Control Data Australia Memories compiled by Brian Membrey


Manufacturing : More Orders

In July, 1973, rather fortuitously just a few weeks before the completion of the initial RIMFIRE Victorian TAB order, it was announced that CDA had secured a $2.8 million order from the Commonwealth Department of Taxation which includes a requirement for more than 40 CRT display terminals to be produced at the Cheltenham plant.

The value of the terminals was never quoted in CDA publicity, but was probably somewhere between $100 and $150k - not huge by international standards and probably by itself hardly economical given the potential “tooling up” costs, but  the order was significant as the model 714 display terminals became the both the first standard CDC product line to be produced in Australia, and the first standalone CRT.  (The order was also small in the overall Taxation order which as well as the CDA component included another tender of $1,128,249 from Computer Manufacturers (Australia), Artarmon, Sydney for data preparation equipment).

The viability of a continuing manufacturing operation was further boosted by another announcement around the same time that the Victorian TAB had adopted the concept of a Dual RIOT and placed an order for 130 of the dual betting terminals to support its expansion of RIMFIRE to country centres.

In December, a further announcement of the official signing of a contract to computerise off-course betting in Queensland included a requirement for yet-to-be designed agency ticket issuing machines and telephone betting terminal had increased the backlog of orders on the Cheltenham plant to over $7 million for production runs continuing to late 1976 and early 1977.

In January, 1974 there were approximately 100 employees in manufacturing with the number increasing to meet commitments for VicTAB, New Zealand TAB, Queensland TAB and CRT 714 Display Terminals for the South Australia Education Department, C.S.A. (Computer Sciences Australia) and the Australian Taxation Office.

By September, with additional commitments from TABs in Victoria, New Zealand and Queensland, plus display terminals in Sydney and Canberra, it was announced that the value of outstanding orders at the Terminal Products plant at Cheltenham had risen to $10.6 million, and even with plans to double production over the next two years, the factory had guaranteed work through to 1978 even without new business being written.

Cheltenham was at this stage tooled up to produce six different models of terminal, a far cry from the single keyboard RIOTS of 1970.

The growth of the manufacturing operation was such that first time, Control Data Corporation became directly involved, with the newly arrived Bill Wright, general manager of the Australian manufacturing operation reporting directly to Tom Bassett, Vice-President of Terminal Systems within the Peripheral Products division in Minnesota.

Perhaps another mundane, but significant recognition of the growing importance of the Cheltenham facility was the formation late in the year of a branch of the Head Office Social Club, the inaugural secretary Lyn Elliott (assistant to manufacturing accountant, Mike Clugston, who also became Treasurer of the new branch) and aided by a committee of six.  The first function, apparently for locals only, was a dinner-dance at the Cheltenham Golf Club.

The accounting for manufacturing was originally imbedded into the Engineering Services accounting and according to Mike  was “pretty crude”, but when the US decided that maybe they should get involved after the Basset visit, things were reorganised and the accounting for the division was separated from Engineering and moved to Herald street.

Mike visited the US and then developed an accounting system that would enable better control of the division activities - a project costing system for the software development (usually a one-off effort for each type of terminal) and a standard costing system for the terminal production with established a theoretical cost per unit which was periodically adjusted to reflect “real-life” variations.

September, 1975 saw the backlog increased again with an additional order from NZ TAB adding a requirement for another 100 cash agency terminals and another 45 of different design for telephone betting.

Around this time, Between Ourselves suggested 50 people were working there “nearly half of them ladies on the assembly line” producing printed circuit cards along with general assembly, testing and manufacturing administration along with a four-man Quality Assurance team headed by Rod Young.

As an interesting aside, the factory and other outlets prior to the move to Herald Street used the same telephone number as 598 St. Kilda Road : 51-0351, but subsequently 03 95 9911, later 03 555 9911 when three-digit area codes became the norm.

Another odd thing you thought you didn’t need to know, but in line with our OzSportsHistory philosophy, will be glad you do now!  

There is no 555 area code in the U.S. And invariably every time you see or hear a telephone number quoted in an American movie or television program it will invariably be prefixed 555!)  Our example comes from an episode of ILaw and Orderm circa 2000, we dialled 555-8302 but nobody answered our call and our need cleaning of our swimming pool remains unfulfilled!

Tom Bassett, 1973

Charles Babbage Institute cbi00489

Bill Wright - who I think hailed from CDC’s Manufacturing Division in Canada - with a CDC acoustic terminal – can't remember the model number, but one in the Bryant's possession bobs up every two years at re-unions. The device was a rebadged Texas Instruments Silent-700 product. I had one (TI) which gave about five year's faithful service before Bad Burgler Bob removed it

Great little device, the only drawback was that they used heat-senstive thermal paper rool - somewhat expensive to maintain, especially if you plonked a hot cup of coffee on a program listing and converted 40 or 50 lines of COBOL into a black stain!

The terminals were used by CYBERNET sale force to demonstrate KRONOS time-sharing facilities.