CSIRO Computing History, Chapter 4

By August 12th, 2019

Last updated: 06 Sep 2019.
Robert C. Bell
Status: outline only

Chapter 4. Csironet – privatisation and decline to death: growth of local computing


Privatisation: PAXUS, etc

The computing service and its associated developmental activities were placed into a separate agency known as CSIRONET, effective from 1 January 1985.  Research activities not directly related to the computing service formed part of a new CSIRO Division of Information Technology. (From the 1984-85 CSIRONET annual report).


From then, CSIRO set in train a process to privatise Csironet. The first half was sold in about 1986, and in response to a letter of mine published in CoResearch, the CSIRO CEO said that CSIRO would not sell any more, and would retain control. However, within about a year, CSIRO sold the remainder, while keeping the Cyber 205 and its services separately.

See the CSIRONET 1985 film (Cyber 205, Braegan automated tape library, etc) here https://www.scienceimage.csiro.au/video/12259/csironet-1985-/

I was irked on a visit to the Information Technology Services Branch in around 1988 to find that CSIRO had negotiated prices for services on the Csironet systems, with a discount of 50% for administrative processing, and only about 25% for science processing!

  • Advanced Computing Support Group

An Advanced Computing Support Group was set up, separate from Csironet, to provide support for the Cyber 205 users, headed by Peter Price, and including Roger Brown, John Mooney and one other.

The Cyber 205 had a novel memory-to-memory vector architecture.  Programmers could call vector instructions directly.  Here’s some sample code, implementing

      C(1:N) = ADUM * A(1:N) + B(1:N) before that Fortran 90 syntax was available.


      Assign da, a(1;n)

      Assign db, b(1;n)

      Assign dc, c(1;n)

      alocal = adum

         CALL Q8LINKV (X'08')

         CALL Q8MPYSV (X'90',, alocal,, DA,, DC)

         CALL Q8ADDNV (X'80',, DB,, DC,, DC)

One Division’s use of computers from the 1970s to the 1990s can be seen at Garratt 1998, p128.




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