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Veniamin Stepanovich Antonov

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Computers: M-205, M220, M-222, ES series and special computers

Veniamin Stepanovich Antonov was born on the 1 st of April 1925 into a peasant family in village Poserda, not far from ancient town Rjazan (some 200 km South-East from Moscow ).

Veniamin Stepanovich Antonov

Veniamin Stepanovich Antonov

In 1930 Antonovs moved to Moscow where he entered school in 1932. Unfortunately his regular school-life lasted only eight years (instead of 10). With the outbreak of war (World War II) he had to work at a Moscow machine-building plant as a mechanic on tank motors repairing. Antonov worked there from 1942 till 1943 and in parallel studied at an evening school. In 1943 (at the age of 18) he was mobilised to the Red Army (Soviet Army) where he first studied at the so-called ‘machine gun courses for middle-rank commanders'. Once again his learning was interrupted as the personnel and trainees of the courses were moved to front. In 1943-44 he was an infantry platoon commander.

In 1944 Antonov was twice wounded but luckily not very badly. However, after recovery he was demobilised and, on return, entered the Moscow Institute of Aircraft Technologies. It was characteristic for students of the wartime, who returned from the front, that they studied with especial enthusiasm. Besides the lust for knowledge good learning brought a feeling of contribution to victory. Those who personally once took part in liberation of some occupied territories don't need special explanations.

In 1950 he graduated from the institute with a diploma of engineer technologist on aircraft instrumentation. In Mai 1950 Antonov received appointment to the Special Design Bureau 245 (SDB-245). Of course he did not expect, that the work there would last more then 45 years.

In 1950—1953 he first was given position of engineer researcher and later was promoted to “senior engineer”. In that period he was mainly engaged in testing and adjustment of special multiplication unit and standard electronic cells of the first serial computer “Strela” [1].

Although Antonov was just a graduate the institute gave him solid knowledge on technologies and he was also good at organising of production processes. That explains why the administration of SDB-245 soon noticed his talents. In 1954 he was appointed as a head of a research laboratory and also as a deputy of B.A. Rameev [2], who was then vice designer-in-chief of the first small serial (universal) digital computer URAL (the Urals). In 1955 Rameev received his own research centre in town of Penza ( 600 km East off Moscow ) and moved there with many of his young collaborators. In 1955—1956 Antonov also worked in Penza , where he participated in completing of the URAL design and organised its industrial production at the plant of “Calculating Analytic Machines”, also in Penza .

On his (second) return to Moscow Antonov remained in position of vice designer-in-chief and personally designed special computer M-56. That was one of the big family of special computers created by SDB-245, which utilised engineering solutions, components and units, which had been first designed for computers URAL. All those projects were made according to orders of the USSR Ministry of Defence.

Later Antonov was promoted to position of designer-in-chief and was entrusted new project – computer M-205. It was mainly based on architecture of very popular universal computer[3] M-20, designed by academician S.A. Lebedev. M-20 had accumulated impressive amount of, both applied and system, software, mainly produced by the team of famous mathematician M.R. Shura-Bura[4]. During its -rather long- subsequent utilisation much more programs were developed and collected by its users. For the beginning of the 1960-s both the software and the computer itself were very advanced.

Antonov's M-205 was a digital computer with central processor taken from M-20 but with largely extended selection of peripheral devises. It was also provided with units for switching and with sort of interfaces for connecting with reading devices, which were processing telemetric information recorded on magnetic tapes. M-205 undoubtedly was a successful project. The computer was in intensive use during more than 25 years, serving in one of the biggest defence systems in Kazakhstan .

In 1963–1965 Antonov worked as a chief of department at the Scientific Institute of Electronic Machinery (SIEM – new name for SDB-245 given in 1960). Then he designed another computer M-220, also based on M-20. That was a universal (not military) semiconductor model fully compatible with M-20. Number 220 indicated its performance – 220 thousand ops.

Computer M-220 was based on a system of diode-transformer components, it had clock-rate 660 kHz, from 4096 to 16384 words RAM and cycle duration – 6 microseconds. It was popular among scientific research centres and design bureaus, including those from the Ministry of Defence field.

In 1965—1967 some modernisation was introduced and new variant appeared under name M-220M. The modernisation was performed mainly on peripheral devices, general design and manufacturing technology. ROM capacity was also extended. As a result its external design was notably improved and the production time and labour consumption were essentially reduced.

In 1967–1969 Antonov ran one more project on M series. That time it was M- 222 in which basic architecture of M-20 was seriously improved. Antonov produced it by joint efforts of his institute and mainly Special Design Bureau of (town) Kazan computer plant.

First of all it was M-222 logical structure, which was improved up to higher contemporary level so that the computer became one of the progressive models. All peripheral devices were operating simultaneously with central arithmetic unit, system of dynamic distribution of RAM was implemented, multiplexed channels were utilised in input-output system and the page level user and system software protection system was introduced to prevent their -negative- interaction. The computer was also provided with extended program interrupt system and some new computer interconnecting means.

Semiconductor computers М-220, М-220М, М-222, developing traditions of М-20, were especially popular among the customers chiefly interested in scientific and engineering problems. Computer plant in Kazan produced about 500 of those computers in that period. That amount exceeded the total of popular serial computers URAL and of smaller BESM-4 and was outnumbered only by computers “ Minsk ”.

In 1963–1966 simultaneously with development of M-220 Antonov was running new project on special computers for the Earth satellites telemetric information processing. Those were “Klen-1[5]” and “Klen-2” ordered by the Ministry of Defence. The both –single-address- machines were based on potential-impulse and diode-resistor components. They operated reliably at various places subjected to the Ministry of Defence more than 20 years.

In 1969 his institute -SIEM- was incorporated into new Scientific-Research Institute of Digital Electronic Computers (SRIDEC [6]), which was the leading Soviet research and design centre for new series of universal computers – ES (GDR name – ESER). ES was a common long-term project of the Socialist Countries, which consisted in joint production of large extendible series of fully compatible universal computers. GDR was one of the project leaders. Antonov was appointed there as the head of the department for universal computers. Their principle task consisted in design of the senior group (with the highest productivity) of the whole ES computers range.

Already in April 1973 Antonov's team produced ES-1050 – senior computer of the first ES series. Although the first Soviet serial integrated circuits ECL, implemented there, had very moderate characteristics (average delay – 15 ns), its performance reached 500 thousand ops. Its input/output system throughput was especially remarkable – it equalled 4 Mbyte/s, what was a record for that time.

As the input/output system operated autonomously from the central processor, it did not reduce its performance even under maximal load. Antonov's team in its turn produced new appliances for data teleprocessing. Efficiency of the both novelties was increased by adoption of new operating system OS-4. All that, created possibility for development of powerful (logic and information) processing systems. Those systems supported functioning, or management, of an economic region, industrial branch or a national-level enterprise.

ES-1050 was manufactured by the computer plant in Penza . In course of its serial production it was seriously modified – its performance grew up to 700 thousand ops. New modification received number ES-1052 and Antonov was its leading designer.

In 1973 he submitted dissertation thesis based on results of research on M-205, M-220 and M-222 and soon after was awarded scientific degree “candidate of technical sciences” (the ‘beginning' scientific level).

His next prominent work was connected already with computer of the second ES series (ES computers-2). That was, again senior, model ЕС-1060. It was tested and recommended to commercial production in 1977. Soon it attracted attention of the experienced users and in the same year the first serial machines were manufactured and sold by the powerful computer plant in Minsk ( Byelorussia ).

ЕС-1060 was the first ES computer with virtual memory organisation, increased precession (128 bit) in the operations with floating point, automatic repetition of instructions in case of a failure and with special registration means for ‘programming events'.

That was also the first implementation of magnetic disc as memory storage unit with capacity of 100 Mbyte, of block-multiplexed channels, of telecommunication processor and complex information display unit ЕС-7920. Computer ES-1060 and its variant – twin-computer complex VC2 R-60, were in big demand among various specialists from the USSR and socialist countries.

Since 1979 Antonov led computer centre of the SRIDEC where he took part in design of special computation complexes (based on the institute computers) and in corresponding software development. Before 1990 his computers ES-1066, twin-processor double-computer complex ES-1068, operating systems OS-6 and OS-7 were tested and received approval of the State Commission.

Economic transformations of the 1990-s cut all forms of state support for the national computer research and production. Economic structure of the Soviet computer branch was composed so, that it had very powerful scientific basis but the way of its financial payback was very indirect – via intermediate state/ministerial offices. No wonder that the computer centre of the SRIDEC rapidly degraded. One of the USSR leading computer designers – V.S. Antonov and many other colleagues had to quit.

He died in Moscow on the 20 th of February 2004.

Antonov personally authored numerous publications on computers and their units. The monograph, “Electronic Computer ES- 1050” was among his most popular ones. He also had about 20 patents (USSR Author's certificates).

As participant of the war (WWII) Antonov was decorated with order “Patriotic War” and seven medals. His scientific contribution was also highly appreciated. He was decorated with two orders “Red Banner of Labour” (1954 and 1966), with “Lenin Order” (1971), with jubilee medal “For Noble Labour” (1970). In 1962 he also received sign “Honourable Radio Operator” – special award of an industrial branch.

His contribution to scientific basis and principle design solutions of ES computers, as well as his efforts in establishing industrial basis for their production, and also to development of the defence computers, were eventually awarded the “Lenin premium” (the USSR highest premium) in 1983.


1. More on SDB-245 and “Strela” see in biography of Basilevskiy Yury Yakovlevich

2. See in: Rameev Bashir Iskanderovich

3. M-20, see in: Lebedev Sergey Alekseevich

4. For more details see in: Shura-Bura Mikhail Romanovich

5. Klen (Russ.) = maple.

6. More details on SIDREC see in biography of Przhijalkovskiy Viktor Vladimirovich and in biography of Sergey Arkadevich Krutovskikh.


  1. Biography of Antonov by V.V. Przhijalkovskiy

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