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How the White House struggles to upgrade its tech

Technically Incorrect: The Wi-Fi wasn't good. The PCs would have made Apple laugh. But progress is being made. At least in some areas.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


I clicked on the link to the Office of the White House Press Secretary. Lo, a 404.

screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Every time something goes wrong with my own tech, I grumble so loud that local dogs ululate in reply.

It's a good thing, then, that I'm not in government.

I deduce this from a New York Times story on the White House's struggles to emerge from the clutches of AOL disks and Gateway 2000 computers.

I exaggerate, but only slightly, it seems.

The Times says that throughout almost all seven years of the Obama Administration, staff member were working with computers from the early 2000s. Just think how Phil Schiller, Apple's executive vice president of global marketing, would have laughed at that.

They had old, old BlackBerrys. And the Wi-Fi? It was worse than at some NFL games.

Earlier this year, President Barack Obama revealed how the White House Wi-Fi left something to be desired. A connection, for example.

There were more dead spots than in the cemetery.

You'll be stunned into disconnecting yourself from reality when I tell you that part of the tech problems were caused by the fact that four government agencies -- the National Security Council, the Executive Office of the President, the Secret Service and the White House Communications Agency -- had their own tech fiefdoms.

In March, however, the government hired David Recordon, whose talents were used by Mark Zuckerberg to ensure that everything functioned at Facebook Central.

Recordon, director of information technology at the White House, had 13,000 pounds of useless cables removed. Hey, he even introduced color printers. Please imagine the joy at the White House.

What's next? The White House didn't immediately reply to a request for comment.

After the debacle over the Obamacare Web site, which launched disastrously and still has its occasional quirk from my personal experience, it's understandable that there might be intense focus placed on technological progress.

Especially as it's often been said how much tech helped get the president elected.

I can reveal, however, that there are still snafus. I was looking a White House weekly address page from March and clicked on the link to the Office of the Press Secretary.

"Sorry, the page you're looking for can't be found," was the reply.