Raytheon Computer Display Channnel (CDC)
The birth of Radar Data Processing (RDP)
Rick's Story With
The Computer Display Channel
As an Air Traffic Controller, did you ever wonder what black magic presented the data on that digital display. The CDC was located in the basement of the automation wing, a floor below the IBM 9020. The CDC acted as a peripheral device to the 9020 and was the system responsible for all the Buck Rogers Radar Data Processing technology.
By the mid-1970s, the FAA had achieved an ATC system based on a marriage of radar and computer technology. Data appearing directly on the controllers’ scopes provided the identity, altitude, and groundspeed of aircraft carrying radar beacons. The elder controllers fought the change to RDP tooth and nail and swore the project was doomed to failure.
Those that fought the system complained about being forced to act as computer operators, data input staff or just relegated to plain button pushers. After a few months, if we needed a PLANNED 4 hour shutdown for upgrades, those same individuals were the ones that screamed the loudest that they couldn't live without the system.
The system consisted of about 30 tan colored boxes with pages of 4000 Series Integrated Circuits (IC). The chips were actually pluggable into sockets arranged like pages of a book. There were tens of thousands of these chips inserted into a wire wrap backplane. The system was designed in the early 1960s and contained redundant Raytheon 760 processors.
I have a special attachment to this system and it's the primary reason that I retired as an Air Traffic Controller. I worked at five different ARTCCs as a Field Service Engineer for the Raytheon company. We were the follow up team after installation and responsible for the operation of the system and training of Airways Facilities (AF) for a six month period.
After the field work, I was drafted (went kicking and screaming) to a tour at the Technical Center as a "Hardware Engineer." As a contractor, we were treated like second class citizens and our computer time was always an afterthought. We were forced to exclusive mid shifts for time on the system. I did not like my time there and couldn't wait to break out.
The ZLC CDC System had an operational life of 26 years, twice its design life. I almost felt like a part of this system, coming and going with its service dates.
The functionality of the system was replaced by the Display System Replacement System in 1999 and the CDC was removed from the facility and scrapped (like me).
Computer Display Channel Box
AOS-300 recently gathered for a final farewell to some old friends, as the last of several Enroute Radar Display Systems were decommissioned at the Tech Center. The CDC system was operational for 30 years.
Another Computer Display Channel box
This digital Plan View Display (PVD) is a monochrome, 19 inch circular scope. It currently sits in a museum in Longmont, CO, home of the Denver ARTCC. This display could be used in a vertical (digital) or horizontal (analog - plastic shrim boats) mode.