Upon his arrival at MSC, Frank McFeely was assigned the additional challenge of preparing the Department, and too the whole campus, for the arrival of a new IBM 650 Computer. It would be coming the next year and it would be administered through the Department of Mathematics. Hurst tells in his 1956-57 report:

“The significant advance contemplated next year is the increase in the use of IBM equipment. We will need well-trained personnel and will have to increase the number of courses thought desirable to train people in all phases of IBM work. This is quite valuable and, if we have to hire such people rather than train them, it is apt to be considered quite expensive. One of our men, Glenn Ingram, has accepted a very attractive offer at Pullman which will enable him to both get his Doctor's Degree there and also become highly proficient with the IBM equipment. It is his wish that he return to us as soon as he is properly trained. Meanwhile, I feel that the next big aid to science on the campus will come through a wide-spread use of the new IBM equipment and hope that the faculty will see its possibilities and plan their research accordingly. It will be an expensive venture but is very much in line with the trend of the times.”3 

A Computer Laboratory, akin to the Statistical Laboratory, seems to have come into existence in 1958. Hurst, in a 1957-58 report states that “Professor McFeely has labored to get the IBM equipment properly installed. The location in the Ryon Laboratory looks very good.” And, McFeely says in the supplement to that report:

The Computer Laboratory of the Mathematics Department began full-scale operation about July 26, 1958. Mathematics faculty members staffing the Computer Laboratory for the entire year included Franklin S. McFeely, Associate Professor and Director, Statistical Laboratory... plus two other faculty members and two graduate students. [While not specified, the Computing Laboratory likely contained card punches, sorting, tabulation and listing equipment, as would be needed when the IBM650 arrived later that year.] The projects begun since the beginning of operation of the Computer Laboratory now number thirty-six. These projects represent a wide range of investigation, and include ... (list of projects scattered across the campus). During the course of the year, eight formal demonstrations of the computer were given for various groups by members of the Computer Laboratory staff and the Laboratory cooperated with representatives of the IBM Corporation in another demonstration. The groups for whom demonstrations were given included high school students, staff members of this institution and the School of Mines, and engineers of the Montana State Highway Department. The college became a participating institution in the Western Data Processing Center in December of 1958 and, as such, has the valuable contacts concomitant with this participation, as well as access to a computer of far greater speed and capacity than the one in the Computer Laboratory.”

The 1960-62 Catalog tells about the IBM 650 Computing Facilities:

“In order to keep abreast of developments in science and industry, Montana State College put into operation in September of 1958 an IBM 650 Data-Processing System. This system is widely used both in the scientific and in the business fields. It solves routine and complex calculations with equal facility, whether they be of an accounting or technical nature. The 650 is capable of performing, in minutes, computations which would require days on an ordinary desk calculator. This makes possible various types of research which would otherwise not be feasible in any reasonable length of time.

The IBM 650 will be of great benefit in the undergraduate program, to graduate students, and to faculty members engaged in research, both sponsored and unsponsored. Courses in the use of the 650 are offered at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. These courses enable a student to become acquainted with an electronic data-processing system in his undergraduate curriculum, thus preparing him for employment in organizations which use electronic computing machines, either in science or business. Such preparation will stand him in good stead when he is being considered by prospective employers, and will give him an advantage over students not so prepared. The IBM is associated closely with the Mathematics Department, but is available to every department, without exception, having need of the capabilities of this machine.

To Era 5
Table of Contents

 Last revised: 2021-04-18