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A Look Back At The USSR Computer Industry


According to [Asianometry], in 1986 the Soviet Union had about 10,000 computers. At the same time, the United States has 1.3 million! The USSR was not a backward country – they launched Sputnik and made many advances in science and mathematics. Why don’t they have more computers? The story is interesting and you can see it in the video below.

Apparently when the news of the ENIAC reached the USSR, many dismissed it as imaginary propaganda. However, there are some who think that computing is the future. Sergey Lebedev of Ukraine built a “small” engine in about 1951. The small, of course, is relative because the engine has 6,000 pipes in it. It performed 250,000 calculations for artillery tables in about 2 and a half hours.

The success of this computer led to two teams being asked to build two different machines. Even if one of the machines is less capable, the better machine needs a part that they can only get to the other group they control, forcing them to use older – however – delay lines. mercury for storage.

The more sophisticated engine, the BESM-1, did not perform well thanks to this replacement and therefore chose the competitor, the STRELA. However, it is always broken and unable to handle some calculations. Finally, the BESM-1 was completed and was the fastest computer in Europe in a few years starting in 1955.

By 1959, the Soviets produced $ 59 million worth of computer parts compared to U.S. output of nearly $ 1 billion. There are many reasons for limited supply and limited demand that you will hear about video. In particular, there was little commercial demand for computers in the Soviet Union. Almost all use of computers than in the military and academia.

Eventually, the Russians ended up buying and copying the IBM 360. Not all engineers thought it was a good idea, but it did have the advantage of allowing existing software to run. The US government tried to ban IBM from exporting valuables, so ICL – a UK company – offered their IBM 360 -compatible system.

The Soviets are known to have borrowed technology in the past. Not that the west is out of debt, too, at least temporarily.



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