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Soviet computer technology; automation

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Soviet cogitations: 16
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 10 Mar 2009, 21:27
New Comrade (Say hi & be nice to me!)
Post 10 Mar 2009, 22:15
I'm new to this forum and this is my first post -- so answers to this query may be in the archives or elsewhere. If so, please throw a link (thx!)

In one of the Space Race threads, someone noted US computer technology being superior to that of USSR. Is this a valid assessment? Or were the two nations' respective technologies merely "different"?

Speaking of Soviet computer technology, the Launch-on-Warning system for nuclear missile deployment is said, by some, to be more "computerized" (automated) for Russia. E.g., the Norway rocket incident of 1995 may have been less dangerous if Russia's design "ideology" didn't automate systems too much?

Soyuz re-entry, TTBOMK, is fully automated (no option for manual??) and has been attributed to close calls like off-target landings , etc.
Also, someone noted the auto land feature for Buran.

Is "full" automation some sort of Russian design paradigm? Be it political (elite power at command/control station) and/or economic (cheaper) and or engineering-based ("safer", less error-prone, etc.)

[More on Norway Rocket]
Last edited by hollowman on 11 Mar 2009, 03:37, edited 1 time in total.
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Soviet cogitations: 4953
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 13 Feb 2008, 15:25
Ideology: Other Leftist
Politburo
Post 10 Mar 2009, 23:03
Soviet computing technology was less advanced then that in the West. There are two main reasons for this that I'm aware of:

1) Khrushchev's government held it back because of fear of the effects radiation from nuclear weapons would have on silicone chips. It didn't occur to anyone at the time that electronics can be shielded from radioactivity.

2) The Soviet bureaucracy resisted the introduction of computers and technocratic reforms because people were fearful of loosing their positions. It wasn't until Andropov became General Secretary that the Soviet authorities became tougher on corruption that computers started to come into their own, but Gorbachev coming to power screwed things up.

It wasn't that the USSR didn't have the capacity to start its own computer industry, but that it was held back, had people more like Andropov continued to lead the Union rather than Gorbachev and his crew, I'm confident Soviet computers would have cought up to the West and in certain aspects, probably gone ahead (not to mention that there would likely still be a Soviet Union).
Soviet cogitations: 16
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 10 Mar 2009, 21:27
New Comrade (Say hi & be nice to me!)
Post 11 Mar 2009, 04:19
Quote:
1) Khrushchev's government held it back because of fear of the effects radiation from nuclear weapons would have on silicone chips. It didn't occur to anyone at the time that electronics can be shielded from radioactivity.
Yeah, but didn't some systems (e.g. MiG fighters) use vacuum tubes well into the 1980s?

Quote:
2) The Soviet bureaucracy resisted the introduction of computers and technocratic reforms because people were fearful of loosing their positions. It wasn't until Andropov became General Secretary that the Soviet authorities became tougher on corruption that computers started to come into their own, but Gorbachev coming to power screwed things up.
How (generally or specifically) did "Gorbachev coming to power screw things up"?

Quote:
It wasn't that the USSR didn't have the capacity to start its own computer industry, but that it was held back, had people more like Andropov continued to lead the Union rather than Gorbachev and his crew, I'm confident Soviet computers would have caught up to the West and in certain aspects, probably gone ahead (not to mention that there would likely still be a Soviet Union).
Yes, it's very possible that the USSR had greater (but never-utilized) capacity for computer development: more emphasis on sci/math in entire education system; university entrance thru tough competition (in USA: several univ's offer "scholarships" for athletic ability; family connections/wealth -- Yale, G. Bush, etc.).

Ultimately, what's impressive about the USSR is just how successfully they got along w/o much computer tech. Very resourceful! Sort of like Cuba's current state-of-the-art health care system, life expectancy and birth-rate mortality soon to overtake the US --w/o having fancy tools.

Based on its enormous economic advantage (before the Cold War, during, and esp. after when it became even richer), the USA should have been far ahead of USSR. It should've been a hyperpower, if that’s kind of power structure its imperialists wanted. But the US ruling corporate-elite-intellectuals pocketed all the cash. That's why its economy is such in such a mess today, and its world reputation trashed.

FYI: I'm from the US so my comments about the USSR are based on what I've read or seen on web sites and documentaries.
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 13 Feb 2008, 15:25
Ideology: Other Leftist
Politburo
Post 11 Mar 2009, 06:32
Quote:
Yeah, but didn't some systems (e.g. MiG fighters) use vacuum tubes well into the 1980s?


I'm not sure, but I thought you were asking about computers using silicone chips. I will say though, that the Soviet Union had some of the best vacuum tube computers in the world because of its original resistance to the silicone variety.

Quote:
How (generally or specifically) did "Gorbachev coming to power screw things up"?


His coming to power stifled technocratic reform. Technocrats don't support market economics which meant they were marginalised again. They support the planned economy but with a much greater emphasis on computing technology. Technocrats pride themselves on being apolitical, but their policies resemble Socialist economics much more closely than most of them would probably like to admit.
Soviet cogitations: 16
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 10 Mar 2009, 21:27
New Comrade (Say hi & be nice to me!)
Post 11 Mar 2009, 06:59
Quote:
I will say though, that the Soviet Union had some of the best vacuum tube computers in the world because of its original resistance to the silicone variety.

Had? :-)
Still make them ... for uses in modern high-end audio (incl. amps, pre-amps, D/As, CD/DVD players, even PC sound cards), guitar amps, legacy equip (tube elec. test/metric equip still compete, like oscilloscope):
http://www.tubedepot.com/sovtek.html
http://www.tubes.ru/
http://www.svetlana-tubes.com/

"... currently estimate that the demand for audio tubes is growing 10% to 20% per year. Audio tubes are over a $200+ million dollar industry in the USA and possibly $500+ million dollars worldwide."
http://www.vacuumtube.com/Mfg.htm
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Soviet cogitations: 4953
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 13 Feb 2008, 15:25
Ideology: Other Leftist
Politburo
Post 11 Mar 2009, 07:03
Well it isn't called the Soviet Union any more... Interesting stuff by the way.
Soviet cogitations: 10005
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 14 Jul 2008, 20:01
Ideology: Trotskyism
Philosophized
Post 11 Mar 2009, 14:01
Fellow Comrade, can you explain technocracy a bit? Judging from what Wikipedia tells me, I guess I can very much agree to the concept.
"Don't know why i'm still surprised with this shit anyway." - Loz
Soviet cogitations: 16
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 10 Mar 2009, 21:27
New Comrade (Say hi & be nice to me!)
Post 11 Mar 2009, 14:02
Quote:
Yeah, but didn't some systems (e.g. MiG fighters) use vacuum tubes well into the 1980s?....
I'm not sure, but I thought you were asking about computers using silicone chips.

I wasn't too clear with my response. Tubes used in radar system of some MiG immunized the system from the EMP (electromagnetic pulse) of a nuclear blast. As far as chips ... dunno. I've heard the ISS and Space Shuttle use older 286 processors for mission critical systems: since the transistors are not crammed as tightly, there's less chance of cosmic rays and other "hard" radiation (statistically) hitting a component.
Soviet cogitations: 10005
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 14 Jul 2008, 20:01
Ideology: Trotskyism
Philosophized
Post 11 Mar 2009, 14:08
I've always thought the reason they use 286 processors is that they use less energy. If it was only about cosmic rays, wouldn't it be possible to use a Quad Core and just shield it somehow?
"Don't know why i'm still surprised with this shit anyway." - Loz
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Soviet cogitations: 4953
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 13 Feb 2008, 15:25
Ideology: Other Leftist
Politburo
Post 11 Mar 2009, 14:31
Quote:
Fellow Comrade, can you explain technocracy a bit?


Sure thing. I'll start a new thread on it sometime in the next day or two.
Soviet cogitations: 16
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 10 Mar 2009, 21:27
New Comrade (Say hi & be nice to me!)
Post 11 Mar 2009, 23:10
Quote:
If it was only about cosmic rays, wouldn't it be possible to use a Quad Core and just shield it somehow?
Intel may have solutions. See:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/7335322.stm
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Soviet cogitations: 542
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 31 Aug 2009, 07:21
Komsomol
Post 02 Sep 2009, 07:14
This web-page is much more informative & likely more accurate than "Wikipedia". Though slightly off topic these web-pages, and some of the text, touch briefly on the space program, technology, & cultural developments.

Excerpt Below Copied From:

http://www.history.com/encyclopedia.do?articleId=224802

CULTURAL DEVELOPMENTS

From the mid-20th century the Soviet government tried to enable all citizens of the Soviet Union’s many nationalities to participate fully in the culture of a unified Communist society and at the same time to preserve the traditions of their regional homelands. Tuition-free education in the form of day schools, evening classes, volunteer “people’s universities,” and correspondence courses was available to everyone. Special efforts were made to reach isolated areas where educational opportunities had been few. Instruction was in Russian or in the Soviet Union’s many other languages. Preliterate peoples were provided with their own alphabets, dictionaries, and grammars. As a result, illiteracy (about 70 percent in the Russian Empire) was eliminated, and a large part of the population acquired political awareness and the technical skills needed to develop a modern industrialized state.

Soviet cultural achievements in the natural sciences were outstanding. In some areas of chemistry and physics, for example, the Soviets outstripped all other countries. Great attention was paid to nuclear energy and to space exploration. The first earth satellites, Sputnik 1 and 2, were launched in 1957. The first circumnavigation of the earth in a spaceship was made by Yury A. Gagarin in 1961. By the early 1980s Soviet technology had produced more than 30 manned space vehicles, and the USSR had launched more than 1100 spacecraft and numerous satellites.

Nor were the arts neglected. Unions were formed for writers, painters, and other creative people. Theaters and concert halls were built, and orchestras and theater and dance companies sent on tour. Local clubs and palaces of culture brought urban and folk arts to the general public, and the government encouraged thousands of amateur groups.

More:

http://www.history.com/encyclopedia.do?articleId=224802
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Soviet cogitations: 542
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 31 Aug 2009, 07:21
Komsomol
Post 08 Sep 2009, 09:29
Quote:
Speaking of Soviet computer technology, the Launch-on-Warning system for nuclear missile deployment is said, by some, to be more "computerized" (automated) for Russia. E.g., the Norway rocket incident of 1995 may have been less dangerous if Russia's design "ideology" didn't automate systems too much?


I don't know, as these events and similar occurrences, have been more common through out history, then a lot of people realize.

Quote:
20 Mishaps that Might Have
Started Accidental Nuclear War
by Alan F. Phillips, M.D., January, 1998

Ever since the two adversaries in the Cold War, U.S.A. and U.S.S.R., realized that their nuclear arsenals were sufficient to do disastrous damage to both countries at short notice, the leaders and military commanders have thought about the possibility of a nuclear war starting without their intention or as a result of a false alarm. Increasingly elaborate accessories have been incorporated in nuclear weapons and their delivery systems to minimize the risk of unauthorized or accidenta launch or detonation. A most innovative action was the establishment of the "hot line" between Washington and Moscow in 1963 to reduce the risk of misunderstanding between the supreme commanders.

Full Article:http://www.wagingpeace.org/articles/1998/01/00_phillips_20-mishaps.htm
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 25 Sep 2009, 21:46
Pioneer
Post 29 Sep 2009, 02:53
I know by the mid to late 80s the USSR had kind of partly caught up with the west on electronics in a very small limited scale. They beat Airbus to the first Fly-By-Wire Jet, the Tu-204. Computer controlled.
There were home computers that were rare, and then these nice supercomputers that ran a clone of UNIX.

Most Military stuff stayed Analogue until Digital Fly By Wire fighters, and GLONAS Navigation devices.

I also know Gorbachev somehow got his hands on an Apple Macintosh 128k for personal desk use in the 80s, and that the Soviets smuggled some Macintosh II computers into the country around 88.

EDIT:
I have some more time to add on in more detail. The USSR had limited Silicon Production, however they did produce a wide array of CPUs and Memory. Clones of the Intel 8088, 8086, 80286 and 386 existed. DEC Mainframe on a chip, Z80 clones, MOS6502 clones, Motorola 68000 clones, and a few locally engineered microprocessors. However most of it was reverse engineered sadly. The USSR just was playing catch up in the mid to late 80's. The Communist Party saw computers as a threat-they automated some peoples jobs. High up jobs too. Like planning.
So that is why it never got far. There are countless stories of computer systems, mainframes, and other stuff being smuggled.
"A lie told often enough becomes the truth."
-Vladamir Lenin
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Soviet cogitations: 542
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 31 Aug 2009, 07:21
Komsomol
Post 30 Sep 2009, 08:25
This is old news, but interesting, as I am trying to brush up on my history.

Quote:
Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/04/15/scc_15_usdin/

How a pair of American spies created the Soviet Silicon Valley
Espionage, affairs and PCs: Ahh, Zelenograd


By Ashlee Vance in Mountain View (ashlee.vance@theregister.co.uk)

Posted in Semi-Coherent Computing, 15th April 2008 12:54 GMT

Radio Reg Few stories in computing history come close to matching the tale of Zelenograd – the Soviet Union's attempt at creating something along the lines of Silicon Valley.

Episode 15 of Semi-Coherent Computing recounts the tale of Zelenograd's founding along with the stories of the two US-born Russian spies behind the city. No one knows this history better than Steven Usdin, the author of Engineering Communism: How Two Americans Spied for Stalin and Founded the Soviet Silicon Valley, who was kind enough to appear on the show.

Complete Article:http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/04/15/scc_15_usdin/
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