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Ibm 650

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Title: Ibm 650  
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Subject: List of IBM products, IBM 533, History of computing hardware, Cuthbert Hurd, Instructions per second
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Ibm 650

Part of the first IBM 650 computer in Norway (1959), known as "EMMA". 650 Console Unit (right, an exterior side panel is missing), 533 Card Read Punch unit (middle, input-output). 655 Power Unit is missing. Punched card sorter (left, not part of the 650). Now at Norwegian Museum of Science and Technology in Oslo.
An IBM 650 at Texas A&M University. The IBM 533 Card Read Punch unit is on the right.
IBM 650 console panel, showing bi-quinary indicators. (At House for the History of IBM Data Processing(closed), Sindelfingen)
Close-up of bi-quinary indicators

The IBM 650 Magnetic Drum Data-Processing Machine is one of IBM’s early computers, and the world’s first mass-produced computer.[1][2] It was announced in 1953 and in 1956 enhanced as the IBM 650 RAMAC with the addition of up to four disk storage units.[3] Almost 2,000 systems were produced, the last in 1962.[4] Support for the 650 and its component units was withdrawn in 1969.

The 650 was a two-address, bi-quinary coded decimal computer (both data and addresses were decimal), with memory on a rotating magnetic drum. Character support was provided by the input/output units converting alphabetical and special characters to/from a two-digit decimal code. The 650 was marketed to scientific and engineering users as well as to users of punched card machines who were upgrading from calculating punches, such as the IBM 604, to computers.[5] Because of its relatively low cost and ease of programming, the 650 was used to pioneer a wide variety of applications, from modeling submarine crew performance[6] to teaching high school and college students computer programming.

The IBM 7070 (signed 10-digit decimal words), announced 1958, was expected to be a "common successor to at least the 650 and the [IBM] 705".[7] The IBM 1620 (variable length decimal), introduced in 1959, addressed the lower end of the market. The UNIVAC Solid State (a two-address computer, signed 10-digit decimal words) was announced by Sperry Rand in December 1958 as a response to the 650. None of these had a 650 compatible instruction set.


  • Hardware 1
  • Instruction set 2
  • Sample program 3
  • In computing culture 4
  • Software 5
  • See also 6
  • Notes and references 7
  • Further reading 8
  • External links 9


The basic 650 system consisted of three units:[8]

  • IBM 650 Console Unit[9]
  • IBM 655 Power Unit[10]
  • IBM 533 or IBM 537 Card Read Punch Unit[11][12][13] The IBM 533 had separate feeds for reading and punching; the IBM 537 had one feed, thus could read and then punch into the same card.

Optional units:[8]

  • IBM 46 Tape To Card Punch, Model 3
  • IBM 47 Tape To Card Printing Punch, Model 3
  • IBM 355 Disk Storage Unit[14] Systems with a disk unit were known as IBM 650 RAMAC Data Processing Systems
  • IBM 407 Accounting Machine[15]
  • IBM 543 Card Reader Unit
  • IBM 544 Card Punch Unit
  • IBM 652 Control Unit (magnetic tape, disk)[16]
  • IBM 653 Storage Unit (magnetic tape, disk, core storage, index registers, floating point arithmetic)[17]
  • IBM 654 Auxiliary Alphabetic Unit
  • IBM 727 Magnetic Tape Unit
  • IBM 838 Inquiry Station[18]

Rotating rpm, the non-optimized average access time was 2.5 ms). Because of this timing, the second address in each instruction was the address of the next instruction. Instructions could then be interleaved, placing many at addresses that would be immediately accessible when execution of the previous instruction was completed. Instructions read from the drum went to a program register (in current terminology, an instruction register). Data read from the drum went through a 10-digit distributor. The 650 had a 20-digit accumulator, divided into 10-digit lower and upper accumulators with a common sign. Arithmetic was performed by a one-digit adder. The console (10 digit switches, one sign switch, and 10 bi-quinary display lights), distributor, lower and upper accumulators were all addressable; 8000, 8001, 8002, 8003 respectively.

The optional IBM 653 Storage Unit, was introduced on May 3, 1955, providing up to five features:

  • Magnetic tape controller (for IBM 727 Magnetic Tape units)
  • Disk storage controller (for IBM 355 Disk Storage Unit)
  • Sixty 10-digit words of magnetic core memory at addresses 9000 to 9059; a small fast memory (this device gave a memory access time of 96µs, a 26-fold raw improvement relative to the rotating drum), needed for a tape and disk I/O buffer
  • Three four-digit index registers at addresses 8005 to 8007; drum addresses were indexed by adding 2000, 4000 or 6000 to them, core addresses were indexed by adding 0200, 0400 or 0600 to them. If the system had the 4000 word drum then indexing was by adding 4000 to the first address for index register A, adding 4000 to the second address for index register B, and by adding 4000 to each of the two addresses for index register C (the indexing for 4000-word systems only applied to the first address). The 4000-word systems required transistorized read/write circuitry for the drum memory and were available before 1963.
  • Floating point – arithmetic instructions supported an eight-digit mantissa and two-digit characteristic (offset exponent) – MMMMMMMMCC, providing a range of ±0.00000001E-50 to ±0.99999999E+49

Instruction set

The 650 instructions consisted of a two-digit operation code, a four-digit data address and the four-digit address of the next instruction. The sign was ignored. The base machine had 44 operation codes. Additional operation codes were provided for options, such as floating point, core storage, index registers and additional I/O devices. With all options installed, there were 97 operation codes.[21]

The Table lookup (TLU) instruction could high-equal compare a referenced 10-digit word with 48 consecutive words on the same drum band in one 5ms revolution and then switch to the next band in time for the next 48 words. This feat was about one-third the speed of a one-thousand times faster binary machine in 1963 (1500 microseconds on the IBM 7040 to 5000 microseconds on the 650) for looking up 46 entries as long as both were programmed in assembler.

The Read (RD) instruction read an 80 column card of numeric data into ten memory words; the distribution of digits to words determined by the card reader's control panel wiring. When used with the 533 Reader Punch unit's Alphabetic device, a combination of numeric and alphanumeric columns (maximum of 30 alphanumeric columns) could be read.[22] An expansion feature allowed more alphanumeric columns but certainly not over 50, as only ten words (five characters per word) were stored on the drum by a card read operation.

IBM 650 at Texas A&M, opened up to show rear of front panel, vacuum tube modules and storage drum
Vacuum tube circuit module of type used in the 650.
A classroom in 1960 at the Bronx High School of Science with IBM 650 instruction chart above blackboard, upper right

The base machine operation codes were:

17 AABL Add absolute to lower accumulator
15 AL Add to lower accumulator
10 AU Add to upper accumulator
45 BRNZ Branch on accumulator non-zero
46 BRMIN Branch on minus accumulator
44 BRNZU Branch on non-zero in upper accumulator
47 BROV Branch on overflow
90-99 BRD Branch on 8 in distributor positions 1-10 **
14 DIV Divide
64 DIVRU Divide and reset upper accumulator
69 LD Load distributor
19 MULT Multiply
00 NO-OP No operation
71 PCH Punch a card
70 RD Read a card
67 RAABL Reset accumulator and add absolute to lower accumulator
65 RAL Reset accumulator and add to lower accumulator
60 RAU Reset accumulator and add to upper accumulator
68 RSABL Reset accumulator and subtract absolute from lower accumulator
66 RSL Reset accumulator and subtract from lower accumulator
61 RSU Reset accumulator and subtract from upper accumulator
35 SLT Shift accumulator left
36 SCT Shift accumulator left and count ***
30 SRT Shift accumulator right
31 SRD Shift accumulator right and round accumulator
01 STOP Stop if console switch is set to stop, otherwise continue as a NO-OP
24 STD Store distributor into memory
22 STDA Store lower accumulator data address into distributor

Then store distributor into memory

23 STIA Store lower accumulator instruction address into distributor

Then store distributor into memory

20 STL Store lower accumulator into memory
21 STU Store upper accumulator into memory *
18 SABL Subtract absolute from lower accumulator
16 SL Subtract from lower accumulator
11 SU Subtract from upper accumulator
84 TLU Table lookup


  • * Value stored takes sign of accumulator, except after a divide operation; then sign of remainder is stored.
  • ** Used to allow 533 control panel to signal CPU.
  • *** Counts high-order zeros in upper accumulator

Sample program

This one-card program, taken from the 650 Programming Bulletin 5, IBM, 1956, 22-6314-0, will set most of the drum storage to minus zeros. The program includes examples of instructions being executed from the console switches and from an accumulator.

To begin, a load card is keypunched with 80 consecutive digits (the 2nd column below) so that, when read, drum locations 0001 through 0008 contents will be as shown.[23]

    0001 0000010000
    0002 0000000000-
    0003 1000018003
    0004 6100080007
    0005 2400008003
    0006 0100008000
    0007 6900060005
    0008 2019990003

The console digit switches (address 8000) are manually set to a Read instruction with data address 0004.

    loc-       op|data|next
    ation        |addr|instruction
                 |    |addr
    8000  RD   70 0004 xxxx  Read load card into 1st band read area

Each drum band has a read area; these read areas are in locations 0001-0010, 0051-0060, 0101-0110 and so on. Any address in a band can be used to identify that band for a read instruction; the address 0004 identifies the 1st band. Execution begins then, from the console with the reading of the 8 words on the load card into locations 0001-0008 of the 1st memory band. In the case of reading a load card, the "next instruction address" is taken from the data address field, not the next instruction address field (shown above as xxxx). Thus execution continues at 0004

    0004  RSU  61 0008 0007  Reset entire accumulator, subtract into upper (8003) the value 2019990003
    0007  LD   69 0006 0005  Load distributor with 0100008000
    0005  STD  24 0000 8003  Store distributor in location 0000, next instruction is in 8003 (the upper accumulator)
                             Note: the moving of data or instructions from one drum location to another
                               requires two instructions: LD, STD.

Now a two instruction loop executes:

    8003  STL  20 1999 0003  Store lower accumulator (that accumulator was reset to 0- by the RSU instruction above)
                             The "1999" data address is decremented, below, on each iteration.
                             This instruction was placed in the upper accumulator by the RSU instruction above.
                             Note: this instruction, now in the upper accumulator, will be decremented and then
                               executed again while still in the accumulator.
    0003  AU   10 0001 8003  Decrement data address of the instruction in the accumulator by 1
                             (by adding 10000 to a negative number)

The STL's data address will, eventually, be decremented to 0003, and the AU ... instruction at 0003 will be overwritten with zeros. When that occurs (the STL's next instruction address remains 0003) execution continues as follows:

    0003  NOOP 00 0000 0000  No-operation instruction, next instruction address is 0000
    0000  HALT 01 0000 8000  Halt, next instruction address is the console
                             (this Halt instruction was stored in 0000 by the STD instruction above)

In computing culture

Donald Knuth's series of books The Art of Computer Programming is famously dedicated to a 650.


Software included:

  • Complete Floating Decimal Interpretive System for the IBM 650 Magnetic Drum Calculator (aka. BLIS — the Bell Lab Interpretive System)[24]
  • FOR TRANSIT — A version of Fortran which compiled to IT which in turn was compiled to SOAP[25]
  • FORTRAN[26]
  • GATE — A simple compiler with one character variable names
  • Internal Translator (IT) — A compiler[27]
  • IPL — The first list processing language. The best-known version was IPL-V.
  • Revised Unified New Compiler IT Basic Language Extended (RUNCIBLE)[28]
  • SPACE (Simplified Programming Anyone Can Enjoy) — A business-oriented two-step compiler through SOAP
  • Symbolic Optimal Assembly Program (SOAP) — An assembler[29]
  • Synthetic Programming System for Commercial Applications [30]
  • Technical Assembly System (TASS) — A macro assembler.

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ IBM Archives: IBM 650 installation with IBM 727 Magnetic Tape Unit and IBM 355 Disk Storage
  2. ^ IBM Archives: IBM 650 Assembly at Endicott plant
  3. ^ IBM 650 RAMAC announcement press release
  4. ^
  5. ^ IBM Archives: 650 Customers
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ a b IBM Archives: 650 Components
  9. ^ IBM Archives: IBM 650 Console Unit
  10. ^ IBM Archives: IBM 655 Power Unit
  11. ^ Other IBM names for the 533 included Input-Output Unit and Read-Punch Unit.
  12. ^ IBM Archives: IBM 533 Card Read Punch
  13. ^ IBM Archives: IBM 537 Card Read Punch
  14. ^ IBM Archives: IBM 355 Disk Storage
  15. ^ IBM Archives: IBM 407 accounting machine
  16. ^ IBM Archives: IBM 652 Control Unit
  17. ^ IBM Archives: IBM 653 Auxiliary Unit
  18. ^ IBM Archives: IBM 838 Inquiry Station
  19. ^ IBM Archives: IBM 650 Magnetic Drum
  20. ^ IBM Archives: IBM 650 Model 4 announcement
  21. ^ IBM 650 CPU Extensions
  22. ^
  23. ^ A 12 punch can be used to identify cards as load cards. Load cards are directly read into words 1-8 of the specified storage band
  24. ^ . This reference manual contains the following report, noting that In its external characteristics, the interpretive system described in this report owes much to the IBM Speedcoding System for the 701.
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^ Donald Knuth published the flowchart of the compiler in 1959; ; this was his first academic paper.
  29. ^
  30. ^
  31. ^ Unisys History Newsletter, Volume 1.2 December 1992 (revised 1999) by George Gray

Further reading

External links

  • IBM 650 documents (PDF files)
  • Columbia University: The IBM 650 at Columbia University
  • IBM Archives The IBM 650: Workhorse of Modern Industry Includes a chronology, technical specifications, photographs, representative customers, and applications the 650 was used for.
  • Video clip of IBM 650 and RAMAC in operation, alternate version
  • Includes about 40 pages of IBM 650 survey detail: customers, applications, specifications, and costs.
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