Columns
Residents' Association Image

Residents' Association

Secret council business
Read more >>

Business in Southbank Image

Business in Southbank

October in-room auction success
Read more >>

St Johns Southgate Image

St Johns Southgate

Vulnerability, conversation and meaning
Read more >>

Owners Corporation Law Image

Owners Corporation Law

Hats off to you, Premier, but remember, we’ll all be watching …
Read more >>

Metro Tunnel

Next phase underway at Anzac Station
Read more >>

Federal Politics Image

Federal Politics

Why Magnitsky Act is important for Australia
Read more >>

We Live Here Image

We Live Here

Proposed changes to the Owners’ Corporation Act
Read more >>

Southbanker Image

Southbanker

Watching work come to life
Read more >>

Port Places

Fishermans Bend: the first quarter 2019
Read more >>

Housing Image

Housing

We are leaving an intergenerational time bomb for our children
Read more >>

History Image

History

Computers come to Southbank
Read more >>

Safety and Security

Safety and Security Day
Read more >>

Southbank Sustainability Group Image

Southbank Sustainability Group

Waste and creative ways to reduce it
Read more >>

Health and Wellbeing Image

Health and Wellbeing

Toxic relationships continued …
Read more >>

Skypad Living Image

Skypad Living

Neighbourhood Watch for vertical villages
Read more >>

Pets Corner Image

Pets Corner

Keeping cool on the riverside
Read more >>

Southbank Fashion Image

Southbank Fashion

Spring racing in Southbank
Read more >>

Street Smarts Image

Street Smarts

Power Street – Southbank
Read more >>

Letters Image

Letters

City Rd death trap
Read more >>

History

06 Nov 2019

History Image

Computers come to Southbank

Most major office buildings in Melbourne in the post-war era were commissioned for banks, oil or insurance companies.

But a new trend emerged in the 1960s and 1970s with the arrival of large computer companies, which established offices and service bureaux along the stretch of St Kilda Rd between St Kilda Junction and the Shrine of Remembrance.

Typical was the arrival on St Kilda Rd of Control Data Australia (CDA) in 1965. Converted to apartments in the 1990s, the building is now Parklake Towers apartments. Computer companies were in the business of providing large-scale mainframe machines for government (such as the CSIRO), the banking industry, military and education – the days of the personal computer (PC) were far away.

But the biggest name in computing was IBM. In 1964, IBM released the System/360 – the computer that defined the modern computer industry. By 1970, this machine had become the dominant computer in Australia, with a design that provided a consistent architecture across a number of computers in their range – a radical approach at the time when computers produced by a single firm were generally incompatible with each other. It was hugely successful and installed by many large companies, replacing many labour-intensive operations, such as airline booking systems.

In this era IBM occupied many offices around the world, invariably prominent and stylish.

Melbourne’s turn came in 1974 when the world’s leading mainframe computer company leased a building on the corner of Sturt and Coventry streets in Southbank, on the site of a former knitting mill. Beneath its large IBM neon sign, it included facilities for a large mainframe, processing of data, display of hardware, hundreds of terminal lines, and education services. Special arrangements were necessary for electricity, air-conditioning and security (with specially treated glass), which became the norm for computer facilities in years to come. It also housed a special tenant on the fifth floor – ASIO, whose officers immediately appropriated all the best car spots!

Designed by the Melbourne husband and wife team of Josh and Mary Pila, the free-standing building was lauded for the large amounts of space and natural light provided on each of the 10 floors, together with its flexibility of layout. The load-bearing exterior walls eliminated the need for external columns and were finished in reconstructed granite or white quartz.

It not only housed computer operations but looked like part of the process with a multi-window façade designed to resemble punch-cards used then in computer processing. IBM relocated to City Rd, Southbank in 1993 - like other corporate buildings, 221 Sturt St was converted to apartments and named Southside Towers.

Robin Grow

President - Australian Art Deco and Modernism Society

Stay in touch with Southbank. Subscribe to FREE monthly e-Newspaper.

You must be registered with Southbank Local News to be able to post comments.
To register, please click here.