Computer Center Corporation (Seattle)

Saved Wikipedia (2020, Oct 22) - "Computer Center Corporation"


This small Washington state company offered time-sharing on a PDP-10. Its customers included Bill Gates and Paul Allen.[1]

Nicknamed C-Cubed, this company was founded in 1968 and closed in 1970.[2][3]


Two other companies, both based in New Jersey, used similar names.


1967/1968 - Were Thomas and Monique Rona the "brains" behind Computer Center Corp? Did Thomas Rona help finance the company?

See The New Face of War: How War Will Be Fought in the 21st Century Paperback – October 26, 2007

By Bruce D. Berkowitz


[...] Tom and Monique began moving farther and farther west to escape the chaos and constraints of the Old World—first to Montreal, then to a junior faculty position for Tom at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. By that time he and Monique had three sons and a daughter. An assistant professor at MIT earned an annual salary of $2,400, so money was tight. Tom heard about an opening for a staff scientist at Boeing. He and Monique flipped a coin. Boeing won, and they piled the four kids in the car and began the drive to Seattle. Tom reported to work, and Monique got a job at the University of Washington.

It’s hard to tell if Rona ever actually used his engineering degree at Boeing, at least in the sense that he never designed a bomber or missile. Officially he was a senior scientist. Defense contractors like Boeing charge the government an extra fee beyond the basic materials and labor it takes to build a B-52 or an air-launched cruise missile. This money goes into an account for preparing bids and proposals (B&P, in defense contractor jargon), which Boeing used to pay for most of Rona’s salary.

The idea was that Rona would develop new ideas for using military hardware—hopefully, new Boeing hardware. In any case, Rona effectively had a license to look at any technology or topic that seemed interesting and was a potential market for Boeing. It was almost as good as being a professor at a major university, if not better.

People were still trying to assimilate the lessons of World War II when Rona arrived at Boeing. The war was just ten years past, and everyone was still trying to figure out the legacy of what Winston Churchill called the “wizard war”—the contest of electronic weapons and countermeasures.

The British had learned the hard way just how complex this game could be. Electronic warfare had become a critical factor in World War II during the Battle of Britain. In 1940 émigrés who had escaped the Continent told British intelligence that the Germans had developed some kind of “beam” weapon. At first the Brits thought this might be a ray gun that could shoot down aircraft by electronically frying their ignition systems; the refugees had talked about the Germans’ testing a “beam weapon that stopped cars.”


In the 1960s a new technology began to drive the Seattle economy: computers. Up to then, computers were scarce and expensive, and could only run one program at a time. Then in 1957 a young mathematics graduate student named John McCarthy proposed a revolutionary idea: time-sharing, or having a single computer run several programs simultaneously. This completely changed the computer business and, by extension, Seattle.

McCarthy, who was visiting MIT on a fellowship at the time, observed that the slowest part of a computer system is always the person operating it. We work at human speed; the computer works at electronic speed. The computer requires just milliseconds to run a typical calculation. McCarthy, later a distinguished professor in computer science at Stanford, realized that if you can collect computer jobs from many users, the computer can electronically rack-and-stack the jobs as they arrive, perform the operations as capacity becomes available, and thus run more or less continuously. 3

A Teletype—a typewriter that transmits a different electronic signal for each character in the alphabet—made it possible to do all this from miles away. The basic idea for the Teletype had been kicking around since 1909, but it was not until 1931 that the Bell System had introduced it into computers.

It did not take long for some early entrepreneurs to put all the pieces together and see a business opportunity. One could buy a computer, hook users into it with Teletypes, and sell portions of the computer’s capacity to companies that couldn’t afford to buy their own.

Time-sharing became popular at universities, which typically had two or three large computers located somewhere on campus, and tens of thousands of faculty and students who wanted to use them. So it was little wonder that many of the people who tried to get into the timesharing business were college staff, like Monique Rona.

By then Monique had expanded her repertoire from oceanography to computer science. Soon she found herself running the university’s computer center. Tom helped with the financing and Monique got together with some university colleagues to buy a Digital PDP-10. They set up the Computer Center Corporation—C-Cubed, for short—in an office near the campus. Monique put a Teletype on the kitchen table, and they were in business.


Boeing published Rona’s monograph in the summer of 1976 as a “think piece” for company staff and customers. Tom Rona was the first person to use the term “information war” in print. Considering that the Internet was still thirteen years away and a “home computer” was something you built from a box of components with a screwdriver and a soldering gun, it was not a bad piece of prognostication.

1968 (August 14)

Full newspaper page : [HN01AV][GDrive]


1969 (March 24)

Full newspaper page : [HN01BB][GDrive]

1969 (May 25)

Full newspaper page : [HN01B9][GDrive]

Note : Kenneth Joseph Bush :

1969 (May) - Monique Rona is director of Applications Programming at C3

PDF of Datamation, May 1969 : [HP003Z][GDrive]

do with computers,” Allen said. “It was a vast

area of knowledge we were trying to absorb. . . . Bill and I always had big

dreams of what we could do with computers.” While Allen liked to read

magazines like Popular Electronics, Gates read the business magazines that

came into his family’s home. As a prelude to doing business in the “real world,”

Gates and Allen formed the Lakeside Programmers Group, along with two of

their friends, Richard Weiland and Kent Evans. Weiland and Allen were in the

tenth grade, while Gates and Evans were in the eighth grade. The Lakeside

Programmers Group was dedicated to finding money-making opportunities to

use The Machine in the real world.

“I was the mover,” Gates said. “I was the guy who said, ‘Let’s call the real

world and try to sell something to it.’ ”

As it turned out, the real world called them first. And what a deal it was—all

the free computer time they wanted.

Founded by four University of Washington computer experts in the fall of

1968 with the backing of several Seattle investors, Computer Center

Corporation was a private Seattle firm offering the largest concentration of

timesharing computer power on the West Coast. The company (which Gates

referred to as “C-Cubed”) had leased several computers from Digital Equipment

Corporation, including a PDP-10 like the one Gates and the other Lakeside

students used.

Computer Center Corporation attempted to sell its timesharing services to

scientific and engineering businesses in the region—or any other customer in

need of computer power at an affordable price.

One of the firm’s founders and chief scientific programmer, Monique Rona,

had a son in the eighth grade at Lakeside—the same grade as Gates. She knew

about the school’s teletype machine and its deal with General Electric for

computer time. A representative from her company contacted Lakeside to

inquire whether the school would be interested in making a similar arrangement

with Computer Center Corporation. The students would have an even greater

opportunity to learn about computers, the representative argued.

Lakeside concurred, and once again asked parents to help pay for the

computer time used by their sons.

Gates and some of the other boys soon discovered all kinds of “neat” programs hidden in the C-Cubed PDP-10 software— programs they had not encountered with the General Electric computer. One trick the boys learned was something called “detach and leave job running.” This meant that even though they were logged off the system, the machine was still working on their program . . . and keeping a record of the computing time used. Computer bills soon ran into the hundreds of dollars.

“These kids were very hungry for time,” recalled Dick Wilkinson, one of the

partners who organized Computer Center Corporation. “Every time we would

get a new version of software, they would go poking around in the system, and

we would have to forgive some bills because they would be running programs

they were not supposed to. They found chess on the system, when they should

not have. So they would play a half game of chess, and then leave the Lakeside

terminal and go off to class or something. They didn’t understand they were

using computer time like it was going out of style.”

The electronic mischief eventually got out of hand. Gates and a couple other

boys broke the PDP-10 security system and obtained access to the company’s

accounting files. They found their personal accounts and substantially reduced

the amount of the time the computer showed they had used. They were quite

proud of this ingenious accomplishment—until they got caught.

Wilkinson drove out to Lakeside for a talk with Fred Wright, the math

teacher in charge of the school’s computer project. Like naughty boys, Gates

and the others were marched into the principal’s office.

Paul Allen version of Bill Gates / Paul Allen intro to C cubed :


  1. No mention of Monique Rona at all, anywhere in the book ... he should have known... big detail to omit !!!

  2. Makes case that they (paul allen and bill gates) are very very smart


Within a month [in September 1968], we’d run through the Mothers Club’s budget for computer time for the year, so they allocated a little bit more. In early November, as computer blackjack began to pall, I got news from Harvey. A time- sharing company had opened in Seattle’s University District. It needed people for acceptance testing of its new- model leased computer, a Digital Equipment Corporation PDP- 10.

The next night I asked my father to take me to the Computer Center Corporation, a ten-minute drive from our home. I peered through the plate glass, into a room that never went dark, at the mysterious puppy in the window: a black mainframe with cabinet after cabinet and panels of blinking lights. The CPU alone was about five feet wide. It was the first time that I’d seen an actual computer in the flesh, and it seemed not quite real that such a thing could exist just forty blocks from where I lived. All I wanted to do at that moment was log on, connect, and have at it.

Today’s average laptop is thirty thousand times faster than the machine I was lusting after, with ten thousand times more memory. But in its day, the PDP- 10 was the most advanced species of an evolutionary alternative to the batch- processing establishment. Founded by Ken Olsen and Harlan Anderson, DEC made its first splash in 1960 with the PDP- 1, the first truly interactive, “conversational” computer. Less than a decade later, the PDP- 10 became the mainstay for the Defense Department’s ARPANET (the original Internet) and a time- sharing workhorse. It ran faster than GE’s system at Lakeside and had a broader software repertoire, including FORTRAN and other languages, plus a rich array of online utilities.

Fortunately for me and my fellow Lakesiders, this wonderful hardware all relied on a new operating system, TOPS- 10, that was apt to crash whenever it served too many users at a time. Computer Center Corporation (which we’d call C- Cubed) had taken delivery of its leased PDP- 10 in October 1968, with a plan to start selling time in the New Year. In the meantime, their TOPS- 10 needed to be debugged before the paying customers arrived. As an added incentive for C- Cubed, its lease payments would be deferred until the software functioned reliably. The company needed somebody to push the system to its limit, which was where we came in.

One C- Cubed partner was a Lakeside mother who’d heard about our little tech fraternity. A few days after my sneak preview, Fred Wright ushered us into the building to make introductions. A resident guru laid out the deal: We could have unlimited free time on their terminals, off-hours, as long as we abided by their ground rules. “You can try to crash the computer,” he said, “but if it crashes from something you do, you’ve got to tell us what you did. And you can’t do it again until we tell you to try.”

The following Saturday, we met in the C- Cubed terminal

The Gary Kildall version :

see Gary Arlen Kildall (born 1942) / Gary Kildall's book "Computer Connections" (1994)


  1. Ridiculous scenario that company found Gates and Allen

  2. This narrative sort of paints Gates and Allen as capable, but that they were being used as tools

  3. Kildall definitely claiming turf - that the computer center was HIS friends

The Computer Center Corporation

I mention the Computer Center Corporation, or C-cubed, as it was called, because it predicated an interesting series of events involving Bill Gates, Paul Allen, and myself.

Dick Hamlet, Monique Rona, Carl Young, director of the UW Computer Center, and my undergraduate professor David Dekker started C-cubed. It was one of the first timesharing computer companies in Seattle and used Digital Equipment Corporation's DEC PDP-I Os. C-cubed, located near the UW, was in business for only a short time and folded.

C-cubed depicted the mentality of the late sixties. No one wanted to manage punched cards, nor did they wish to wait at the operator's door in favor of a sampling of program output. Instead, timesharing became the watchword. Remote access to the B5500 sparked Dick, Monique, and David's interest in creating the Ccubed business.

There were two kids from Lakeview High School who broke into Dick's DEC PDP-IOs and stole passwords. This way, they could hook up to Dick's computers from a remote teletype and use it for free. The two kids were Gates and Allen.

[ OK - What are the odds that one of the company's FOUNDERS just happen to be a classmate and a computer-club-mate of Bill Gates / Paul Allen, who were the two kids who "hacked" the passwords? Remember .. they had only been using computers for a few weeks !!!!]

Don't vilify Gates and Allen for this activity. Breaking in was not that hard. It was like stealing candy from the comer computer store. And, it was theft of the very basic sort.

Dick was one of the best systems programmers I had ever run across, and it didn't take him long to discover the theft of time on his machines. He found the culprits and cleverly allowed Gates and Allen access to C-cubed, so that he could recode and test the operating system to help prevent illegal access.

Dick explained how Gates and Allen did it. It's fairly simple. They "logged-in" to his DEC PDP-10 system from a remote location using a valid account and password. A sample limited account was given to Lakeview students by C-cubed, mostly through Monique's interest in the school. Well, the DEC PDP- I 0 used virtual memory that swapped RAM to disk. This left data in memory pages that were given to other programs. Dick's machine wasn't heavily used, so most of memory had operating system data structures like passwords, still lying around in memory. Gates and Allen just dumped "pages" of reassigned memory to their computer terminal and watched for things that looked like passwords. Once they found a few. they simply used them at no cost to themselves. The reason that I consider this theft is that I, even being a very good friend of both Dick and Monique, could not afford to pay C-cubed timesharing charges, although, I sincerely wished to do so.

Dick found the Gates and Allen scam when a customer complained about a bill for services when, in fact, no services were rendered. He fixed it by zeroing memory pages when they were swapped out and released. That took extra computer time but stopped the banditos.

I was attending the UW then. I noticed a couple of kids programming at C-cubed one day. They were Gates and Allen. I ran into them then, and again several years later.

Stephen Russell version

  1. It was al Monique Rona who found the kids

  2. Doesnt speak super highly of the kids.. more or less of a cute story


Kossow: All these vertically stacked platters.

Russell: Yeah. That was not as reliable as was desirable. But the main struggle was we just didn't get enough business. And so eventually they went out of business. And at that point, I guess I had annoyed DEC sufficiently that they thought maybe I would be useful in marketing. And so I started working for Digital.

Kossow: There's the one little story that you had a couple of testers up in Seattle.

Russell: Oh yes, yes. We did have a testing program. Was it TOPS-10 by then? I'm not sure. At any rate, the multi-user operating system for the PDP-10 was not a paragon of reliability. In fact, it started out with a pretty dismal mean time to failure. And so we had a couple of people working on basically fixing, full-time, fixing bugs in the operating system. And there was no real lack of bugs to fix. Monique Rona had— was one of the principles, and her son was going to Lakeside School. And so she arranged that we could— we give some time to the Lakeside School who had got a teletype. And we also had built a training room which had six or eight terminal teletypes in it. And what we would do is on Saturdays especially, we'd open that up to the Lakeside students to come in and load test the computer. We wanted lots of people. And the rules were, you can do anything you want, you can try to break the system if you want. But if you do manage to break the system, you've got to tell us what you did and don't do it again until we tell you. And this was quite fruitful. We collected heavy load bugs this way. And two of the students were Paul Allen and Bill Gates. And they had to be admonished several times about the “don't do it again until we tell you” part of the rules. But they certainly had a great deal of fun and they evidently learned quite a bit.

Kossow: You remember anything in particular that they did?

Russell: No. They asked lots of questions. And one of the things that we would do at Saturdays was, Dick Gruen or I or somebody would be in the terminal room, or periodically stick our nose in the terminal room, make sure that the pandemonium was under control, and answer questions."


monique Rona version (from that book )

See Monique R Rona (born 1929)

  1. Yea Bill gates and paul allen were smart, but Monique was totally in control

By then Monique had expanded her repertoire from oceanography to computer science. Soon she found herself running the university’s computer center. Tom helped with the financing and Monique got together with some university colleagues to buy a Digital PDP-10. They set up the Computer Center Corporation—C-Cubed, for short—in an office near the campus. Monique put a Teletype on the kitchen table, and they were in business.

The PDP-10 had just hit the market. Being a new machine, it was prone to electronic burps and hangfires. The C-Cubed partners thought they might cut a deal where Digital would give them a discount on the computer if they worked out the bugs.

As it happened, one of the Rona boys attended the Lakeside School, a local private academy, and had heard of some classmates who liked to work with computers. Some of the Lakeside moms had bought their kids a Teletype and a few thousand dollars of computer time from local companies with money raised from a rummage sale. The moms hoped their kids might learn a few computer skills writing programs to play ticktacktoe and the like.

[Several THOUSAND dollars in 1960s is a lot of money]

The kids had other ideas. They began playing with the Teletype day and night, taking apart programs and writing some of their own. In no time they burned through the computer time their mothers had bought them and had to look for some new benefactors, just when Monique was looking for some eager minds to test her PDP-10. The boys cut a deal with C-Cubed: the boys would look for bugs in the PDP-10, and C-Cubed would give them some time on its computer.

Two of the kids, Bill Gates and Paul Allen, seemed to have a knack for computers. When the machine crashed, they would fetch the “core dump” from the trash and search through the machine language line by line to find the bug. They wangled operating manuals from the staff. Eventually the “Lakeside Programmers Group” came to know the insides of the PDP-10 about as well as C-Cubed did. So, when they ran out of their allotted time on the machine, they naturally took the simple expedient of fiddling with the computer’s operating system to set back the clocks. Bill, Paul, and their Lakeside buddies Ric Weiland and Kent Evans were four of the earliest computer hackers. 4

Alas, the market for computer time-sharing never worked out as well as Monique had hoped, and C-Cubed eventually went broke, another case of roadkill on the path to IT riches. Gates and Allen went on to other ventures. One was a new company, “Micro-Soft,” which they incorporated in April 1975 to sell programs for the Altair 8800, the first personal computer.