Predictions

NSA 1990s Report Showcases Wildly Inaccurate Predictions About Computing's Future

But the government is good at forecasting everything else

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The mid-1990s were dark years for the National Security Agency. Its budget had been slashed, top technical talent was seeping out, and the company that made its supercomputers was in trouble.

You can get a sense of the agency's worry — and its myopia — in a top-secret report on the state of supercomputing that the U.S. spy agency recently declassified.

Originally published in the winter 1995 edition of the NSA-only code-breakers' journal Cryptologic Quarterly, the report opens a small window onto the secretive agency — although the glimpse it provides is now rather dated. One thing it does show is how wrong everyone was in the mid-'90s about what lay ahead for the supercomputer. Even the United States' premiere supercomputer user was in the dark.