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Why the forgotten Soviet internet was doomed from the start
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Computer Nerd Kev
2018-08-09 08:32:16 UTC
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Why the forgotten Soviet internet was doomed from the start
By Chris Baraniuk, 26 October 2016
- http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20161026-why-the-forgotten-soviet-internet-was-doomed-from-the-start

"For 12 year-old Oleg Guimaoutdinov, learning to programme a computer
in Soviet Russia largely meant hitting the books. Bored by the focus
on theory, many classmates soon dropped out. But Guimaoutdinov
didn't want to give up - he was fascinated by computers and "hungry"
for machine time, he says. So he and a few friends went knocking.

Back then, in the early 1980s, computer terminals were housed in
universities and workplaces, not schools - and most managers didn't
want kids around. But Guimaoutdinov and his friends managed to find
a few kind enough to let them practice on their office computers,
many of them clones of American machines.

They may not have realised it at the time, but the clunky keyboards
and monitors they pored over represented the start of something
special - the first nodes in a home-grown internet that some hoped
would supercharge the Soviet economy.

For decades, a handful of researchers had been urging officials to
let them build a computer network, connecting thousands of machines
across the USSR. It could have rivalled the network sending out
tendrils in the US and western Europe at the time - a network that
would grow into the internet of today." ...
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RS Wood
2018-08-11 16:34:43 UTC
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Post by Computer Nerd Kev
Why the forgotten Soviet internet was doomed from the start
By Chris Baraniuk, 26 October 2016
For decades, a handful of researchers had been urging officials to
let them build a computer network, connecting thousands of machines
across the USSR. It could have rivalled the network sending out
tendrils in the US and western Europe at the time - a network that
would grow into the internet of today." ...
Great article, thanks for posting; I'd have missed it otherwise. (and I
love the image of the little Soviet boy mansplaining something to the
little Soviet girl, who looks on adoringly). I'm hugely interested in
these early days.

By the looks of it, the project had technical merit but was atrociously
managed by bureacrats ... essentially, the same fate as the rest of the
USSR. How ironic that had they built out an equivalent to what we use
today (smart phones, data capture, tracking, spyware) they'd have had an
easier time achieving the goals of the USSR in the first place.

Money quote from the article:

//--clip
One person who knows first-hand what it was like to work on Soviet-era
network technology is Vladimir Kitov – Anatoly Kitov’s son. Vladimir
Kitov now works at the Plekhanov Russian University of Economics in
Moscow. But in the 1970s and 80s he wrote software for the military,
which was used to help manage huge tank-building factories. He thinks
that OGAS would have had a positive effect on the Soviet economy, as its
early advocates had hoped.

Guimaoutdinov remembers lectures extolling the benefits such a network
would bring. “It sounded really exciting, like there could be a huge
efficiency in terms of fewer people involved in routine calculations,
more precision,” he says. Better and more easily shared data may have
helped officials run a closely managed economy.

But the Soviet system as a whole was not flexible, says Vladimir
Kitov. “There was a plan and you just couldn’t do anything beyond that,”
says Guimaoutdinov. “They were producing brown shoes and black shoes and
nobody liked either of those – whole shops were filled with them.”

Meanwhile, different ministries and regions were often locked in
arguments with one another – everyone, says Guimaoutdinov, was worried
about losing his or her turf.
//--clip
Computer Nerd Kev
2018-08-25 06:38:11 UTC
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Post by RS Wood
Post by Computer Nerd Kev
Why the forgotten Soviet internet was doomed from the start
By Chris Baraniuk, 26 October 2016
For decades, a handful of researchers had been urging officials to
let them build a computer network, connecting thousands of machines
across the USSR. It could have rivalled the network sending out
tendrils in the US and western Europe at the time - a network that
would grow into the internet of today." ...
Great article, thanks for posting; I'd have missed it otherwise. (and I
love the image of the little Soviet boy mansplaining something to the
little Soviet girl, who looks on adoringly). I'm hugely interested in
these early days.
I've been looking into the alternate universe of computing in the Soviet
Union lately. Here are some other links which are interesting, though
not proper articles like the above:

Soviet Digital Electronics Museum:
http://www.leningrad.su/museum/
-Don't miss the "Baget", or more particularly, what's running on it
in the pictures. :)

Russian Virtual Computer Museum:
http://www.computer-museum.ru/english/index.php
-More text, fewer pictures. Focuses on Soviet mainframes and the
people involved. Lots of info (including "proper" articles).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Soviet_computer_systems

Independent (not copied) Soviet computers in the 60s:
http://englishrussia.com/2016/09/03/minsk-vs-ibm/

Comments about the chips inside:
http://www.eevblog.com/forum/chat/soviet-production-of-electronic-components/

Video games:
http://englishrussia.com/2014/05/17/soviet-videogames-copied-from-american-and-japanese-ones/

Actually, here are some "proper" articles:
http://www.computerhistory.org/atchm/the-elbrus-2-a-soviet-era-high-performance-computer/
https://hackaday.com/2014/12/15/home-computers-behind-the-iron-curtain/
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RS Wood
2018-08-25 15:50:17 UTC
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Post by Computer Nerd Kev
I've been looking into the alternate universe of computing in the Soviet
Union lately. Here are some other links which are interesting, though
http://www.leningrad.su/museum/
-Don't miss the "Baget", or more particularly, what's running on it
in the pictures. :)
http://www.computer-museum.ru/english/index.php
-More text, fewer pictures. Focuses on Soviet mainframes and the
people involved. Lots of info (including "proper" articles).
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Soviet_computer_systems
http://englishrussia.com/2016/09/03/minsk-vs-ibm/
http://www.eevblog.com/forum/chat/soviet-production-of-electronic-components/
http://englishrussia.com/2014/05/17/soviet-videogames-copied-from-american-and-japanese-ones/
http://www.computerhistory.org/atchm/the-elbrus-2-a-soviet-era-high-performance-computer/
https://hackaday.com/2014/12/15/home-computers-behind-the-iron-curtain/
Keep posting - I'm really enjoying this!!! Also happy to have accessed my
very first .su domain. Seems somehow naughty. (I'm sure the American
democratic party will be crawling all over me later today, aha ha ha).

The Baget looks like a proper Gateway brand 486. CapsLock in the wrong
place and everything! "Remote Missile Reprogramming Tool" is great
propaganda, considering it's in ASCII English, not cyrillic (or wait, is it
some 90s game I don't recognize?) Interesting to see bog-standards parallel
and serial connections, and what looks like an AT keyboard connector. In
fact, the only vaguely soviet aspect to it is the cyrillic on the 5 1/4
floppy disk label.

I like the Neuron quite a bit, though aesthetically it looks inspired by the
Commodore 64.

There's a huge amount of content here ... guess what I'm going to be doing
the rest of this weekend? :) Looks though, like in a single sentence, the
story is early innovation and uniquely Soviet designs, that quickly converge
to obvious Western reproductions, possibly copied in haste and desperation
as the Soviets fell behind during the Cold War.

This image looks like midnight commander/norton commander. 5+3 naming
convention (suck it, DOS!) and file names dating back to 1985. So cool.
The Elektronika looks inspired by old TRS-80 technology.

http://www.leningrad.su/museum/show_big.php?n=1007
Computer Nerd Kev
2018-08-25 22:58:05 UTC
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Post by RS Wood
Post by Computer Nerd Kev
I've been looking into the alternate universe of computing in the Soviet
Union lately. Here are some other links which are interesting, though
Keep posting - I'm really enjoying this!!! Also happy to have accessed my
very first .su domain. Seems somehow naughty. (I'm sure the American
democratic party will be crawling all over me later today, aha ha ha).
Yeah, I'm pretty sure it was my first as well. That's cleared out my
bookmarks built up so far, but I'll be sure to post back with anything
else interesting that I find.
Post by RS Wood
The Baget looks like a proper Gateway brand 486. CapsLock in the wrong
place and everything! "Remote Missile Reprogramming Tool" is great
propaganda, considering it's in ASCII English, not cyrillic (or wait, is it
some 90s game I don't recognize?)
Interesting to see bog-standards parallel
and serial connections, and what looks like an AT keyboard connector. In
fact, the only vaguely soviet aspect to it is the cyrillic on the 5 1/4
floppy disk label.
And the drives themselves are made by Samsung. :)
Post by RS Wood
I like the Neuron quite a bit, though aesthetically it looks inspired by the
Commodore 64.
There's a huge amount of content here ... guess what I'm going to be doing
the rest of this weekend? :) Looks though, like in a single sentence, the
story is early innovation and uniquely Soviet designs, that quickly converge
to obvious Western reproductions, possibly copied in haste and desperation
as the Soviets fell behind during the Cold War.
Yes, there was clearly an underlying desperation for just being able to get
at the western components and wack them in instead of trying to figure out
what to do without them. The motherboard of a 1994 i386 PC clone tells the
story - surface-mount VLSI chips mixed in amongst Russian through-hole
logic chips and connectors on a brown PCB, in order to talk with an Intel
CPU:
http://www.leningrad.su/museum/show_big.php?n=1330

Of course now that they could finally get the components that they always
wanted, customers could just buy their computers from the west anyway.
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Computer Nerd Kev
2018-09-16 03:46:38 UTC
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Post by Computer Nerd Kev
Post by RS Wood
Post by Computer Nerd Kev
I've been looking into the alternate universe of computing in the Soviet
Union lately. Here are some other links which are interesting, though
Keep posting - I'm really enjoying this!!! Also happy to have accessed my
very first .su domain. Seems somehow naughty. (I'm sure the American
democratic party will be crawling all over me later today, aha ha ha).
Yeah, I'm pretty sure it was my first as well. That's cleared out my
bookmarks built up so far, but I'll be sure to post back with anything
else interesting that I find.
Computing in the Soviet Space Program
http://web.mit.edu/slava/space/
-My favourite take-away fact so far: The Argon-16 onboard computer,
introduced in 1974 and built with discrete TTL logic chips, is what
generates the overlaid text on the B/W docking video sent back to
Earth, which you usually see when they cover a Soyuz mission on the
TV news. At least before 2016.

Russian Computers on the Buran Shuttle
http://www.cpushack.com/2011/02/20/russian-computers-on-the-buran-shuttle/
-More details at the previous website.

Development of Computer science and technologies in Ukraine
http://ukrainiancomputing.org/museum-map.html

What a Russian might have got if they ordered a computer mouse in the
early 90s:
http://englishrussia.com/2015/03/23/soviet-computer-mouse-from-a-dawn/
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Mike Spencer
2018-09-16 04:58:27 UTC
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Post by Computer Nerd Kev
What a Russian might have got if they ordered a computer mouse in the
http://englishrussia.com/2015/03/23/soviet-computer-mouse-from-a-dawn/
Connector assembled with actual bolts and nuts, not "destroy me to
find out how I snap together" tech. I like that.
--
Mike Spencer Nova Scotia, Canada
Computer Nerd Kev
2018-11-09 01:51:31 UTC
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Footage of Soviet mainframes in 1965, along with various other
marvels of the modern office demonstrated later in the video:
http://archive.org/details/51774RussianComputersFilm
Good description too.

Some breif glimpses from the early 90s between approximately
35:24 and 37:48 in this documentary:
http://archive.org/details/PandorasBoxE1TheEngineersPlot
Few of the other office wonders seem to have made their way
to the offices shown in the surrounding footage.
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Eli the Bearded
2018-09-19 04:53:28 UTC
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Post by RS Wood
Post by Computer Nerd Kev
http://www.leningrad.su/museum/
That's an interesting site, if a big slow to look around. (What, I have
to click on *EVERYTHING*?) But it does have some fascinating stuff.

Look at the key caps on this keyboard:

http://www.leningrad.su/museum/show_calc.php?n=438

Those are something special.

I've been looking a lot at the keyboards and circuit boards. Seeing the
cardboard wedged in between RAM modules (or should I say rammed in?)
speaks to a unpolished design and a practical fix:

http://www.leningrad.su/museum/show_big.php?n=1027

This Z80 clone has such wonky key spacing you wonder if the holes were
drilled free hand:

http://www.leningrad.su/museum/show_big.php?n=2407

And this thing, the ABK-6 is a pure fucking delight:

http://www.leningrad.su/museum/show_calc.php?n=491

Some of them, like this, have neatly tied off wires:

http://www.leningrad.su/museum/show_big.php?n=1681

I see that and I'm reminded that some human took a lot of care to
assemble that machine. It's not pure robot construction with the barest
of human interaction.

(Oh, and that TOKK has a really odd looking keyboard:
http://www.leningrad.su/museum/show_big.php?n=1677
Try hitting that ENTER with your pinky.)
Post by RS Wood
Keep posting - I'm really enjoying this!!! Also happy to have accessed my
very first .su domain. Seems somehow naughty. (I'm sure the American
democratic party will be crawling all over me later today, aha ha ha).
First one I've seen in AGES. It was probably the 1990s when I last
looked at one.
Post by RS Wood
I like the Neuron quite a bit, though aesthetically it looks inspired by the
Commodore 64.
Strangely, nothing seems to actually be a C64. Or maybe not strangely.
The Z80 chip was very popular in Europe, right? So easier to get a hold
of locally.

Elijah
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finds the x86 ones there positively dull
Computer Nerd Kev
2018-09-20 22:51:19 UTC
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Post by Eli the Bearded
Post by RS Wood
Post by Computer Nerd Kev
http://www.leningrad.su/museum/
That's an interesting site, if a big slow to look around. (What, I have
to click on *EVERYTHING*?) But it does have some fascinating stuff.
http://www.leningrad.su/museum/show_calc.php?n=438
Those are something special.
I've been looking a lot at the keyboards and circuit boards. Seeing the
cardboard wedged in between RAM modules (or should I say rammed in?)
http://www.leningrad.su/museum/show_big.php?n=1027
At a guess I'd say that the RAM boards were designed to slide into an
edge connector or similar, but the part wasn't available so they had
to solder pins onto all of the contacts. Then the cardboard was
needed to stop the boards from flopping about.

I also find the unusual flat (but thick, and with long legs - unlike
surface-mount) IC packages facinating. Then there are the strange
metal-can ICs on this board, they almost make it look like art:
http://www.leningrad.su/museum/show_big.php?n=2746
Post by Eli the Bearded
Post by RS Wood
I like the Neuron quite a bit, though aesthetically it looks inspired by the
Commodore 64.
Strangely, nothing seems to actually be a C64. Or maybe not strangely.
The Z80 chip was very popular in Europe, right? So easier to get a hold
of locally.
There seems to be just one 6502 computer, and it uses a "real" 6502
instead of one of their clones:
http://www.leningrad.su/museum/show_big.php?n=1166

I guess it wouldn't make sense to clone two competing western
architectures, but to choose one from each category. But then
they went and packaged PDP-11 clones in C64-like cases, which
twists that logic a bit.
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Eli the Bearded
2018-09-20 23:46:49 UTC
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Post by Computer Nerd Kev
I also find the unusual flat (but thick, and with long legs - unlike
surface-mount) IC packages facinating. Then there are the strange
http://www.leningrad.su/museum/show_big.php?n=2746
Yeah, I had found that computer already. Those are a bit strange. They
look a little more like spiders than regular Western rectangle ones,
which are more beetly or centipedey.

I emailed the maintainer Sergei Frolov (***@gmail) with some
comments and he replied pretty promptly. Just in case you have questions
about the stuff there.

Elijah
------
email address is on the bottom of the main page of the museum
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