Control Data Australia Memories compiled by Brian Membrey

Canberra Times : 1989-90

Despite demise of Control Data Australia, CDC itself still rated several mentions in the Canberra Times, although it must be said most were of a somewhat negative nature.

There were a couple of references to Trevor Robinson taking up the position of Special Advisor on Information Technology to the  Minister for Industry, Technology and Commerce, Senator Button,

Both of these have been added to the sub-section dedicated to the history of Trevor Robinson.

The first was a re-hash of the announcement of his resignation from CDA and acceptance of the Canberra position.

This added little, but our October, 2017 update including 1989 and 1990 stuff adds the second “Teaching Us The World Is Round” was an excellent discourse on the role of ETR as Special Adviser and the problems he had with what the articles called “flat-earthers” (those who were opposed to change of any nature).

This was published in October, 1990, about 17 months after Trevor’s resignation from CDC and revealed that his contract with Button still had seven months to run.

The other fascinating discovery was excerpts from the autobiography of Thomas J. Watson Junior, long-term president of I.B.M., and son of Thomas J. Watson senior, an ex-NCR salesman who founded the I.B.M. Colossus.  

The Bill Norris scrapbook may reveal more, but Control Data launched a legal action against IBM. after Watson and his management announced the pending release of the IBM 360-80, as a substantial advance on the 360/60 and seen as the first realistic challenge to the CDC 6600.

The pending “release” saw several potential 6600 customers delay purchasing decisions and CDC revenues severely impacted - Bill Norris called the 360/80 a “paper tiger” and that the IBM. claims for its likely performance were spurious; after a legal battle that lasted several years, CDC won the suit and an estimated $100 million in damages, plus the right to buy out the IBM. Call/360 Timesharing service at what Watson called a “bargain basement” price.

(Even at the unknown price, there must be a huge question mark as whether it was a “bargain” - with the rapid advance in 32-bit microcomputers, the market in timesharing and external data services was declining rapidly and it would be interesting to know whether CDC in the U.S. or  CDA locally ever turned a profit on Call/360.  (Over to you, Garry Pearce).

Watson junior, apparently known to associates as “Terrible Tommy” (although we expect not to his face) revealed the astonishing suggestion that IBM’s massive settlement with CDC as “a brilliant tactical stroke” which eventually saw the U.S. Government drop its much more potentially crippling Anti-Trust Suit (just after the election of Ronald Reagan).

The key was a massive index of potentially incriminating material which had been collated over five or more years by CDC’s legal team, the ownership of the files under the settlement agreement reverting to IBM.  

It appears that the potential task of re-building the Anti-Trust case proved too much for the Hollywood Cowboy … “Aw! Shucks, pardner” …”