The New York Times


NUMBER ONE            WEDNESDAY JULY 15, 1964            PRICE SIXPENCE


Control Data Australia Memories compiled by Brian Membrey

Head Office : Behind The Iron Curtain

Control Data Allowed to Sell Six Computers to Soviet Union

New York Times, 23 August, 1990  

"In a significant policy relaxation, the United States Government is allowing the Control Data Corporation to sell six mainframe computers to the Soviet Union. The machines, which are considered mid-size mainframes and not supercomputers, will be used for analyzing safety factors in civilian nuclear power reactors. They would be the fastest yet sold to the Soviets.

The export license, which was announced yesterday by Control Data, was approved by the Commerce Department on Monday. The machines will cost the Soviets $32 million, the company said.

The deal is the first large sale of high-performance computers to the Soviet Union by an American corporation since a June agreement that ended most trade restrictions with the former Soviet bloc. The accord was reached by the 17 nations of the technology watchdog group known as the Coordinating Committee on Multilateral Export Controls, or Cocom.

The license is likely to be the first in a range of new agreements between American companies and the Soviet Union, aimed at supporting issues that are of importance to the United States Government.

On his visit to the United States in June, President Mikhail S. Gorbachev of the Soviet Union visited the Minneapolis-based computer maker and was given a demonstration of the machine, the Cyber 960.

''This is the first approval of a significant level of computing power to the Soviet Union,'' said Jim O'Connell, Control Data's director of international trade policy. ''There's an important symbol here. The U.S. Government is indicating in this approval that it is going to support U.S.-Soviet high-tech cooperation in certain areas that are deemed to be of global concern.''

He said other technology agreements could be expected in areas like environmental protection, petroleum exploration and industrial modernization.

''The American establishment has realized that this technology already exists in the Soviet Union,'' said Esther Dyson, a computer industry analyst in New York who publishes Release 1.0, an industry newsletter. ''It has become a financial question instead of a political one.''

People who have argued for strict controls on technology sales to the Soviets said yesterday that the sale was a reasonable one for the purposes involved.

''These computers don't pose any threat,'' said Steven D. Bryen, a former Pentagon official who was responsible for export control policy. ''But before we do any broad release of technology, we ought to make certain that the Soviets have made the changes that they have promised''.

Mr. O'Connell said Control Data had begun the process of attempting to gain an export license in November 1989. In June, restrictions were lifted dramatically after the Cocom countries met in Paris and dropped most technology export limits.

Machine Restrictions

Before the June meeting, computers with a performance figure above 75 were restricted. The figure means that the machine would be able to transfer data at 75 million bits of information a second - or the equivalent of about eight large novels.

This level of restriction led to the control of most computers, including most personal computers.

Since June, the 75 figure has been replaced by a three-tier structure. Computers with a performance rating of up to 275 can be freely sold under general-export licenses. The sale of machines rated up to 550 can be sold based on national discretion. Machines rated 550 to 1,000 still require Cocom export approval.

Mr. O'Connell said Control Data's Cyber 960 computer, which the Soviets are buying, has a rating of 435, but since the licensing process had begun before the June Cocom meeting, the application had gone through the United States Government interagency approval process.

The sale required a special agreement between the American and Soviet Governments, he said. The agreement creates a special safeguard program to regulate the use of the computers. The program, known as the nuclear safety technology cooperation agreement, was completed at the end of June.

Editor : The sales was announced some eight months earlier on 10 December, 1989 when it was noted it was likely to face intense scrutiny by the U.S. Defence Department "because the computers have some military potential".