First Five Years of Cybernetics Development at the Computing Center
of the Academy of Science of UkrSSR. 1957-1962

Boris Malinovsky


1951 in Kiev the first soviet computer was developed at the computing engineering laboratory of the Institute of Electrical Engineering of the AS UkrSSR under guidance of Sergei A.Lebedev, an Institute director and academician. This computer turned out to be also the first in the continental Europe and was named as the Small Electronic Computing Machine (SECM).

When in 1954 Sergei A.Lebedev moved to Moscow, the computing engineering laboratory where SECM continued to be under operation was handed over to the Institute of Mathematics of the AS UkrSSR headed by an Academician B.V.Gnedenko. 1956 Victor Glushkov, a young Doctor of Science from the city of Sverdlovsk was invited to head the laboratory.

A year earlier a Government Resolution was adopted on establishing of computing centers in a number of Academies of the Union Republics. An Academician B.V.Gnedenko became responsible for development of this work in Ukraine.

In a majority of countries Cybernetics was first mentioned in relation to 1948 appearance in the USA of Norbert Wiener's book "Cybernetics: Or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine". The revival of a term "Cybernetics" (before it was used by Amper as a capability to govern a state) coincided with appearance of digital electronic computing machines.

Wiener's assumptions that in future digital computing machines might surpass a human intellect as to the level of computer intellect, became a subject of much controversy as to the book of the famous scientist. One of the first critics of Cybernetics in Kiev was Ekaterina A.Shkabara, an active participant of SECM creation. Having prepared in 1955 a slashing article on Cybernetics as a pseudo-science, she showed this article to Sergei Lebedev and tried to persuade him to be her co-author, but failed.

At that time such prominent scientists as Liapunov, Berg, Kitov advocated for Cybernetics. Victor Glushkov made his contribution as well. In "Evening Kiev" newspaper he clearly determined guidelines of Cybernetics development as theoretical, economical, technical, biological and medical. Technical means related to control were named as Cybernetics appliances.

Shkabara decided to get information from "the first hands". She visited a secret institution (!) in Moscow where the Wiener's book was kept and tried to understand who was right or wrong as to the essence and importance of Cybernetics. As a result she understood, that first estimations of a number of soviet philosophers turned out to be mistaken and she changed her mind in favour of Cybernetics' supporters. As to Sergei Lebedev, I remember that once his colleagues, when celebrating his 60th birthday, presented him a computer toy ably to pronounce various aphorisms, such as "If you are not very good in your business, go ahead to pursue Cybernetics!" Perhaps, at that time it corresponded to Lebedev's attitude to Cybernetics. As if he never noticed its appearance.

Discussions around Cybernetics went parallel to rapid development of Computing technics, especially abroad, where electronic tubes already started to be replaced by semi-conductor elements. In Ukraine the period of development of tube machines still continued. In 1954 the development of "Kiev" universal tube computer was launched (L.N.Dashevskii, E.A.Shkabara, S.B.Pogrebinskii, E.L.Yushchenko, etc), a specialized tube computer for solving of linear equation systems had been almost developed (Z.L.Rabinovitch). In cooperation with a scientific institute NII5 (Moscow), two computers for tasks of anti-aircraft defence were under development (data collection and processing from radio-location stations and pointing a destroyer to a target (Boris Malinovsky, Z.L.Rabinovitch).

The creative potential of the laboratory accumulated under Lebedev's management could not be used properly because of rather poor material and technical provision. Taking it into account, some leading scientists (Boris Malinovskiy, E.A.Shkabara), worried about the backlog in development of computer engineering in comparison to Western laboratories, addressed with a letter to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine asking for a state support for development of computer engineering in Ukraine.

Facade of the construction of the Computing Center on the street Lisogirskaya

To all appearances, it quickened the implementation of the Soviet Government Resolution on computing centers, including Ukraine. The letter was discussed at the Session of CC CPU where also Victor Glushkov was invited. As a result, the Resolution was adopted on establishment of Computing Center of the Academy of Science of UkrSSR and on building in 1956-1957 the premises of the new institute and a dwelling house for its employees. Victor Glushkov was appointed a director and I was offered to be his deputy director in scientific work. Ice was broken!

To the left of the building of the Institute of Cybernetics on the prospectus of Science, on the right of the Computing Center building on the Lysogorskaya street

On 28 February, 1962 after five years of successful work of the Computing Center of the Academy of Science of UkrSSR, Victor Glushkov was elected as a Vice-president of the Academy of Science of UkrSSR. He was proposed for election by Boris E.Paton, who at the same day was elected as the President of the Academy. Soon after the elections, Glushkov published an article "In the world of Cybernetics" in the popular scientific journal "Science and Life". This article reviewed the activity of the Computing Center since its foundation in December, 1957.

The article was the first publication of the newly elected Vice-President, illustrating the main results of the scientific and research work of the Computing Center.

Later, in the short historical essay on the development of Cybernetics in the Ukrainian Academy of Science, Glushkov1 wrote:

"...In accordance with a new (more comprehensive than that of Wiener) understanding of Cybernetics, which was under formation at that time at the Ukrainian Academy of Science, it implied that from the very beginning the Computing Center of Ukrainian Academy of Science faced the tasks of development of a variety of problems of theoretical and applied Cybernetics. Thus, the period of formation of the new institute - since its foundation (1956-1957 ) till its reorganization into Institute of Cybernetics of the Ukrainian Academy of Science (1962), might be named as the starting period of development of Cybernetics at our Academy, as well as the period of foundation and development of the Small Electronic Computing Machine (1948-1953) might be named as an initial stage of development of electronic computing technique. At that period, there were laid the basis for future development of Cybernetics at Ukrainian Academy of Science; the main scientific schools and directions were founded; systematic training of specialists in the field of theoretical and applied Cybernetics started; the basic scientific and organizational principles for development of Cybernetics in Ukraine were made".

Working at this article, I considered as necessary to begin it from Glushkov's article "In the World of Cybernetics", which was practically unknown to the public, adding my reminiscences on the people, who performed the work, as well as some important facts which remained in my memory, for the purpose of better understanding of the history of development of Cybernetics at the Computing Center of Ukrainian Academy of Science, which became at that time a very creative scientific institution, contributing a lot to the initial development of Cybernetics."

Glushkov's article is published in abridged form.

In the World of Cybernetics

In the Computing Center of the Academy of Science of UkrSSR in the years prior to its reorganization in the Institute of Cybernetics (1957-1962), important researches in many fields of modern Cybernetics, computing mathematics and engineering were conducted. It resulted, in particular, in development of new computing devices. A universal multipurpose computing machine (UMCM) was developed to control various production processes in metallurgy, mechanical engineering, power engineering, chemical, food-and other fields of industry.

UMCM - a small universal semi-conductor digital machine with a special add-in device allowing to receive data from industrial works. Due to semi-conductor use, it is very reliable, power-consuming, and is smaller in size in comparison with tube machines of the same capacity. The machine covers space of about two square meters, requires no special cooling or ventilation systems and can operate in reliable mode in a broad temperature range. All it allows to install it directly in industrial plants at control objects.

Main sphere of UMCM use -the control of complex industrial processes. At first, the machine was used as a qualified advisor to a man, who has to control some production areas. Under such terms, the UMCM automatically reviews the collected sensor data and defines the best alternative at a given process. A master can accept or neglect these "pieces of advice".

The Computing Center of the Academy of Science of UkrSSR works not only under creation of control machines. Its team is also engaged in development of methodology of their use to control specific production processes. Highly efficient was also the use of remote control of carbonate column work at the soda factory in Slaviansk (within 630 kilometer distance) accomplished in 1961. The obtained economic efficiency proves that the machine can cover its installation cost in about half a year.

Of great interest is also use of universal multipurpose computing machine (in combination with a special parabolic interpolator) to define data, necessary for effective realization of complex automation of production processes at engineering plants. So, such control system has been already implemented at one engineering plant. According to preliminary data, it could save more than 350 thousand rubles per year.

Together with the UMCM machine and the parabolic interpolator there were developed a number of other digital and analog computing machines and devices at the Computing Center of the Academy of Science of UkrSSR in recent years. Some of these devices are already put into production. In particular, these are "EMSS-7" and"EMSS-7M" electric simulated machines to use mostly for computing complex frame constructions. Using these machine helps to reduce significantly terms of designing many complicated industrial objects. So, for example, the computation of designing of a new workshop at one of the synthetic caoutchouc plant was made for three days instead of forty days; for five days instead of two months - the computation of designing of a big building of one of chemical industrial complex.

...Interesting researches are conducted in some sections of theoretical Cybernetics. Works of scientists of the Computing Center of the Academy of Science of UkrSSR in the field of Abstract Automata Theory allowed to develop methods of logic computation of discrete automaton circuits on the basis of electronic digital machines. These works launched the full automation of the process of complex discrete Cybernetic systems and devices designing.

A very interesting model was developed, simulating some primary animals, able to reproduce themselves via cell fission, to migrate for foraging, to die of hunger and of aging.

Methods of self-learning system theory are used in researches on visual pattern recognition. The target of this research is to develop systems (so called reading automatons) for digital coding of visual information and its entering to computing machines.

Besides the above-mentioned works, scientists of the Computing Center of the Academy of Science of UkrSSR work on various problems in the field of Cybernetics, calculus Mathematics and engineering. An interesting research in biological Cybernetics was launched, significant progress was achieved in automation of programming and development of new computation methods. Schemata of hybrid machines were developed, combining in one system of both analog and discrete computing machines. Further work would be done in both development of theoretical aspects of science and in the field of using computers in the national economy.

Victor Glushkov, Visce-president of Academy of Science of UkrSSR

Evidently, Glushkov emphasized two principle lines of investigation: applied - in the field of control devices and theoretical - a synthesis of digital automatic devices.

Not everything proved to be a success right away... The first All-union Meeting on Control Devices

The Meeting took place in Moscow in 1959. I also presented at the meeting my report on UMCM (Universal multipurpose computing mashine), which was already coming to life. My report provoked many questions. I was invited to the Commission on preparation of the meeting's resolution. The draft resolution contained a sentence: "To approve the UMCM development at the Ukrainian Academy of Science". The final meeting of the commission was attended by Mr.Loskutov, a chief of the department of computing technique of the USSR State Planning Committee. I knew him on his book (rather primitive) dedicated to various recording digital devices and specialized computers. He behaved as a tsar magnate. Having head the sentence on UMC, he demanded to delete it, stating that this computer was made only for the sake of Academicians' lust and there was no need in it!

The sentence was deleted.

It was no use to argue with a self-enamoured man who was given unlimited powers... It remained us the only thing: to work and to prove our case.

On my initiative and with the support of Kiev arms plant m/b 62, two Ukrainian Government Resolutions #34 of 9 January, 1960 and # 369 of 9 March, 1960 were adopted on organization of mass production of electronic computing machines at Kiev arms plant m/b 62.

We should have been glad, but when we received a first set of computer devices - we were simply shocked. It was just a heap of computer components and nothing more2. Numerous soldered joinings of components were made very badly and get continually out of order. Because of a careless computer assembling, the card cutoff points also often broke down. It was simply impossible to adjust a computer after all. What was found out after we visited the workshop where our Universal multipurpose computing machine (UMCM) was assembled?

The plant director found out that the new computing machine is 6 time bigger than oscillographs (which were manufactured at the plant), and he entrusted the assembling of the UMCM to newly employed unqualified young workers with soldering irons in hands. And so they started to sold computer components and to break cutoff points because of the lack of qualification.

I remember, I gathered at that hard period all employees of my department and told them:

- I understand, that it's a very hard work to remedy all defects in the computer. But it was much harder at the frontline. Believe me, but you are not worse than the front-line soldiers!

I addressed the young people - the majority of them were under 25 years old; I was 35, 10 years older, plus I participated at the war and that made me more responsible and self-contained.

My words were heard: the employees worked regardless of one's own feelings (A.Kukharchuk, V.Kalenchuk, L.Korytnaya, V.Pshenitchnyi, I.Voitovych, V.Kalashnikov, etc). Working very hard, we managed to remedy the broken cutoff points and to adjust the computer.

Our passion to a new trend in development of science and technique and the fact, that we can work together with the plant, made us confident in a success. Although, the enormous amount of work which we had to do together with the plant workers in preparing the computer mass-production, began to prevent us to fulfil our mutual obligations.

The plant obviously was not able to do the entrusted work. I was forced to use the "heavy artillery" - to write a letter to the Party Central committee (given in short).

"...The Computing Center of Ukrainian Academy of Science is requesting to take the necessary steps to provide a mass-production of computers at the plant m/b 62. On our opinion these steps should be as follows:

1. To help the plant m/b 62 urgently in the first half of August to complete a constructor and technological group on computer technique with 15 constructors and production engineers with a task of speedy completion of the Universal multipurpose computing machine with technical documentation together with the Computing Center of Ukrainian Academy of Science.

2. To oblige the plant m/b 62 within the 4th Quarter, 1961 to increase the number of engineers and debugging technicians to adjust the necessary number of computers, to be manufactured in 1962 in accordance with the State Planning Committee of Ukraine.

3. To oblige the plant to take proper part in preparation of technical documentation on a serial computer sample.

The Computing Center of Ukrainian Academy of Science considers, that if the above-mentioned measures are not taken, the organizing of mass-production of control computers at the plant m/b 62 in 1962 will be under threat of failure".

"I have done everything possible to prevent putting the UMCM into mass-production!"

After the very hard year, when I had, almost constantly, to visit the plant workshop, where the UMCM was under production, I, coming back from Sweden, where I made a report on "Dnepr" UMCM and using it for control in industry at the international IFAK-IFIP symposium, met Valentin Zgurskiy, the then chief plant production engineer (later he became the plant director and then - the city mayor).

He asked me:

- Boris Nikolayevich, why are so sad?

- In the USA and England the computing technique is being implemented by those who need it, and here is nothing:and I waved the hand in desperation.

- I have to confess to you, said Valentin Zgurskiy - when you gave the machine to the plant for a mass-production, I have done everything possible to prevent putting of the UMCM into serial-production!

- But now I am ready to kneel and ask you in helping me to set the UMCM in the galvanic workshop. I understand that it is very perspective!

I remember, how glad I was to hear his sincere repentance and request: evidently our computer users realized computer potential and if so - everything would take a turn for the better in my country as well, and not only in the USA, England and other countries!

It also became clear why it was so hard to put the UMCM into a serial production!

Due to my naivety, I continued to think that all new and progressive should immediately be supported and that opposition to technological progress is mentioned only in books.

After sending the letter to the CC CP of Ukraine, the existed problems with putting UMCM into a serial production settled for the better. M.Kotliarevskiy, the plant director took all measures to improve the production technology. The workshop worked to its full capacity. Speaking at the party meeting, Victor Glushkov vividly described, what great benefits computing technique could give to the industry and expressed his regret that UMCM computers being produced in a very small quantity. It was head. In the period of soviet state-owned plants, it was easier to settle economic problems. M.Kotliarevskiy was given a task to build a plant for computing control technique (CCT), later on, the "Electronmash". The plant was built within 3 years and started to produce "Dnepr" computers.

"Miracle" made by hands

When some UMCM computers were manufactured and adjusted, the first one should be presented to the State Commission and the rest - be installed at the industrial enterprises to prove in action that they are reliable and compatible.

The first UMCM model - the result of a three-year hard work of its creators -had undergone a two-week severe test for its average available time, for correspondence of technical requirements by cooling and heating, for changing standard elements, for execution of control tasks, etc.

According to results of accepting UMCM equipment, on 9 December, 1961, the State Commission recommended its serial production. We won a victory!

"...Only with utmost efforts became it possible to accomplish such enormous amount of work" - Victor Glushkov resumed, speaking at the Committee on defence of my doctoral thesis "Development, research and implementation into industry of the Universal Multipurpose Computing Machine"

Main work on creation of Dnepr" and its pioneer systems was done by technical departments of Computing Center of AS UkrSSR (more than 60 employees), as well as almost the same number of engineers, designers, technicians, employed at the new scientific and design department of Computing Center of AS UkrSSR.

Main performers of works on putting the Dnepr" computer into production and its update in 1964 were engineers and technicians of the Kiev plant m/b 62, later on, the CCT plant.

A three-year hard labour of the group of young employees of the Computing Center of AS UkrSSR, who worked with me was called by Boris Paton, the President of the National AS UkrSSR, as the "Heroic epic work".

UMCM "Dnepr" proved to be the first in the Soviet Union a multipurpose control computing machine and was used in various pioneer control systems.

Of 500 "Dnepr" computers, produced by Kiev "Electronmash" plant, only several tens were used in Ukraine, the rest- almost half a thousand found their use in the Russian Federation. Only a few - in other republics of the former Soviet Union and abroad. Thus, for Russians, the "Dnepr" computer became very famous and highly appreciated.

In 1963 the heroic work of "Dnepr" creation under the title:" Development, and implementation of Universal Multipurpose Computing Machine (UMCM) into USSR economy" was recommend for 1964 Lenin prize (B.Malinovskiy, G.Mikhailov, N.Pavlov, B.Timofeev,A.Kukharchuk,Y.Oreshkin, V.Kalenchuk, L.Korytnaya, V.Egipko, F.Zykov, J.Mitulinskiy, A.Tolstun, V.Skurikhin,J/Sokolovskiy, M.Kotliarevskiy, M.Galuzinskiy). The work by all means was worth it, but failed to get the Lenin prize.

Involuntarily, I remember - 10 years ago the developers of SECM were also recommended for the high prize, but also failed to receive it. Both works got the same estimation: "you are ahead of time". But just the time showed that it was not true, because the appearance of UMCM "Dnepr" became really an important stage in building of Ukrainian computers. It resulted in launching the mass-production of computers instead of making individual unique models.

UMCM "Dnepr" development and mastering of its production technology by the plant demanded really great efforts from me, my employees and the plant workers. An official symbol of the recognition of a three-year hard labour on UMCM development, mass-production and usage became one of the first UMCM computers being kept at the Moscow State polytechnic Museum which is acknowledged as the 1st category memorial of the national science and technique (certificate # 881 of 12.11.2008).

I also remember that when we worked together in the Computer center of AS Ukr.SSR, Victor Glushkov, reviewing our work told me that "Our Institute became famous thanks to "Dnepr"!

"...To transform the computer designing from art into science".

When explaining his intention expressed in the article "In the World of Cybernetics" to develop the digital automata theory with a purpose of creating methods for designing of Cybernetics facilities, Victor Gluskov formed his task as follows (published later in his article "Confession"):

"...Computing machines were then designed on the basis of engineer intuition. I myself had to investigate principles of computer building and made up my own understanding of computer work. Since then, the theory of computing machines became one of my special interests. I decided to transform the designing of computers from art into science. The Americans did, certainly, the same, but in Amerika these materials appeared later, although a book of collected articles on the automata theory was published in the USA in 1956.

The automata theory as the basis for computer designing, was then developed weakly. The first, who expressed an idea on possibility to use mathematical logic in designing of technical devices was, apparently, Shenon in the USA and V.Shestakov and M.Gavrilov in our country. They used an elemental mechanism of formal mathematic logic for designing of switching circuits in telephone stations commutators. But it turned out that it can be used in elemental electronic circuits, that is why in post-war years, when digital computing technique was under development, attempts were made to use this mechanism for solving tasks of computer schematic synthesis.

I started to work at this problem and organized a seminar on the automata theory. One of my first works laid therein that I found more algebraic smart, simple and logically clear conception for Cleany automaton and obtained all Cleany's data. And the most important - in contrast to Cleany's data, I developed a theory directed to real-world problem of computer designing. At the seminar, there were considered the questions of designing of "Kiev" computer and it could be seen what worked from my theory and what - not.

It was my main work, which was completed in 1961. I worked very hard. In the daytime I worked at the institute. I wrote my books and article at night, went to bed at five a.m. Although, it adversely affected my health. Early 1963 I had to be hospitalized because of brain vessel spasms. Later on, I never allowed myself to conduct such way of living".

I interrupt Victor Mikhailovich story with my small comment.

Victor Mikhailovich never spared himself, all three years which I devoted to Dnepr computer, he worked hard and selflessly on his fundamental monograph "Digital Automata Theory". I remember, on the eve of a new 1960 year, returning from Moscow, where he had a meeting with A.Kurosh, his former scientific teacher, he amazed me with his offer to became a Director instead of him:

Kurosh said, that I dissipates my energies, instead of concentrating on the only scientific direction where I really can achieve a lot. But for that I have to be free from all organizational questions and devote myself only to work...

I responded that I could not accept his offer, but I would take all organizational questions upon myself and that I would solve by himself all issues associated with Dnepr computer and I kept my word.

Victor Mikhailovich continues:

"...My book " Digital Automata Synthesis" was published in 1961. It became a basis for an entire trend in our institute and it even played some role in the country. In 1964 the book was awarded the Lenin prize. In those years I wrote some other books. My Monograph "Introduction to Cybernetics" was finished in the hospital. It was issued in 1964 and then was published in the USA and many other countries, as well as "Digital Automata Synthesis". At that period I wrote a theoretical article, which provided a basis for many works on Automata Theory involving the Algebraic Automata Theory. It was "Abstract Automata Theory" and was published in "Progress of Mathematical Sciences" journal, i.e. this article was intended for large sections of the mathematicians. It was republished as a single book in the GGR and other countries.

Under influence of this book, our many algebraic specialists began to be engaged with the Automata Theory. But I should mention that a distinctive feature of our school was therein, that we tried to be as close to the practical work as possible.

...Works on artificial intelligence have been also started in Computing Center of AS UkrSSR. Together with already mentioned immediate aim (raising the level of computer language), the Computing Center was dealing with a number of other tasks: visual pattern recognition (V.A.Kovalevskiy and others), recognition of phrase content in natural languages (V.Glushkov, A.Stogniy), theory of self-learning and self-organizing systems (V.Glushkov, A.Letichevskiy, etc). There were formed principles of building of intelligence robot model (V.Glushkov). At the Institute of Electrical Engineering of AS UkrSSR, the problems of self-organizing systems began to be investigated by A.Ivakhnenko.

In 1959 at the Institute of Mathematics of AS UkrSSR a group of biological Cybernetics under guidance of B.Gnedenko was formed. Later, under guidance of Nikolai Amosov a department of biological Cybernetics was organized, which in 1961 was moved to Computing Center of AS UkrSSR. Biological cyberneticians started to conduct research on automation of medical diagnostics, on investigation of control and- regulation processes in living organisms, computer modelling of high level nervous system action. The first in the USSR an artificial heart and lung organ was created to support functioning of a human body during heart surgeries (N.Amosov and others).

Very important for future development of Cybernetics were studies on theory of automatic control, self-tuning controllers and other analog means of automatic control (A.Ivakhnenko, A.Kukhtenko and others), which started to be conducted these years in a number of scientific institutes of AS UkrSSR.

More advanced coverage of themes of the Computing Center and its progress in theoretical and applied Cybernetics researches led to reorganization3 of the Computing Center of AS UkrSSR into the Institute of Cybernetics of AS UkrSSR. Cybernetic subjects started to developed demonstratively, including also other institutions of the Ukrainian Academy of Science (Institute of Mathematics, Physics, Electric Engineering, Physiology, etc.). Electronic computing technique began to be implemented to ever new spheres of human activity, especially to economic management, to automation of experimental investigations, etc."

Summing up, we can state, that a little known five-year period of the work of the Computing Center of AS UkrSSR is not a "blank spot" in the history of Cybernetics, but its important part, illustrating a worthy contribution to Cybernetics (in the sense how Glushkov understood this science), which became the basis for foundation and rapid development of the Institute of Cybernetics of AS UkrSSR (now National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, which since 1982 is named after its founder.

   1History of the Academy of Sciences of the Ukrainian SSR. Kyiv, "Naukova dumka", 1979
   2The basic modification of the machine used 2300 standard cells, 3000 connectors, 23 thousand contacts, 190000 soldering, 5000 semiconductor triode, 12000 diode, more than 150000 ferrite hips (0.5 mm) and other devices
   3On the initiative of Victora Glushkov.