Control Data Australia Memories compiled by Brian Membrey

CDC : The First Welcome Mat

Courtesy of the Charles Babbage Institute archive …

The McGill Building, 501 Park Avenue, Minneapolis, Control Data Corporation’s first headquarters. Shared with the Graphic Arts Engineering Company and Hayward Court Printing.  Rental Agent - A. D. Strong, FE 31321. Ron Bird suspects 501 Park Avenue is where the CDC 501 drum printer got its model number from.  CDC acquired 10,000 square feet in the building a day or two after incorporation on 4 August, 1957 and a press release on the 26th nominating executives under Norris suggested the company was looking for a 40,000 square feet facility in the Twin Cities district with a view to attaining full production in mid-1958.

The smaller colour image (obviously taken at the same time)  shows a more-three dimensional aspect of the building which served as HQ until early 1962 when the Bloomington plant opened.  See Spiritual Homes

“We got a real bargain on a rental deal at 501 Park Avenue because Don McNealy of St. Paul, whom I'd gotten involved, had owned the building and they sold it to the Star and Tribune, but that was probably one of the big reasons why we early on acquired Cedar Engineering which is a machine shop. And then when people would come to town they would be taken out to Cedar to see the machinery, and then they would be taken downtown to talk to engineering, and that was a big factor in getting government contracts”.

(Arnold J. Ryden, CDC’s first treasurer and key organizer of the original $600,000 share issue)

Ryden’s revelation came via a later Oral Interview conducted by Charles Babbage Institute.

Most of us probably remember various versions of the three-column “Buzz Word Generator” where a random selection of a word from each column produced a suitably meaningless phrase guaranteed to confuse just about anybody - whether computer literate or otherwise - encountering it.  Ryden confessed during the interview that “Control Data” became the new corporation name of much the same basis - the key “movers and shakers” simply lined up two columns and cycled through the combinations until they struck on a name that everybody liked!

(Below) 1960  The loading bay at the McGill building and shipment of the first 1604 computer system to the U.S. Navy Post Graduate School in Monterey, CA. From L to R: William C. Norris, Frank Mullaney, George Hanson (all CDC), & Bill Hyland of North American Van Lines.  It was on this 1604 that Robert M. Price, later President of Control Data Corporation first “cut his teeth’ as a programmer ("Building The Control Data Legacy – The Career of Robert M. Price" (Charles Babbage Institute, 2012, Tom Misa editor). The 1604 was the first computer designed by Seymour Cray after he was recruited from Sperry Rand on CDC’s formation on 1957.   Both images courtesy of Charles Babbage Institute.

BUT did the delivery go as planned?  The trailer for upcoming series “The Adventures of Norris and Cray” suggest not!  Double-click for sneak preview >>>

With apologies to Milligan, Sellers and Secombe - GOON AND FORGOTTEN - The approximate location from Google Maps, 2014, the site and surrounds demolished for a sporting complex known (at the time) as the U.S. Bank Stadium.  Numbering of the southern side now commences at 537 Park Avenue.  No idea as to whether the McGill Building survived the intervening period.

A modern 12-storey tower which appears to be offices of the Wells Fargo Bank is opposite where 501 would have been.

Further research in December, 2017 reveals that 501 Park Avenue was formerly a warehouse for the Minneapolis Start and Tribune newspaper group and when CDC took up residence, the area was divided up by unpainted plywood partitions. Kinda reminds me of the first floor analyst “rabbit warren” at 598 - at least there you could have partitions of any colour you wanted provided in was battleship grey!

Below : Close-up of the name plate that appeared on the building

Never before Mentioned In Despatches, but the Charles Babbage Institute entry for Control Data Corporation has this as the Strutwear Building, 1015 South 4th Street. Minneapolis, and the site of the design and development of the 6600 system headed by Seymour Cray prior to a move to Chippewa Falls in 1961 (according to the WikiPedia entry for the town, it was Seymour Cray’s birthplace and there is belief that his family actually owned the laboratory site which was later taken over by Cray Research.

The address on the CBI site is actually incorrect, it should be South 6th Street - the building remains virtually unchanged and remains the Strutwear Knitting Company Building (below). It is roughly a kilometre south of the original office at 501 Park Avenue

The building has a significant place in the history of the U.S. Labor Movement.

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