Control Data Australia Memories compiled by Brian Membrey

Regional Warehouse, 349A Darebin Road, Thornbury  (AARRWH) (497 4199)

December, 2018 : Thornbury images courtesy Peter Johnson

Never saw the site, no memories..  

Out Heidelberg Road, left into Grange Road and right into Darebin Road - possibly (at least from a Melbourne-centric view), CDA's least known facility was a 15,000 square feet building housing spare parts for the Australasian region, a literature distribution centre (which I seem to recall replaced the former library on the third floor of 598 administered by Professional Services through Gwen Doyle), plus a repair and refurbishment workshop.

Whilst it might have appeared logical to combine these services with one of the manufacturing sites, Thornbury was chosen because of its proximity to the airport given the need for the speediest possible despatch of spare parts.

Between Ourselves when introducing the site in 1975 suggested that because of the distance, the 598 St. Kilda Road telephone number could not be used and a new one would be advised. Maybe ir happened, maybe it didn’t, but the site did not appear in the Melbourne White Pages until 1981 with TWO numbers, 497 4199 and 497 2736 - maybe they had run out of carrier pigeons by then!

The facility opened early in 1975 with Alan Brown as Manager, Ian Chapman as supervisor of Spare Parts and Literature distribution along with five staff, and Ron Harris (later founder of Harris Technology) as supervisor of the Repair Centre and Idle Equipment store, also with five staff members.  

One of the original CDC 3200 machines supplied to CSIRO as part of the 1963 order continued in service for training purposes and testing repaired printed circuit boards. A Terminal Repair Centre maintained both consoles from Australia and New Zealand as well as office typewriters used in Melbourne. (“One of the original 3200 machines” in retrospect confuses me - admittedly never difficult - as I believe Melbourne Museum has a 3200 on display which I thought was ex-ABS - maybe CDA subsequently donated the old girl to the Museum?!?)

Control Data appear to have remained there until around 1984 - I have seen brief mentions of a later Regional Warehouse at 622 South Road in Moorabbin, but know nothing of it.  Certainly the Repair and Refurbishment Centre found a new home around then in Collingwood.

I'm not sure of how the building looked at the time (a fuzzy ‘photo in Flash confirms the gabled roof), but it would have been relatively new. The site lay on the route of a proposed railway line from Alphington to East Preston (and ultimately Reservoir), an Act to build the line passed in 1946 and finally revoked in 1961 without a single shovel of earth ever moved.

The planned route ran about 50 metres west of Grange Road through Northcote and what is now Chifley Drive in Preston, the most notable landmark of today, Northland Shopping Centre, the northern car park of which covers the site of the original proposed terminus in Wood Street.


Repair Centre, 134 Cambridge Street, Collingwood (AARCWD) (03) 418-0800

I have no idea as to what the original building looked like, but Cambridge Street is one of those inner-suburban streets that fifty years ago you would not have been caught dead in - although perhaps "dead" or severely belted around the head may have been the operative terns.

By the time of Control Data’s occupancy, much of the old industrial area was starting a process of “urban renewal” and two or three of the old factories on the opposite side to 134 at the northern end are now a conclave of "highly desirable" converted warehouse apartments.

(Most of the warehouses were clothing or boot "sweatshops", although probably not as old as some may think - directories of the first decade of the twentieth century show the majority of Cambridge Street still as residential, probably single-fronted cottages).

134 is three doors south of an extensive Police depot stretching to Stanley Street - a bit difficult to tell from the streetscape, but I'm guessing the building is new rather than a refurbishment, especially with an identical structure next door.

I know little - a.k.a bugger-all - of the facility.

It was established around 1984-85 as a third-party repair service centre during the early halcyon days of the Apple Mac and IBM and compatible PCs. One of our Third-Friday regulars in Ian Downie worked there:-  

We did a bit of external third party repair work for Apple, repairing Mac SE, and that was a very intermittent business. We were, I think, repairing Mac SE modules for a fixed price of $64. Apple could get them repaired in Singapore for $58, but we could turn them around in three days and they took nine weeks to turn them around, but all of the stuff finally went to Singapore except when they were overloaded and then it came to us. So that was a successful business but an intermittent one”.   

Oral interview with Tom Misa, (Charles Babbage Institute), November, 2013

 I believe CDA employees were entitled to hefty discounts on Apple equipment in a reciprocal marketing agreement.  Miden Pacific continued with third-party maintenance after the Control Data buy-out of 1988, but I think the facility was consolidated in their building at 200 Arden Street, North Melbourne.

Repair Centre, 662 South Road, Moorabbin.

This is not a site I know anything about and there was no mention of it in the Misa interview - kindly passed on by Lyndon Aistrope who remembers doing a DEC course there, late 1980s. And that Geoff Merrill may then have been the manager???

Not sure whether it replaced the Collingwood facility or complemented it, perhaps more suitable for mainframes than PCs. I’m guessing it must have come very late in CDA history and by the current view of the building, pretty soon after its construction.


Anyone have memories of these …

The site today simply as 349 which extends as a mirror image to the left. Directories don’t mention a 349 “A”, but the gabled roof corresponds with a fuzzy picture in Between Ourselves.

The site today - like Thornbury, I suspect either re-built or substantially modernised over the intervening years


Images of the Thornbury Centre kindly supplied by Peter Johnson. Left : the training machine. Right : an informal training session,  Ken Humm (standing), Adrian Hamlyn and Eric Dorn.