Exactly 70 years ago, Bashir Rameev and Isaac Brooke presented the draft digital computers, based on it has applied for the invention, and by 16 February 1950, received the copyright certificate on the invention (see photo). The project affects any reader today: it’s written in very modern language, and clearly indicates a fair amount of insight and vision of its authors. Very importantly, despite the objective difficulties, proposed the computer did not remain on paper like many other applications: in 1952, it has started to perform calculations. But let’s do everything in order.
Bi-bi-si, the engineer-self-taught and Isaac brook In 1947, the Western radio in the USSR is not stifled. So Bashir Rameev, student dropout MEI (was kicked out in 1938 as the son of “enemy of the people”), periodically listened to Bi-Bi-si. And one day I heard a program about computing machine ENIAC — first digital computer built in the United States by the end of 1945. The idea, he turned with her to Isaac Brooke, a member-correspondent of Academy of Sciences, and in may 1948 was adopted as a design engineer in the Laboratory of electrical power engineering Institute of the Academy. Soon he and Brooke together presented an unusual project of a programmable computer. To understand its uniqueness, it is worth remembering what was the first Western computers. The same ENIAC (ENIAC) weighed in at 27 tons and contained 17 468 vacuum tubes. Every week two or three of them must be burned, stopping operation of the machine. Guaranteed uninterrupted time her work was equal to only 20 hours — so long computations it was impossible to finish. Half the time the ENIAC could not work: looking for (by the way, not an easy matter) and change the burnt bulb. ENIAC, the second half of the 40s годовwikimedia commons / public domain Therefore in the project description Rameev and brook no wonder the emphasis is on the following: “replacement of electron tubes… greatly simplifies the design, increases the reliability and durability, improves the operational quality of the machine. … Particularly promising is the use of crystal diodes, [solid state — B. A.]… a Miniature size crystal diodes, their suitability for very high frequencies, no namelennogo of the cathode, which is associated with a limited lifespan and large consumption of energy… will allow for highly compact and low-cost computational power, suitable not only for stationary but also for mobile devices.” In those days it was a revolutionary proposal: 70 percent of vacuum tubes computer of the future was proposed to replace the semiconductor diodes. A diode is an electronic element having a different conductivity depending on the direction of applied thereto of electrical current. If the voltage applied to the diode by one of its two electrodes, the current flows through it, and if from the other electrode of the diode is closed, the current through it is almost not flowing. Semiconductor diode proposed rameeva and Brooke as a substitute for lamps differ from the vacuum analogs for the better by the fact that it, unlike the lamp, is not necessary to heat, which reduces the power consumption and the likelihood of degradation and failure from prolonged heating. Corresponding member of the USSR Isaac brook, 1957. Photos of Cherdintseva /Fotokhronika TASS/ Alas, then began complexity. Rameev in 1949, he was drafted into the army, and Brooke was left without a person who knows how to work with electronics. The scientist began to frantically look for shots of graduates. Managed to find only a dozen. How sharp was the staffing situation, it is clear that Yury Rogachev, one of the found Brooke talent, had not even the time to finish high school! So Brooke was forced to create a small version of their machines, M-1. And to create the sanction of the Academy was given only on April 22, 1950. Not the last role was played by the need for such machines for military calculations. The first bits of it were processed in December, 1950, 10 days earlier than the other, “the firstborn”, a Soviet computer, MESM, was created in Kiev. Machine M-1, a working prototype. Photo courtesy http://www.computer-museum.ru the Use of semiconductor diodes helped to switch the circuitry from state “0” (as insulator) in state “1” (Explorer) quickly and with small expenses of energy. If the ENIAC consumed 174 kilowatts, M-1 — 8 kilowatt, occupying only four square meters. 27-ton American predecessor on this background looks a real monster. Dramatically different from M-1 and the presence (for the first time in the computer industry) not only “slow” memory, similar to the modern hard disk (magnetic drum), but “fast”, similar to the modern RAM. It served the electrostatic tube, vaguely similar to those used in TVs. Themselves are semiconductor diodes in our country has not yet started producing, so I used the German received reparations. Do not think that someone asked they were taken — on the contrary, they were found by accident, warehouses MEI, which came a completely unknown way. Automatic digital computer (brief description) Block diagram. The corresponding member. USSR Academy of Sciences I. S. Bruk Engineer B. I. Rameev Moscow, August 1948, a larger version of the computer on the same semiconductor base, earned from the beginning of 1953 and predictable called M2 (it is believed that M meant “small”, and even the M2 was much less than the ENIAC). By 1956, was made and M3, occupies three square meters and became the first of serial computers of this range. Produced on its basis the first Russian serial computers the second generation (i.e. a semiconductor) are widely dispersed in the scientific and military institutions of the country. Moreover, on the basis of the drawings M3 was collected by the first digital computers in Hungary (1958) and China (1957). In the late 50s based on the laboratory of Brooke was created were existing to this day, the Institute of electronic control machines (INEUM). What was used the first Soviet computers? Due to the small dimensions and power consumption of the machine brook’s are used not only for calculations of specialized military-applied value. Still in the project, 1948, written jointly with Rameeva, the scientist described the use of a computer for purely military calculations (as in the case of the ENIAC), and for solving problems of cryptography, security-apparently-undecipherable military and government communications. It was also proposed to use computers for simulation of meteorological processes and more accurate weather forecast (at the time this topic was seen as primarily military). In all these areas the Soviet computers were used quite successfully already from the 1950-60’s. If the same ENIAC was used to create a thermonuclear bomb (the Soviet created without digital computers), the “emka” sold by scientific institutions which could not afford huge purpose built engine rooms. In addition to scientific calculations, Brooke suggested to use them as control cars complex industrial and energy installations to operate manually which was extremely difficult — too many for this it was necessary to consider options. For example, power plants, chemical reactors, and the like. As it is now said, he first proposed the implementation of industrial computers. If M-1 and M-2 was built in one copy and lost practical value already in the 1960s, the line computer M-3, with several modifications, was popular until the end of 1960-ies and was very long-lived. Where is the Russian Apple and IBM? Despite a fairly brisk start and the creation of the USSR the first in the history of computers on a semiconductor basis, to maintain such a high rate of development of computer technology in our country has failed. The problems began after the advent of the microprocessor, the basic elements of the first computers from the early ‘ 70s it became possible to place on one silicon chip (before it was necessary to collect the CPU of many chips). Here it was impossible to manually assemble components, too small details had to operate. Required electronic factory, with time and the vacuum chamber for growing the desired silicon chips. At the same time changed the paradigm of the technological race with the USSR Western countries. The Stalinist Soviet Union of the late 40’s-early 50’s no one would sell ENIAC: the machine on which you calculate the parameters of the hydrogen bomb, not export. And outside the United States in the days of brook and Rameev working digital computers did not exist. Therefore, to have at least some computers, they had to do themselves. The Brezhnev era dramatically changed the situation. The Soviet Union went on a large-scale export of oil and at the highest level, many technical problems it wanted to solve by the method of purchase of technology and equipment on the West it was if not cheaper, certainly easier, than to create such technologies within the country. So there were VAZ, KAMAZ and the first computer-based clones of Western CPUs. Equipment for producing their plants is also imported from abroad. It is at the stage of the beginning of mass production of computers the gap between our country and the West began to dramatically increase. Purchased from “Fiat” platform “Lada” became obsolete for decades, and rapidly progressing computers every few years. To buy overseas platform you indefinitely — they still always lagged behind the Western. The time needed for the introduction of Western production of the clones were equal to the development time in the West. Already in the late 1970’s there were Apple personal computers (Apple I and II), and later other firms. A similar design was proposed in the Soviet Union — the same “Micro-80” — but the response of the government to these proposals was quite restrained. Deputy Minister of radio industry of the USSR Nikolai Gorshkov in 1980, told the authors of “Micro” “Guys, stop screwing around. A personal computer may not be. Can be personal, car, personal pension, personal dacha. Do you know what is a computer? Computer is 100 square meters, a 25 people staff and 30 liters of alcohol a month!” With these words, he not only made history, but also demonstrated a number of the reasons for the backwardness of the Soviet electronics industry. To succeed in the technological race with the West, you have to keep running just to stay in the same place. And in order to catch up, have to run twice as fast. Officials in the Ministry of radio industry just didn’t realize that the industry is in rapid progress, and young designers could not influence the opinions of officials. However, some clones of the solutions Apple and IBM even managed to start production in the USSR, but they immediately became obsolete, and after the collapse of the Soviet computer industry came to a complete neglect. Russian business in the 1990s, was ready to invest money in computers, but not in such a capital-intensive business, as the development and production of, for example, the new processors. At the same time, in recent years began to appear objective preconditions to serious improvement in domestic electronics. Now, as once in the Soviet time, many industries do not have to rely on supplies from abroad. On the other hand, finally slowed down the pace of development of silicon-based electronics worldwide. In such conditions, even without investing large amounts of money, it is possible to create systems on the level approaching to the production leader in the world of microelectronics. For example, now working on eight-core “Elbrus-8СВ” uses 28-nanometer process technology. This means that the hardware solution that make semiconductor crystals for such processors equals 28 billion meters, and about the same size comes out and the minimum size of the semiconductor elements of the processor. In the world of processors on 28-nm process have started to do only in 2011 — the same Intel Sandy Bridge or AMD Bulldozer. Of course, in the mass civilian market to get the same “Elbrus” will not succeed — it requires huge investments, and the meaning of such actions is unclear: it should have been done decades ago when the market was not yet divided. However, its niche in providing a range of state institutions and power structures “Elbrus” may be found today. The main lesson to be learned from this story, is that to Excel in the high tech industry is absolutely necessary to have the country’s science and technology talent, and the desire of its elites to create and produce complex products on their own, despite the fact that it is often extremely troublesome. If both the country has neither the failure to deliver sophisticated imported components or the shortage of funds and specialists are not able to prevent.
Read more •••