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Anecdotes: IBM Computers and the Election of 1960

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000129572D
Original Publication Date: 1988-Jun-30
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Oct-06
Document File: 5 page(s) / 24K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

IEEE Computer Society: OWNER

Abstract

Anecdotes: IBM Computers and the Election of 1960 On Tuesday, 8 November 1960, between the hours of 12:01 a.m. (Eastern Standard Time) in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire, and 8:00 p.m. (Bering Standard Time) in Nome, Alaska, 68,832,818 American citizens between the ages of 21 and 105 went to the polls in more than 171,311 voting precincts to elect the 35th president of the United States. At 7:00 on the following morning, November 9, a weary band of TV technicians in a CBS studio on 26th Street in Manhattan switched off their cameras and straggled out into a chilly, wet day. The night was one to remember. During the 12 hours CBS had been on the air with its election night broadcast, a total of 112,404,946 votes had been counted and reported -- 59,598,520 for the presidency; 26,226,491 for 27 gubernatorial contests, and 26,579,935 for 34 senatorial places. To do the job, all three major networks used electronic computers. CBS News chose IBM for the job, with an IBM 7090 and an IBM 305 RAMAC.

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Copyright ©; 1988 by the American Federation of Information Processing Societies, Inc. Used with permission.

Anecdotes: IBM Computers and the Election of 1960

On Tuesday, 8 November 1960, between the hours of 12:01 a.m. (Eastern Standard Time) in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire, and 8:00 p.m. (Bering Standard Time) in Nome, Alaska, 68,832,818 American citizens between the ages of 21 and 105 went to the polls in more than 171,311 voting precincts to elect the 35th president of the United States. At 7:00 on the following morning, November 9, a weary band of TV technicians in a CBS studio on 26th Street in Manhattan switched off their cameras and straggled out into a chilly, wet day. The night was one to remember. During the 12 hours CBS had been on the air with its election night broadcast, a total of 112,404,946 votes had been counted and reported -- 59,598,520 for the presidency; 26,226,491 for 27 gubernatorial contests, and 26,579,935 for 34 senatorial places.

To do the job, all three major networks used electronic computers. CBS News chose IBM for the job, with an IBM 7090 and an IBM 305 RAMAC.

Election reporting is a difficult task. This was especially true in an election as close as the presidential contest of 1960. With potential reversals in Illinois, Michigan, and California, and seesawing returns in Ohio and Wisconsin, the issue was in doubt most of the night. Nearly eight weeks later when the latest official tally was recorded, the margin between Senator John F. Kennedy and Vice President Richard M. Nixon was reduced to a cliff-hanging 113,157 votes -- a difference, on an average, of less than a single vote per precinct throughout the United States. At 8:12 p.m. the computer produced the first forecast to go on the air announcing a Kennedy victory. Throughout the long night with its seesaw count, the computer stayed with that original projection. Election night, 1960, offered the computer a stage on which to show what it could do in election forecasting. With a presidential vote closer than any since 1888, the margin for error was wide. In the final count, Senator Kennedy polled 49.7 percent of the popular vote; Vice President Nixon 49.3 percent; with the remainder accounted for by minority parties. With a difference of but four- tenths of one percent between them, the race put strenuous demands upon the computer, especially in the early evening hours when it was forecasting on the basis of only 1 to 4 percent of the total vote. Yet, by 8:12 p.m., the computer produced the first forecast to go on the air announcing a Kennedy victory. Throughout the long night with its seesaw count, the computer stayed with the original projection.

There are two general ways to forecast an election with computers. One involves creating a mathematical "model" of the voting public based on all the variable factors which can be evaluated. Such items as age, economic status, race...