The Control Data Corporation 160 Computer

by Douglas W. Jones
THE UNIVERSITY OF IOWA Department of Computer Science

The CDC 160 computer, introduced in 1960 was the first truly small computer to hit the market. This machine and the DEC PDP-1 may both fairly claim to be the first transistorized computers to come to market, but the DEC machine was hardly small; A PDP-1 filled approximately 3 EIA standard 19 inch relay racks, while the CDC-160 was packaged to look like a standard double-pedestal office desk.

The CDC 160 was sufficiently successful that CDC followed with the 160A and the 8092. The base configuration for a CDC 160A cost $110,000 (as remembered by George R. Gonzalez); this gave you the CPU, minimal memory, high-speed paper-tape reader, medium speed punch, and a flexowriter. An assembler and a 4K FORTRAN compiler were available, but not much else.

Photos of some of these machines are available.

While the CDC-160 computer is not widely studied, it was one of the most important predecessors of the DEC PDP-8 computer, and the latter is generally recognized as the most important small computer of the 1960's.

Programmer's Reference Material

A modern manual (under construction):

A Programmer's Reference Manual for the CDC-160

Material by others

From Gordon Bell's talk on Cray's computers

From George Michael's history of computing at Livermore