Control Data founder dies

William Norris, founder of one-time mainframe giant Control Data and supercomputer pioneer, has died aged 95.

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Data centre

William Norris, founder of one-time mainframe giant Control Data and supercomputer pioneer, has died aged 95.

Control Data was once the fourth-largest data processing firm in the world and was worth $5bn in 1984. The firm built the first commercial supercomputer, the CDC 6600, in 1964, when it was 10 times faster than rival machines.

The firm’s progress stoked its rivalry with IBM – a battle that came to a head in 1968 when Norris sued IBM in an antitrust case. An out of court settlement five years later was seen as a victory for Norris.

Norris also set up Microelectronics and Computer Technology, a research collaboration bringing together a string of computer and semiconductor firms.

The computer pioneer was also known for a commitment to social projects that included setting up factories in run-down urban areas and farming schemes in Alaska. He also threw his weight behind PLATO, an early online teaching system developed with the University of Illinois.

Control Data failed to survive huge financial problems in the mid-1980s. Losses hit $400m in 1984 and the company declined until it was eventually split into two and sold off.


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