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How Much was a CDC 1604 in the 60's?

Cliff posted more than 10 years ago | from the costs-of-computers-in-the-past dept.

The Almighty Buck 41

An Oxymoran asks: "Greetings Slashdot. A colleague, that is sadly preparing an obituary for a late, great scientist, recently posed the following question: How much did a Control Data Corporation (CDC; Cray predecessor) 1604 cost in the late 60's? Apparently the 1604's controller computer, the 160, cost ~$100K. However, I have failed to turn up a price for the 1604. I would be highly appreciative of any estimates of 1604 prices from the 60's that the collective Slashdot genius can unearth. Thank you."

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Yes.... (2, Informative)

krymsin01 (700838) | more than 10 years ago | (#8734594)

One Miiiiiillion dollars!

Re:Yes.... (2, Funny)

Compuser (14899) | more than 10 years ago | (#8734751)

Judging by the other comments in this thread, the parent should be modded "Informative".

alot! (-1, Redundant)

pizza_milkshake (580452) | more than 10 years ago | (#8734631)

one hundred billion trillion quadrillion pentillion sextillion septillion octillion dollars! muhahahahah.

aw shit.

It was $750,000 (4, Informative)

christopherfinke (608750) | more than 10 years ago | (#8734639)

This list [] (Google cache) has it at $750,000 in 1961.

hail to the google king (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8734644)

he has found what others couldn't.

Re:It was $750,000 (5, Interesting)

GoRK (10018) | more than 10 years ago | (#8734709)

Incedentally, various inflation calculators put $750,000 1961 dollars at a little under or over $4.5MM of today's money.

A few references (2, Interesting)

toastyman (23954) | more than 10 years ago | (#8734679)

This [] claims it's $10m, but it sounds a bit... boasty..

This [] quotes $34,000/mo.

Maybe a post to comp.sys.cdc will get you some answers?

[OT] Tagline (0, Offtopic)

LitigiousBastards (758159) | more than 10 years ago | (#8734904)

My job involves looking at naked chicks all day. Why doesn't yours?
I'm too close for that.

Do I hear 1.2 million? (2, Interesting)

azuroff (318072) | more than 10 years ago | (#8734686)

this list [] has it at $1,229,575, or $34,000/month rental.

$1.2 million (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8734688)

$1.2 million.

Please learn to use Google: '"cdc 1604" cost'

Don't forget. (1)

r00k123 (588214) | more than 10 years ago | (#8734700)

Make sure you adjust the number you do arrive upon for inflation.

that brings up another question (3, Interesting)

xutopia (469129) | more than 10 years ago | (#8734707)

how powerful was it compared to today's desktops?

Obligatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8734734)

Faster than my XP Box, I am sure....

Re:that brings up another question (2, Funny)

Bob Cat - NYMPHS (313647) | more than 10 years ago | (#8736001)

It was around 1/1,000,000 as 'powerful', using various metrics.

About 36 years since the late 60's, that's 24 'Moore's Law' periods (18 mos.), 2^24 == 16M, and you're running windows, so we divide by 16 to get one million.

Re:that brings up another question (1)

Cmdr TECO (579177) | more than 10 years ago | (#8736892)

Today's typical desktop is half-inch particle board, so I'd guess a CDC 1604 would be maybe 3 to 8 times as powerful. What did you want to do^H^H pile on it?

I found an old TV transcript that should help... (4, Funny)

Texas Rose on Lava L (712928) | more than 10 years ago | (#8734911)

Don't pay ten million dollars or more for a computer from IBM when...

The CDC 1604 can be yours for five easy payments of just $299,999! Just call the number on your screen!


If you order the revolutionary new CDC 1604 within the next seven minutes, we'll knock one full payment off the purchase price! That's right, this revolutionary new computing technology can be yours for just four easy payments of just $299,999! Call now, operators are standing by!

Re:I found an old TV transcript that should help.. (2, Funny)

blankmange (571591) | more than 10 years ago | (#8735548)

but you forgot:


Just look at these people who bought one - don't you want to be like them?

Re:I found an old TV transcript that should help.. (1)

darc (532156) | more than 10 years ago | (#8747684)

You forgot the most important one,

CALL WITHIN THE NEXT FIVE MINUTES AND GET A SECOND Cray Supercomputer ABSOLUTELY free... BUT wait, there's more. You also get a Sun Ultra 5 workstation. Regardless of whether you decide to keep the Cray Supercomputer, the Ultra 5 is yours to keep as a complementary gift.

CDC Cyber (5, Interesting)

sakusha (441986) | more than 10 years ago | (#8734950)

Well now I feel really old. The first mainframe I ever got an account on was a descendant of the 1604, an early CDC Cyber. Our university's system operators were so proud that they'd rescued this monster CPU from a scrap heap at another university. They got it for free, it was so old and underpowered by the mid 1970s that nobody wanted it, even though it was perfectly usable and in working condition. So they fired it up and gave out free timeshare accounts to students. It made sense to them, it cost nothing to set up and very little to maintain, it ran BASIC and FORTRAN, so they let the students use it freely. In those days, a student account on our IBM 360s was hideously expensive, you got something like $50 worth of CPU cycles, when I finally was permitted to use the 360 (CS class students only) I burned through those $50 of play money in 2 weeks, I offered to pay $50 cash for more CPU time but they wouldn't do it. So I went back to the Cyber.

Re:CDC Cyber (1)

rot26 (240034) | more than 10 years ago | (#8735840)

Same thing happened at my school, although we didn't get timeshare accounts... we had to run everything batch with punch cards. (Which we had to pay for ourselves.) Thank god for the card sorter (also donated) since it wasn't that uncommon for somebody to grab your case of cards and play 1000-card-pickup with 'em.

Re:CDC Cyber (1)

bugnuts (94678) | more than 10 years ago | (#8738588)


When I was in school, we used clay tablets for cards. We had to use a cuneiform stylus, and if we ever messed up, the instructor would show us the meaning of "punch" card. And we didn't have a card sorter; we'd wake up before we went to sleep to sort cards for the NSA, and if we ever got one out of order, they'd dequeue all our batch jobs!

Re:CDC Cyber (1)

mad.frog (525085) | more than 10 years ago | (#8747821)

"We used to code in zeroes and ones, and sometimes we didn't even have ones. I once had to write an entire database using only zeroes."

"You had zeroes? You were lucky. We had to make do with the letter 'o'..."

Re:CDC Cyber (1)

Endive4Ever (742304) | more than 10 years ago | (#8737312)

I used to hang around the unattended Batch Terminal (big thing where you could submit card decks) because one of the first cards in a job deck was the 'account' card. So when the card reader inevitable jammed, there would be crumpled up 'account' cards, complete with password.

If you knew how to read the holes on said 'account' card you could make a replacement card with someone else's account number on it, to run, say, your big compute-intensive job and use up their time.

Re:CDC Cyber (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8743971)

humph. I threw out the CDC160A Manuals from the first computer I programmed a couple of years ago.

Remember the SDS930? Oh Yeah CDC bought SDS. Goodbye Sigma5. Adios SDS.
CDC had a remarkable record of purchasing performance leaders and destroying them. (cits left to the Stud.)

Fun machines. At the time RT fortranII was ace in my book.


The full CDC 6600 was $4,500,000. (3, Informative)

Futurepower(R) (558542) | more than 10 years ago | (#8735488)

I remember the CDC 6600 as being $4,500,000 when it was newly introduced. So, the $1 million listed is only for the CPU module. An actual system required maybe 22 "peripheral processors" to handle IO and printing. Then there were hard drives, tape drives, the main console, and card readers.

The CDC 6600 had a 60-bit word. Memory amounts were expressed in octal. Memory was extremely expensive. If the 6600 had 100,000 octal bytes of memory your organization was rich.

Call Cray (1)

Isao (153092) | more than 10 years ago | (#8735597)

I suggest calling Cray [] Public Relations. If you explain your request, I'm sure they can find Steve Chen or someone who worked with him. Their corporate number is on their website.

Good luck.

Re:Call Cray (1)

sam_van (602963) | more than 10 years ago | (#8739293)

Just an FYI, Steve Chen ditched Cray in 1987 to start SSI (Supercomputer Systems Inc...not the game company). When I worked at Cray for a summer in 1997, some of the Cray folks were still peeved about it. As far as Cray goes, they are pretty helpful when you contact them. I spent a half hour on the phone with a marketing person there for a project I was researching and got plenty of info.

Re: How Much was a CDC 1604 in the 60's? (1)

manavendra (688020) | more than 10 years ago | (#8735787)

From MS Research [] (of all the places) :-) :

CDC never seriously marketed the computer as a minicomputer, but a few were sold at a price of over 100,000. Most importantly was that it influenced others to build small computers. Recall that the first computer designs were for word lengths of 40 bits. IBM and Univac were building 36 -bit computers

But hey, if you are an antique collector, you can get framed CDC Console Disk Controller at here [] [NewBegin] (with pictures)

Re: How Much was a CDC 1604 in the 60's? (1)

kent, knower of all (47897) | more than 10 years ago | (#8736392)

I wonder how CDC would have fared had the chosen a 72-bit word instead of 60? (Allowing both 6 and 8 bit characters to evenly fill a word.)

If you need to ask... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8736122) can't afford it. Well, that's what they told me when I went to buy a Honda Civic.

Pre-announcement for NetBSD for CDC1604 (2, Funny)

thomasdz (178114) | more than 10 years ago | (#8736956)

This slashdot thread has reminded me of the good old days of hacking on the CDC 1604. So I took the current release of NetBSD for the VAX and hacked it up to run on the CDC 1604
I then compiled Apache, loaded up some web pages that I copied off the Internet, and put up a site. You can see it at

Moderate this "-1 April" hahahahaha

Re:Pre-announcement for NetBSD for CDC1604 (1)

menacing_cheese (687890) | more than 10 years ago | (#8740462)

How about "-1 Dork"?

Re:Pre-announcement for NetBSD for CDC1604 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8762503)

It looks like he's getting +1 funny instead.

Cray predecessor??? (1)

Endive4Ever (742304) | more than 10 years ago | (#8737246)

CDC isn't a 'Cray Predecessor' any more than Palm is a 'Handspring Predecessor.' Control Data existed before and after Seymour Cray left to form his own company.

A little more accuracy is warranted on a site purported to be technically alert.

Re:Cray predecessor??? (1)

cpu_fusion (705735) | more than 10 years ago | (#8775625)

I'd also add that Control Data split into Ceridian [] and Control Data Systems around 1992. Control Data Systems continued with a systems integration focus and support for the CDC hw legacy. Ceridian took the business of payroll processing.

Control Data Systems was later bought by British Telecom and became (part of?) Syntegra [] .

Read more about it here. []

Off Topic (1)

zentu (584197) | more than 10 years ago | (#8741650)

Well, I would ask my dad, he worked there off and on for quite a while. In fact he was one of the last 4 (it was around that) when the company went under. He then left and went on to work at Dodge in there maintenence division.

Note: not the entire company was bought, infact they went from Control Data Corporation to Control Data Systems. They even did some of the wiring for Target stores across the state of Michigan (but not for there own computer systems)

Re:Off Topic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8745865)'s their....both times...

CDC Cyber 730D price (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8743652)

My company bought a CDC Cyber 730D in 1982 for US$ 1 million. Config:
- dual 60 bits CPU
- 10 peripheral processor (PP)
- 2 MB of memory
- 2 x 330 MB disks
- 2 x 6250 DPI tape drives
- one console (vector graphics, (not raster)anyone remember what this means?)
- one 600 LPM printer
- one network device with 40 async RS232 ports
- Network Operating System (NOS) (no virtual memory, multiuser, multitask), FORTRAN, COBOL, PASCAL compilers. Pascal compiler written by Niklaus Wirth (yes, himself).

Very fast on math, slow on almost everything else. About the speed of a Pentium 100 MHz.

Replaced in 1988 by a CDC Cray 830 with 16 MB memory, more disks, 20 PPs, NOS and NOS/VE (virtual memory) for another $1 million. Retired in 1995, replaced by SGI/SUN workstations.

Re:CDC Cyber 730D price (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8745032)

My company bought a CDC Cyber 730D in 1982 for US$ 1 million

That seems pretty high for 1982.

The IBM PC was introduced in 1981

Re:CDC Cyber 730D price (1)

Oculus Habent (562837) | more than 10 years ago | (#8751337)

vector graphics are those made out of lines, not pixels. The difference is commonly referenced in a comparison of "drawing" programs, where the shapes are editable, and "painting" programs, where everything is a pixel.

You want the CDC 6600, I think, (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 10 years ago | (#8765842)

The CDC 1604 was a low-end machine. The "predecessor to the Cray" was the CDC 6600, Seymour Cray's design and the first real supercomputer.

The CDC 6600 had all the modern supercomputer stuff. It was a superscalar RISC machine, with lots of registers and instruction-level parallelism. This in the 1960s.

I/O was shoved off to ten "peripheral processors", which were really one CPU with hardware multiprogramming emulating ten slower machines. The I/O processors handled all the peripherals. The I/O processors could request a context switch of the big CPU, and thus the peripheral processors managed the main CPU.

Freon-cooled, huge, and costing millions of dollars, the CDC 6600 was one of the big engines of scientific computing in the late 1960s. CDC had commercial data centers where you could buy CPU time.

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