The CDC 6600 Computer

Speakers: Dik Leatherdale and John Fernbank
Date: 18th February 2010
Time: 14.30 Room open in advance (from 14.00) – meet up with society members.

Fellows Library of the Science Museum
Exhibition Road, London, SW7 2DD

About the seminar

The CDC 6600 was, at its launch in 1964, the fastest computer in the world, a position it maintained until replaced by the CDC 7600 in 1969. We will explore what made the 6600 tick by examining its architecture, order code and some of the peripherals. We will make comparisons with other machines including various ICL computers and, along the way we will encounter several machines which never existed. All this will be set in the context of brief history of Control Data – where did they come from, who were they, where did they go and what remains? In passing we will look at the effect the 6600 had on IBM, a saga which lasted almost two decades.

About the speakers

Dik Leatherdale hails from the Manchester Tendency of computing having started there as a Computer Science undergraduate in 1966. Two years later he joined London University’s commercial service bureau working on the Ferranti Atlas which was replaced in 1971 by a CDC 6500. Dik’s role was porting a suite of compilers to the new machine. Then 20 years in ICL as a roving Mr Fixit, latterly in systems development. In 2008 appointed as hon. editor of Resurrection, the Society´s journal.

John Fernbank was a salesman for CDC in the late 1970s, and earlier was the techie responsible for installing the CDC 6500 which kept Dik in employment in those long ago days. John undoubtedly knows more about the subject in hand than Dik, but has graciously volunteered to fill in the gaps and keep Dik on the straight and narrow. He still keeps his hand in by developing web applications for a market research company.


For a description of the CDC 6600 computer system, click here to see a comprehensive Wikipedia entry. For more about the designer and the history of the CDC6600 see the "Pioneer Profile for Seymour Cray" in Resurrection No 47.


Click to see a podcast of the event