Computers: Tackling IBM

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Four years ago, Minneapolis-based Control Data Corp. brought out its model 6600 computer, the largest machine of its type in the world. Pride soon turned to problems as debugging took longer than expected, and the company began losing money. To make matters worse, Thomas Watson's IBM an nounced that it would bring out its own supercomputer, the 360/91. As a result, many potential purchasers held off buying the multimillion-dollar 6600 machine, and Control Data lost as many as 50 sales. When IBM was slow in producing the 360/91, and then turned out only a few before discontinuing it, Control Data's crusty chairman, William C. Norris, felt that he had been had. "IBM has been out to get us," he said.

Two weeks ago, Norris introduced a still more capacious computer, the 7600, billed once more as the world's biggest. It is a 10 ft. by 10 ft. fortress. Beneath the glass and walnut exterior are 1.8 mil lion transistors, 2.2 million resistors, about 30,000 male and 30,000 female connectors and millions of other parts. The machine works five times as swift ly as the older 6600 and sells for up to $15 million; Control Data already has five sales orders from U.S. Government agencies. Not surprisingly, the company did not want to run the risk that IBM might again try some oneupmanship. So Control Data last week accused IBM of monopolistic practices and asked the Government to enforce antitrust laws or, as a last resort, to dissolve the company. IBM accounts for almost three-quarters of the sales in one of the nation's fastest-growing major industries.

Coercing, Exploiting. In a civil antitrust suit filed at the U.S. District Court in St. Paul, Control Data said that IBM's "manipulations" had caused it "substantial and irreparable" losses and demanded treble damages. The complaint charges IBM with 37 violations of the Sherman Act, accuses the company of "coercing," "interfering," "intimidating" and "exploiting." Among other things, Control Data asserts that IBM sold or leased some models at a loss to hinder competition, that it interfered in its customers' negotiations with competitors, and that it was guilty of "misrepresenting the status and performance" of its own prematurely announced models—a clear reference to the 360/91.

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