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Control Data Founder William Norris Passes Away at 95

Seems like so many heroes in our society are given that title without having earned it. Being an athlete, rock star, politician, CEO, etc and having a huge paycheck or high net worth does not make you more of a person. It makes you rich but you can still be poor.

   

We lost a good man yesterday. Yes he started Control Data that helped many new companies get started but it is the social impact this man made that matters most.

   

Both local papers have good biographies on William Norris, A computer pioneer, a social visionary and Computer pioneer believed business could better society.

Yet Perlman contends that it would be a lamentable injustice if Norris were to be remembered solely -- or even primarily -- for Control Data's failures.

   

"What made Bill a visionary was not his dreams about technology but rather his deep understanding of the threat of social unrest to the success of business long-term," said Perlman, who retired as Ceridian's CEO in 1999. "His great triumph was that he tried to address the central social problems of the time -- the creation of opportunity for disadvantaged people."

   

In pursuit of that goal, Norris built factories in poor areas of north Minneapolis, Washington, D.C., San Antonio, Texas, and Appalachia. He engineered seed capital funds to help entrepreneurs and installed prison assembly operations that gave inmates job training and pocket money. And he began training disabled people as programmers to provide them with some of the first home-based computer jobs.

As the articles point out, he did make some mistakes in sticking with the mainframe for so long.

   

But the number of companies that were created or spun off, jobs created, and making communities better is an amazing legacy.

   

We should all be so bold.

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