteryear—for example, airlines. British Airways recently retired its fleet of 747s, giving us a chance to see how its floppy-based software update system works. It’s a real blast from the past.
The Boeing 747-400 aircraft first entered service in the late 1980s when 3.5-inch floppy disks were still cutting edge with a whopping 1.44 MB of formatted storage space. These planes cost millions of dollars, but upgrading systems is a tricky business in aircraft. The original avionics computer still works, so British Airways never bothered to replace them in its planes.