The main fault of The 70s or the years of “might-have-been hopes”
The great accumulated experience in creating computers, the profound comparison of our domestic achievements with the new examples of foreign computer technique prompted the scientists that it is possible to create the computing means of new generation meeting the world standards. Of that opinion were many outstanding Ukrainian scientists of that time - Lebedev, Dorodnitsin, Glushkov and others. They proceeded from quite a favorable situation in the country.
The computerization of national economy was considered as one of the most essential tasks. The decision to create the United system of computers - the machines of new generation on integrals.
The USA were the first to create the families of computers. In 1963-64 the IBM Company worked out the IBM-360 system. It comprised the models with different capacities for which a wide range of software was created.
A decision concerning the third generation of computers (their structure and architecture) was to be made in the USSR in the late60s.
But instead of making the decision based on the scientific grounds concerning the future of the United system of computers the Ministry of Electronic Industry issued the administrative order to copy the IBM-360 system. The leaders of the Ministry did not take into consideration the opinion of the leading scientists of the country.
Despite the fact that there were enough grounds for thinking the 70s would bring new big progresses, those years were the step back due to the fault way dictated by the highest authorities from above.
The comparison of the computer development
in the usa and ukraine
At the time when the computer science was just uprising this two countries were one of the most noticeably influential. There were a lot of talented scientists and inventors in both of them. But the situation in Ukraine (which at that time was one of 15 Republics of the former USSR) was complicated, on one hand, with the consequences of the Second World War and, on the other hand, at a certain period Cybernetics and Computer Science were not acknowledged. Of cause, later it went to the past, but nevertheless it played a negative role on the Ukrainian computer development.
It also should be noticed that in America they paid more attention to the development of computers for civil and later personal use. But in Ukraine the attention was mainly focused on the military and industrial needs.
Another interesting aspect of the Ukrainian computer development was the process of the 70s when “sovietizing” of the IBM-360 system became the first step on the way of weakening of positions achieved by the Soviet machinery construction the first two decades of its development. The next step that led to the further lag was the mindless copying by the SU Ministry of Electronic Industry and putting into production the next American elaborations in the field of microprocessor equipment.
The natural final stage was buying in enormous quantities of foreign computers last years and pressing to the deep background our domestic researches, and developments, and the computer-building industry on the whole.
Another interesting aspect of the Ukrainian computer development was the process of the 70s when the “sovietising” of the IBM-360 system became the first step on the way of weakening of positions, achieved by the Soviet machinery construction of the first two decades of its development. The next step that led to the further lag was the mindless copying of the next American elaborations in the field of microprocessor technique by the Ministry of Computer Industry.
Having analyzed the development of computer science in two countries I have found some similar and some distinctive features in the arising of computers.
First of all, I would like to say that at the first stages the two countries rubbed shoulders with each other. But then, at a certain stage the USSR was sadly mistaken having copied the IBM-360 out of date technology. Estimating the discussion of possible ways of the computer technique development in the former USSR in late 1960s - early 1970s from the today point of view it can be noticed that we have chosen a worse if not the worst one. The only progressive way was to base on our domestic researches and to collaborate with the west-European companies in working out the new generation of machines. Thus we would reach the world level of production, and we would have a real base for the further development together with leading European companies.
Unfortunately the last twenty years may be called the years of “unrealized possibilities”. Today it is still possible to change the situation; but tomorrow it will be too late.
Will the new times come? Will there be a new renaissance of science, engineering and national economy as it was in the post-war period? Only one thing remains for us - that is to wait, to hope and to do our best to reach the final goal.
William Aspray, Charles Babbage Institute Reprint Series in the History of Computing 7, Los Angeles, 1985.
D.J.Frailey “Computer Architecture” in Encyclopedia of Computer Science.
Stan Augarten “Bit by Bit: An Illustrated History of Computers”, New York, 1984.