Specific illustrations of the uses to which 650s were put in the 1950s are many and varied. The following examples are reproduced verbatim from an August 14, 1959 IBM compilation of "unusual" 650 applications:
Forecasting heart victims
The Institute of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation of New York University - Bellevue Medical Center has used an IBM 650 to perform mathematical analysis of data on a person's physique, blood chemistry and heredity in a study to determine those persons most likely to suffer a heart attack in early middle age. In finding significant differences between a group of 146 apparently healthy men and 100 male patients with coronary heart disease, the 650 performed in minutes complex calculations that otherwise might have taken weeks for each person studied. The analytic method, used on young adults, had an accuracy as high as 90 per cent in identifying those men most likely or least likely to have heart attacks in their middle forties or early fifties. Important primarily as a research tool for studying the underlying causes of heart diseases rather than for predicting the presence or absence of coronary disease in individual cases, the study indicated that tall thin persons are less prone to coronary heart disease than those of stocky heavy set-build.
Highway traffic safety
An IBM 650 Tape system is being used by the State of Illinois in an advanced driver licensing and control program. The speed with which the computer handles such information as reports of convictions for traffic law violations, accidents and examination failures makes it possible for the Drivers License Division of the Secretary of State's Office to take faster action against drivers with poor records. The computer program has also made it possible for the division to adopt a new type of permanent driver license number which establishes positive identification of the person to whom the license was issued. Each number is also an individual control number for use throughout all future record-keeping and processing operations.
Planning profitable farm uses
Farm management experts at North Carolina State College are using an IBM 650 computer to determine what combination of crops and livestock should be the most profitable for a particular farm. A farm planning problem that would take two weeks to solve on a desk calculator is completed in ten minutes by the 650. Data on the acreage and labor costs of a farm and on the farmer's capital, along with estimates of future yields and market prices for possible crops, are fed into the computer on punched cards, and the 650 automatically computes the growing and stock combination most likely to yield the biggest profits. For example, a farmer with 60 acres of cropland, family labor and $8,000 capital, was advised by the computer that 4 acres of tobacco, 4.4 acres of cotton, 3.4 acres of sweet potatoes, 48.2 acres of alfalfa, and 1,900 laying hens would produce the best return on his land.
Dairy herd improvement
IBM 650 computers at the New York State College of Agriculture (Cornell University), Iowa State College and North Carolina State College are being used to tell dairymen everything they want to know about their herds. The 650 is fed data gathered by the Dairy Herd Improvement Association from the farmer: cow's body weights, daily milking weights, butterfat percentage, the amount of feed used daily, and a variety of other information. At the rate of 70 cows a minute, the computer spins out answers on daily and monthly butterfat production, value of milk in dollars, income over feed costs, recommended grain feed, best breeding dates and days of calving, and other useful data. As of mid-April 1959, 802 herds, involving 24,396 cows, were using the Iowa State College computer service, with these figures expected to double by the end of the year.
Aircraft parts reliability
Boeing Airplane Company engineers are checking the reliability of parts and components of advanced aircraft through the use of an IBM 650 to help pinpoint possible problem areas as soon as they develop. When any part does not fulfill its service life expectancy, all pertinent data on the lower reliability is entered into the computer on punched cards. The operation is repeated each time a report is made. As more information is compiled, the 650 determines what parts and systems prove less reliable and shows why and under what conditions. This information is then forwarded to Boeing design groups for study and any necessary action. The reliability studies on the computer can also be projected for aircraft still in the design stage to determine what parts should be most suitable.
An IBM 650 computer was used by the Colorado River Board of California to produce in 56 seconds a complicated 36-year water and power study that would have taken three engineers more than six months to prepare with "paper and pencil" methods. Need for the computer's study of the river flows and other important data was created by the building of the gigantic Glen Canyon [Dam] on the Colorado River. The 650 study was used by the Board in determining the proper manner to fill the l80-mile-long reservoir for the dam so that Southern California, Arizona and Nevada water and power supplies would not be adversely affected.
The passage of the Federal Highway Act of l956, authorizing the construction of 41,000 miles of new roads throughout the country, greatly multiplied the work load on state highway departments. The electronic computer -- particularly the IBM 650 data processing system -- has become a powerful tool for increasing highway engineering productivity. Many state highway departments are using 650 computers to perform earthwork calculations, traffic studies, bridge analysis, and other engineering tasks. As many as 15 or 20 road designs can be tested by the 650 in the same time it requires to test only two designs manually. In computing earthwork volumes, the computer can handle a problem in ten minutes that would take a trained engineer one hundred work-hours to calculate by hand. In bridge analysis work, the 650 automatically turns out in a matter of minutes the solutions to simultaneous equations that were too complex to handle practically by former methods.
Management decision game
At the American Management Association's Academy of Advanced Management at Saranac Lake, an IBM 650 is the key element in a unique decision-making course. This "war game" for business is played by five teams, each representing a corporation in an industry. Each corporation starts with an equal share of the market. The characteristics of the industry are stored in the computer and the players make a whole series of decisions on a quarterly basis -- raising or lowering prices, spending more or less on research, and so forth -- with the computer figuring at the end of each quarter where each corporation and team ranks in the industry.
Analyzing drug tests
Merck Sharpe & Dohme Research Laboratories has used an IBM 650 Tape data processing system to assess the results of extensive tests of a potential major new drug product prior to marketing. To determine both the conditions under which the drug might best be used with greatest safety and the medical indications for which it would be most valuable, tests of thousands of patients treated with the drugs were conducted by physicians throughout the United States and abroad. Data from the completed four-page questionnaire on each test were first recorded on punched cards and then transferred to magnetic tape for computer processing. The 650 Tape system scanned a magnetic tape reel containing 8,500 patient records in less than ten minutes. The computer test analyses not only eliminated the prohibitive time and cost of manual test evaluation, but also made it possible to separate test factors and isolate the results from the drug alone.