Control Data Australia Memories compiled by Brian Membrey


Melbourne Data Centre

Issue 17, February, 1973

The CYBER 74 system for the Melbourne Data Centre, which will hold brief office as Australia's most powerful computer until the arrival of the CSIRO CYBER 76, is scheduled for delivery towards the end of this month.

It will be installed in the new BHP House in the city but the public terminal for over-the-counter processing will continue to be located at our St. Kilda Ad. offices.

Meanwhile, in preparation for the expansion of our Data Services operation, a new brochure outlining the services we can offer, will be available from the printers soon.

Issue 18, March, 1973

“Pictured is a section of the CYBER 74 mainframe being lifted into BHP House in Melbourne on February 17 after arrival from Minneapolis in a chartered Flying Tiger jet-freighter.

Because some sections of the system were too large to fit in the lift, a window panel was removed to allow the equipment to be lifted by crane straight onto the site.

The CYBER 74 will be operated by the Melbourne Data Centre as part of the data services network and is now being checked out in preparation for the official opening on May 11.

As this is Australia's largest computer system, the arrival created much interest among press and television media.

An advertisement seeking staff to operate the CYBER 74 drew an unusually large response. More than 30 people many of them working on smaller computer systems applied for the prestige job.”

Ed. BHP House itself had only been functioning for around twelve months.  Control Data’s original contract with the company for Data Services saw a Marc II terminal installed in their earlier building, Essington Lewis House at 500 Bourke Street.

The computer was on the 6th floor on the southern side (where the crane appears in the image) and there were four or five support analysts based there along with operators for Control Data’s “grave-yard shift” - John Baxter headed the analyst team, the telephone number noted from 1974 to (at least) 1980 as 67-8251.

The mainframe was basically on the south-easter corner of the building with the computer room extending along the eastern side.

I remember not longer after the new Data Centre opened, Diner’s Club were unhappy that every time we did a run processing cheques for their suppliers, several were wasted because whoever wrote the original program didn’t put in a routine to allow the operators to align the cheque stationery before the process kicked off and typically a dozen or more “duds’ were printed before the operators could kill the process.

I duly added such a routine and Bob Clingin and I went in one Friday night to test it - the change worked fine - I think two cheques for the initial line-up and one for changing to a new box - but what we didn’t realise was that it had been raining.

About 1.00 a.m. we left, Bob carrying a box with no lid.

Now, anyone who has been to BHP House will know it can be a wind-tunnel even in fine weather - net result that night was the wind took hold and about 100 Diner’s Club cheques finished up soaked and plastered against the windows about where the crane is up to the second floor!  (Around this time, there was a popular product called “Wet Checks”, perhaps with a vague connections to “wining and dining” rather than “Diner’s Club”, but they remained usually remained functional even though wet)!

Bob had the unenviable task of ringing Diner’s on the Monday and explaining “yes, the changes worked really well, but …”