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Computer-Aided Engineering

THE SAME WORDS that one engineer would use to describe the solution of a problem to another engineer can be used now to give instructions to digital computers. The machine will understand locate, inverse, adjust, intersect, ramp, alignment, and similar terms.
Professor Charles L. Miller, '51, Director of the M.I.T. Civil Engineering Systems Laboratory, developed the programming system to do this and described it at a recent meeting of the American Association of State Highway Officials. It is called COGO (for coordinate geometry) and is expected to increase civil engineers' use of computers.
The primitive or pseudo languages previously needed to instruct machines made their use time-consuming and costly for problems that are rarely exactly alike. With COGO, it is technically and economically feasible to write a separate and unique program for each set of data, use a program once, and discard it.
COGO already is in daily use at the Institute, and has made it feasible to give students full-scale engineering problems as homework assignments. It also is being employed in the Puerto Rico Department of Public Works, and a specially designed COGO system will be used with the new engineering computer that the Massachusetts Department of Public Works is installing. Professor Miller considers it one step in the development of a much larger system. The Civil Engineering Systems Laboratory is interested in attaching a drafting machine to a computer, and COGO can be expanded to include the words an engineer would use to communicate with a draftsman. Thus engineers ultimately may be freed from such routine chores and enabled to devote more of their time to the creative work for which they are professionally trained. 


CHIEF DEVELOPER of an English-like computer language called AUTOPROMT was Samuel M. Matsa, '56 (right, above) of IBM, who is pictured with P.H. Sterbenz. AUTOPROMT was designed to broaden the use of numerically controlled machine tools by leaving to a computer the task of generating tool paths on the basis of a simple description of the part to be milled and the tool to be used. John G. Lee, '21, of United Aircraft Corporation, also participated in its first public demonstration last summer. 

Computer-Aided Editing
TIME often can be saved in updating a manuscript to be printed by using a computer to "edit" a tape, Associate Professor Michael P. Barnett and Kalon L. Kelley of the M.I.T. Laboratory of Chemical and Solid-State Physics have found. In the system they have devised, Photon machine is operated by a tape prepared on a Flexowriter. But before this tape is fed to the photographic typesetting machine, it is run though an IBM computer. 
Last-minute alterations in the tape are made by the computer in accordance with directions given to it in such simple English as:
Insert "other" before "document" in the first sentence of the second paragraph.
Start a new paragraph with the fourth sentence of the second paragraph.
The computer can decode these  instructions by means of programs called Shadow subroutines, which have been used extensively in work on other problems. The tape that goes to the Photon machine thus can be altered very swiftly, and a Photon machine driven by a tape can turn out work faster than when operated from a keyboard. The developers of the system believe that much retyping can be eliminated and time saved in preparing new editions of manuals, catalogues, and other works that must be revised frequently.
Professor Barnett, whose work has been mainly in theoretical chemistry, operations research, and computer languages, came to this country from England in 1957 and to M.I.T. in 1958. Mr. Kelley, who came to the Institute from Harvard, designed the computer programs for the system. Although they developed it primarily for their own use, they expect wider application to be found for their system.

Biochemists in Moscow
M.I.T. SCIENTISTS who participated in the International Congress on Biochemistry last summer in Moscow included Vernon M. Ingram, who described his method of studying hemoglobin, and Gene M. Brown, who explained how sulfa drugs combat infections in humans.
Hemoglobin, a concentrated protein solution in blood cells, takes oxygen from the air and gives it to areas of the body where energy must be produced. Fetal hemoglobin has properties which allow it to utilize oxygen from the maternal hemoglobin. This form decreases after birth and production of adult hemoglobin begins. But from time to time mutations occur which may have serious consequences. Dr. Ingram and his colleagues have been able to study the switch from fetal to adult hemoglobin by a process known as fingerprinting of molecules, and thus to make certain the necessary amino acids are present in the correct sequence and amounts.
The sulfonamides, which Dr. Brown discussed, have been used for 20 years, but the mechanism of their inhibitory actions has not been understood. Dr. Brown reported that they "fool" enzymes involved in the biosynthesis of folic acid. Para-aminobenzoic acid is usually incorporated into the more complex folic acid. But the chemical properties of sulfonamides are so similar to those of para-aminobenzoic acid that the enzymes use them in place of the acid, and this reduces the chances of bacterial growth.

22    (Trend of Affairs is continued on page 50)   THE TECHNOLOGY REVIEW   
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