CSIRO Computing History, Appendix 8: Locations

By September 26th, 2019

These pages attempt to give some of the history of CSIRO’s use of computing in its research, focussing mainly on the large shared systems and services.

Last updated: 5 Oct 2021.

Added photos of Bldg 401C, LET, Carlton.
Robert C. Bell


Appendix 7Computing History Home

This page provides outline information on the locations of major CSIRO computers and the supporting staff.
CSIR Mk 1 was located at the Division of Radiophysics at Sydney University from its start until it was moved to the University of Melbourne in 1955 and renamed CSIRAC in 1956.

In the early 1960s, Trevor Pearcey and E. A. Cornish from the CSIRO Division of Mathematics and Statistics prepared a proposal for the establishment of a C.S.I.R.O. computing network, to serve the scientific computing needs for CSIRO, government departments and universities.  The proposal was approved by CSIRO and the Commonwealth Government in 1962, and a grant of £3 million was made.

The C.S.I.R.O. Computing Research Section was formed in January 1963, with Godfrey Lance as the founding Chief.

Black Mountain

Plans were drawn up for a Computing Laboratory at Black Mountain.

The Computer Laboratory was officially opened on 17th September 1964 – see the October 1964 CoResearch at



This building became the headquarters of the Computing Research Section and later the Division of Computing Research and Csironet.  It was known as building 401A.


The building initially housed the Control Data Corporation 3600, the main computer of the network, with subsidiary CDC 3200 computers in Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney.


The building was extended in 1972 to allow for the installation of a CDC Cyber 70 Model 76.


Another building, 401B, was completed in 1976, and provided further office accommodation.

A third building, 401C, was competed in 1980 and provided space for the Fujitsu/Facom systems and the Calcomp/Braegan Automated Tape Library.  Here are extracts from the DCR 1980-81 Annual Report ( https://ap01-a.alma.exlibrisgroup.com/view/delivery/61CSIRO_INST/1279819770001981  )

At Trove are pictures of the interior of the machine room in 1983, pictures of the administrative building under construction in 1976, and much more.

Here are three pictures, taken in November 1980 soon after completion, of Building 401C.  The building bridged a small creek.

Here is a picture of the site from 1984.

Csironet Building, Black Mountain

The 1960s were notable for the development by CSIRO staff of a new operating system (DAD – Drums And Display) for the CDC 3600,  to support the use of the first on-line digital storage using a drum store, and text and graphical display terminals.  CSIRO pioneered the development of a distributed network of computers, which became Csironet.


In the late 1980s, Csironet was privatised and continued as the services company PAXUS, which retained use of the buildings at Black Mountain.


Rob Birtles provided a CSIRO Yammer posting (internal to CSIRO) on 25 November 2019, providing further history and photographs of the site, and noting that the building had been demolished.


1990-92: Cray Y-MP2/216 SN 1409 located at Leading Edge Technologies, 283 Normanby Road Port Melbourne with the Supercomputing Support Group staff located at the CSIRO Division of Information Technology, 55 Barry Street and then (from June 1991) 723 Swanston Street Carlton.  Here are pictures of the building in Port Melbourne, and 55 Barry Street.
1992-97: Cray Y-MP3/464 SN 1918 located in the Thomas Cherry building at the University of Melbourne with the Supercomputing Support Group staff located at the CSIRO Division of Information Technology 723 Swanston Street Carlton
1997-2004: NEC SX-4, SX-5s and Cray J90/916se: Bureau of Meteorology, 150 Lonsdale Street Melbourne. First floor Central Computing Facility (CCF).  HPCCC staff were on level 24 from September 2004.
2003-2015: NEC SX-6s, SGI Altixes, IBM BladeCentre and iDataplex at Bureau of Meteorology, 700 Collins St Docklands. Level 5 Central Computing Facility, Level 11 for the HPCCC staff from August 2004.
2005- staff in various CSIRO offices, e.g. Docklands, Clayton
2015 July – most staff vacated the Docklands site.
2015 November – last cherax and Data Store equipment decommissioned at Docklands, replaced by SGI UV3000 (ruby) in Canberra.
2015- tape equipment at Clayton.

Return to Canberra

c. 2011 – GPU cluster, pearcey cluster at Canberra Data Centre.
c. 2011 – Tape equipment at Black Mountain, building 401C.
Nov 2015 – SGI UV3000 at Canberra Data Centre
Nov 2015 – tape equipment for CSIRO SC Data Store at Black Mountain (building 401C, whcih housed the ATL in the 1980s).
Staff at Docklands (until 2015), and multiple CSIRO IM&T sites across most states.

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