Control Data Australia Memories compiled by Brian Membrey

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The Computer Club

46 Queen's Road, Melbourne

Location

South-eastern corner of Queen's Road and Roy Street

Memories

We've included The Computer Club as a separate entity from The Light Car Club as the premises were probably the only one that could truly qualify under both "Drinks" and "Eats", although the former probably took precedence.

Maybe it's a sign of too many years, beers or red wines, but no one seems to remember exactly how The Computer Club started.

It was circa 1974, and the general consensus of opinion is that the major instigators were Peter Noonan (I think the first President) and Bruce Smith (not the CDA Bruce Smith), both working with Olivetti at the time and Light Car Club members.   

The cause was taken up by Alan Power, then editor of Computer Weekly and a regular at the College Lawn where he found several willing Control Data volunteers as well as those from other companies to help get things going.

The plan was for a separate Computer Club to be formed and with those that joined to be taken up as Associate Members of The Light Car Club with full access to the social facilities, but no voting rights or rights of involvement in club car events.  (The Lakeside Golf Club based in Albert Park had had a similar arrangement for several years).

I was immediately interested as an ex-girlfriend had been a member and we had been there a couple of times after normal closing hours, so the following Friday I organized a group of four or five analysts for lunch, the net effect, four or five new Computer Club members and the start of a tradition.

The attractions of somewhere to drink after hours of course meant that many Control Data people joined, perhaps the largest contingent from any individual computer company in the balmy days when most of the industry was in either of St. Kilda or Queen's Roads and Computer Club membership was up around 300.

In the early days, there was an odd equation at lunchtime : the number of bread rolls on the table always equated  (2n - 1); i.e. if two people ordered a table, there were three rolls, if six booked there would be eleven!

I also remember around 1979 along with Wilson McMillan organizing an all-afternoon barbeque on the roof, the requirement for attendance being that you had to be ex-Control Data, although current employees were invited to join us in the bar after work.  

Kevin Walsh turned up, and when being reminded it was only for ex-Control Data employees, he revealed that had resigned that morning so Wilson and I awarded him temporary membership for the afternoon!

There was also a reunion circa 1985 of CDA people who had worked on T.A.B. projects, although this was in the restaurant - the rooftop activities were by this time curtailed after a couple of incidents (not Computer Club-related) where glasses were knocked over the ledge onto the footpath Queen's Road and there were also some concerns as to whether the rather dilapidated roof was a safety hazard.

Around the same time there was a minor hiccup when Peter Karol, the-then President organised with Computer Weekly for a couple of free ads in an attempt to revive interest in membership but made the near-fatal mistake by including the words “Membership is tax-deductible”, something a sharp-eyed inspector from the Tax Office picking up on the statement and “monstered” Peter over the claim (many, probably most, did in fact claim the $30 without ever being queried).

As a result, we re-worded the ads to suggest “seminars” to be addressed by both pseudo-experts to thus introduce a professional educational and training aspect in conjunction with lunches - typically the chosen expert guest would address the gathering with technical words like “G’day” before we ripped into the red.

The scene changed a little when Irene Morgan took over as restaurant manager and Mike Spark and myself started up a monthly lunch club (or should I say "yet another" monthly lunch club?)

The in-thing at the time was for “Beef and Burgundy” lunches/wine tastings - naturally ours became the “Booze and Belch Club”.

The format was pretty simple.

Irene would come up with a masked bottle of wine and ask four questions of her "expert" clientele; variety, source, special characteristics and further tasting notes - to which the answers were typically "red", "grapes", "ripper turps" and "more, please".

Irene was ably assisted by Mad Eric Ettridge the Chef, and subsequently started up a similar exercise on Saturdays which attracted many LCCA members as well as The Computer Club.

It was around the same time that I organised an el-cheapo introduction into the scene of horse racing with The Computer Club Syndicate, some 20 shares (split I think across 14 members) and the result a jet-black bad-tempered monster called Shiatsu (his dam “Oriental Touch” who showed enormous potential at his first three starts, winning what is now a Group race at Caulfield (this year worth $120,000) before the wheels came off  with him rarely bothering those noting place-getters ever again.  

(This was followed up by The Fangio Syndicate, principally of LCCA members and a filly El Aguila (out of Scarlet Eagle, “aguila is Spanish foe “eagle”); the two horses in looks and temperament about as opposite as two animals of the same breed could get - after a very ordinary first couple of runs, over the next two-and-a-half years, she gave us lots of fun winning one city race (appropriately at Sandown), five others around the country and another three city placings).

The Computer Club contributed to the LCCA's well-being by not only supporting the bar and other social events (normally involving much alcohol, of course, with anything up to 80 people in the bar of a Friday night in the early days), but by putting up several timekeeper volunteers (including Mike and Wendy Spark) at their Sandown and Winton race meetings for some years (I remember writing a PC-based membership system for them)

Time, drink driving laws and the movement of the computer industry away from the St. Kilda Road area eventually took its toll and by the mid-1980’s, membership had, like that of the Light Car Club itself, dwindled to a shadow of its former levels, and despite various attempts to rekindle interest, numbers dropped to around 20.

Around 1988, and as the current President, I proposed winding up The Computer Club and with the agreement of The Light Car Club, having the current 20 or so members simply transferred into the LCCA books directly as Associate Members. After intensive and emotionally-charged negotiations that lasted, from memory, about two and a half seconds, the LCCA agreed.

Around this, of course, the Control Data went, some transferring t0 the new Miden, others following different paths, but a few regulars continued to use the Light Car Club until it, too, closed in 1992.

History : The Light Car Club