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Aurora was an electronic trading auction system developed by the Chicago Board of Trade in the late 1980s as it considered offering electronic futures trading of its products during non-open outcry trading hours.[1][2][3][4]


The Aurora project, announced in March 1989 at the annual Futures Industry Association International Conference in Boca Raton, Florida and approved by the CBOT members, consisted of the CBOT and three technology companies; Apple, Texas Instruments, and Tandem.[5][6][7]

At the 1989 FIA Boca Raton Conference, the CBOT "used a combination of lights, slides, booming music and computer graphics to show reporters its Aurora system."[8]

The Aurora system was designed to use Tandem mainframe computers, Texas Instrument artificial intelligence components and and Apple computer graphics.[9]

Aurora was designed to visually replicate the trading pit and use avatars to represent different traders and quantities they were quoting. A trader was only allowed to be displayed in one market at time, just as if one person could only be in one trading floor pit at a time.[10]

A trade was consummated when a user chose a trader with which to deal with by clicking on their avatar using their computer's mouse.[11]

The CBOT reportedly spent $5 million building a Aurora system protype, but then dropped the system to join the CME as a 50-50 partner in Globex in 1990.[12] It would have cost the CBOT another $20 million to implement Aurora.[13] For the Globex partnership, Reuters was paying the $100 million cost to develop the system and was to be paid $1 per trade.[14]

The potential success of Aurora was hampered by a data network that could only handle 19.2 kilobytes of data per second[15] After the CBOT dropped out of the the Globex partnership with the CME, they developed a system called Project A, which used a local area network in Chicago. This nullified the problem with the capacity constraints that impeded the development of Aurora.[16]

Pricing for trades on Aurora were set to be $1 per trade, as opposed to the Globex fee of $4 per trade.[17]

The Aurora trading system was criticized by then SEC Commissioner Joseph Grundfest in 1989 for being more vulnerable to pre-arranged trading because the system allows traders to select their trading partner.[18]


  1. CBOT Aurora electronic trading system. TradingPitBlog.
  2. For Crying Out Loud: From Open Outcry to the Electronic Screen. Google Books.
  3. Big Things Happen at Boca. FIA Magazine.
  4. Futures Trading Practices Act of 1989--S. 1729 : hearings before the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, United States Senate, One Hundred First Congress, first session on S. 1729 ... October 17 and 18, 1989.
  5. Mechanizing the Merc: The Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the Rise of High-Frequency Trading.
  6. Regulated Exchanges: Dynamic Agents of Economic Growth. Google Books.
  7. 24-Hour Trading Is Planned. New York Times.
  8. Big Futures Exchanges in a Race. New York Times.
  9. Trading Around the Clock: Global Securities Markets and Information Technology.
  10. Gutterman
  11. Chicago Board of Trade members approved Aurora,. Chicago Tribune.
  13. Merc, Cbot To Team Up After Hours. Chicago Tribune.
  14. The Operation of Futures Markets.
  15. Gutterman
  16. A Financial History of the United States: From Enron-Era Scandals to the .... Google Books.
  17. Electronic Exchanges: The Global Transformation from Pits to Bits. Google Books.
  18. SEC member hits CBOT's Aurora. Chicago Suntimes.