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Boris Nikolayevich Naumov

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Cavendish laboratory of the physic department at Cambridge University had a symbol. It was a crocodile . E . Rutherford explained sense of that “Crocodile of science” the following way. “Crocodile is the creation which isn't able to move backwards”. Academician Boris Nikolayevich Naumov used to repeat that to his colleagues and pupils. To do the best for reaching the goal was one of his basic principles.

Naumov Boris Nikolayevich

Naumov Boris Nikolayevich

Boris Naumov was born on the 10 th of July 1927 into family of a Moscow worker. He was only 14 when the war broke out, however, he was decorated with a medal “For Defence of Moscow”, for active work at defence fortifications construction around Moscow . In 1944-1950 Naumov studied at the Moscow Power-Engineering Institute (MPEI) at the automatic control department.

Beside intensive learning and his first research works he spent much time for sport. MPEI had one of the best sport departments[1] among numerous Moscow institutes (Universities) and he himself was fond of athletics. Those times regular sport events and festivals were very popular and always attracted thousands of participants and fans. Later Naumov remembered that joining a team and common struggle at Moscow sport competitions were very useful for forming his personality. He was sure that if he could mention any success at all, it was certainly thank to the “common struggle skills” and “team spirit” he adopted at the university.

His first scientific work Naumov performed in university years. In 1947-1948 he worked as a deputy engineer of the Central scientific research laboratory at the Ministry of Power Plants. In 1948- 1950 in Central Institute for air - and hydrodynamics (situated near MPEI) where he participated in development of airplane controlling systems.

After graduation, in 1950, he worked at the Moscow Institute of Automatics and Telemechanics until 1967. Here he could form his scientific interests which lay in the field of automatic control, namely in theory of non-linear systems. The results he obtained made possible implementation of automatic control theory in design of more advanced systems for hydraulic turbines and generators operation control. He also made contribution to mathematical modeling methods of new generation that provided higher efficiency for research and design of power-producing systems.

At the same time Naumov paid much attention to approximate methods of numerical analysis and synthesis of non-linear automatic systems. He himself worked-out recurrent algorithms which enabled researches of non-linear automatic systems with the use of digital computers. He successfully reported about that at an international conference in Heidelberg ( Germany ) in 1956. New approximate methods for synthesis of optimal monitoring systems with non-linear feed-backs, also created in those years, were presented by a journal “Automatics and Telemechanics” in the USSR and then in France and USA . Those methods provided quality of automatic control near to optimum, that was why his dissertation thesis (submitted in 1955) “Approximate calculation method for automatic control systems with non-linear components”, supervised by academician Y.Z. Tsipkin, was awarded a “Candidate of technical sciences” degree.

In 1960-1967 Naumov continued his researches in theory of non-linear automatic control systems. Some more important results were obtained for analysis of absolute stability and quality of those systems.

They provided basis for analytical methods which implemented frequency representation. They proved to be easily accessible for engineers and as simple as the frequency methods studied by students at technical universities. In 1965 Naumov submitted his next thesis, “Problems of dynamics in automatic control systems”, concerning quality maintenance under negative influence conditions, which was awarded a doctorate.

In 1972 he published a monograph on general theory of non-linear automatic systems, where he analysed joined principal results of both Russian and foreign researchers in that field. The book was first produced by a soviet publishing house “Nauka” (Science) and than translated in English language in USA .

That was not his first “American experience”. In 1958-1959 he delivered lectures on automatic control at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and also participated in some researches at the laboratory of servomechanisms. There he performed and published a work on algorithms of analyse and synthesis of non-linear systems with variable parameters based on Volterra integral equations. Computer centre MIT implemented those results in software for IBM computers for research into dynamics of non-linear automatic control systems with variable parameters.

At MIT he also met the founder of cybernetics Norbert Winer, who was then the institute collaborator. Meetings and talks with him undoubtedly influenced the young Russian scientist. The cybernetics had already been recognised as a perspective science in the USSR . Naumov remembered that Winner used to ask him, “Boris, what are they writing about mi in Russia ?”.

Naumov participated in establishing of International Federation on Automatic Control (IFAC) and also of the USSR National Committee on automatic control. He himself belonged to organisation team of the first IFAC congresses, was a member of its secretariat and was a deputy chairman of the IFAC international committee on automatic control for peaceful research, usage in space, sea and geology. He invested much of his time into that activity for he was convinced in necessity of international scientific communications. It was one of his basic ideas. However it wasn't always easy - sometimes confrontation with bureaucrats took him considerable efforts. The time of civil international relations was just beginning. Many IFAC events, especially in the beginning period, were successful largely thanks to his personal energy and communication skills. The Third All-Union Conference on automatic control, that took place on board of a cruise liner “Admiral Nakhimov” could be a good example of that. The ship made a tourist cruise on the Black Sea ( Odessa - Batumy – Odessa ). During the conference numerous foreign scientists and their soviet colleagues established informal relations which fruitfully lasted many years after.

In 1967 Naumov was already experienced scholar of 40, with internationally recognised scientific merits. His “non-linear” research was in progress but implementation of computers in automatic control systems and stable growth of the controlled objects complexity – characteristic features of that technical field, brought new demands. It was that time, when advanced and powerful team – designers of special computers headed by M.A. Kartsev ( separated from the Institute of Electronic Control Computers Machines (IECM) and formed own scientific research centre. The institute itself was founded in 1958 by famous computer pioneer academician I.S. Bruk ( who was its first director, but with his retirement in 1965 IECM was transferred from the USSR academy of sciences to the Ministry of Instrumentation. According to new Ministerial program IECM should develop systems of automatic control. In 1967 Naumov was appointed its director. He supported departments of hardware and system programming and also worked out new perspective plans for department of automatic control systems.

In fact he supported the basic statements of I.S. Bruk's development program, “…theoretical and practical principles of design and implementation for electronic control computers”. Naumov focused IECM activity on the three basic issues:

Even this brief description demonstrates his typical features. He was an organised person himself, possessed very good logic, managerial abilities and was always ready to answer a challenge.

Computer designers pretty well know importance of selecting right components. In 1968-1969 the first soviet integrated circuits were still on stage of development, and more or less serious hardware production based on imported components was impossible. Therefore most of designers hesitated, waiting -rather logically- for steady guaranteed supply. Naumov, however, demonstrated his boldness, beginning new project ASCM-M[2] with only experimental set of integrated circuits, which had not yet come into serial production. As a result of that enterprise the USSR first computing control systems of the third generation appeared in IECM, in 1970. Parallel development of corresponding software, arranged as special institute program was also in progress. Naumov, as designer in chief, made combined schedules and tried to use every chance for doing in parallel the things previously (“traditionally”) done step by step.

During his work on various ASCM-M projects in 1970-1974, Naumov worked out demands and principles of combined operation for computers of different architectures in integrated systems. Among other they also described hierarchy of several control levels. According to the ASCM-M system philosophy computers of several types were either joined, accordingly to their functions, together into single special complexes or combined into bigger multi-machine complexes. In both cases customers ' demands played decisive role .

Generally speaking, Naumov set a task to create a series of hard-and software incorporating three types of central computing complexes. In the 1970-s those complexes (M-40, M-400, M-4030) formed a technical core of automatic control systems. They were widely used in automation of scientific researches, in power production enterprises and power distribution and transmission networks, in control systems for technologic processes, etc.

Technical solutions implemented in ASCM-M enabled usage of M-400, with its software, combined with compatible computers SM for automation of engineering design. The first generation of so-called “Automated Working Places” (AWP) was produced by IECM in co-operation with enterprises from radio-producing and defence industry. Serial (commercial) production of AWP became one of the first experiences in running large-scale industrial inter-branch programs for the soviet computer engineering.

By the beginning of 1970-s USSR already possessed significant production power for manufacturing various universal and special computers, as well as peripheral equipment. Many machines were produced by the civil computer industry. Much more were manufactured by other organisations.

The enterprises of defence industry alone, including the branch of the Ministry of instrumentation (to which the IECM belonged ) produced about 20 various types of universal computers. Numerous special computers for military purposes were manufactured in parallel. Both their characteristics and very specific demands of their customers were principally different from those of the civil area. Technical, and especially scientific, level of their design were chiefly perfect. However, their variety and incompatibility brought big difficulties for software development. That situation was becoming dangerous, considering rapidly growing, but largely unsatisfied, needs of the national economy and army. Differently to single (no matter how numerous) users of the 1950-1960-s, who chiefly needed (and were satisfied with) programs (software) of their own, “new customer” of the 1970-s already demanded standardized consumer software packages.

The situation itself reasoned appearance of new project - a family of compatible computers with high level of modular structure and compatibility of their unified units and peripheral devices. The basic need consisted in rapid organization of their large-scale production. So-called “Unified system of ES computers” and “System of small computers” (SM computers) were proposed for development within a huge, principally new international project.

In 1974-1984 Naumov headed, as chief designer, the “System of small[3] (compatible) computers” (SM computers). Here his organisational talents manifested themselves most brilliantly. More than 30 research institutes, design bureaus and production enterprises from the USSR, Bulgaria, Hungary, GDR, Cuba, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Romania were joined into a huge research, design and manufacturing team. He coordinated their activity, what was not an easy task because each participant had its own interests, philosophy, experience and traditions. One more problem consisted in bringing them to more or less compatible ”level of mutual understanding” (engineering, etc). As he managed to solve many of those problems, his authority rose high and decisions were normally accepted by colleagues form all partner countries. Mini- and micro -devices that belonged to SM computers, as well as control and measuring-computing instrumentation were produced in large series by enterprises of Kiev, Moscow, Vilnius, Severodonetsk, Orel, Tbilisy, Vinnitsa and Chernovtsy (West Ukraine), Gomel' (Byelorussia) and also by numerous enterprises in the socialist countries. Here Naumov also performed everything possible in parallel. Now within that common structure.

Many “de-facto” standards adopted for architecture of small computers were implemented in SM. Also standard interfaces were introduced to provide common for SM models set of peripheral devices and devices for communication with controlled objects. Working out basic principles and standards for SM computers Naumov's team made it a point to provide the best possibilities for making really unified hard and software. Quite naturally, they also considered possibilities of contemporary industrial manufacturing technologies, with the aim of making efficient production.

Naumov's work on SM computers was awarded the USSR “State Premium” for science and engineering.

Serial production of compatible computer hardware is impossible without adoption of basic standards for commutation devices, for sizes, design, etc. By that time International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) had already introduced number of standards for sizes of electronic equipment. On Naumov's opinion their implementation could sufficiently increase compatibility of SM computers with similar foreign machines (first of all with PDP computers). However the soviet standards were essentially different till at least 1975. In fact introduction of new standard and changing of the old one is not simple. No wander that many officials especially from industrial field actively objected. That naturally hampered progress of SM computers, as they were seen by Naumov. He had to demonstrate maximum of his diplomacy and energy to reject not only negative actions of administration but also competitive efforts of some other producers and personal interests of various ministerial organisations. Nevertheless he finally managed to persuade authorities to adopt international standards.

The choice of basic architecture for mini- and micro-computers integrated into SM series became even harder matter. It was basically a question of reasonability for there were two basic variants, either to produce entirely original software or make it compatible with most numerous western computer series, which had, to a certain extent, turned into “de-facto” standards. Although the Council of General Designers[4] (SM computers) finally adopted international standards, Naumov himself was often reproached with his “direct copying of western hardware”. He counter-argued, insisting on the plans of only making SM computers compatible with foreign analogues on programming level. “Nobody calls usage of international programming languages Algol and Fortran direct copying”, he used to notice. “Even if we produce all drawings, diagrams and other documents for making direct copy of some computer, the manufacturers wouldn't be able to produce it for the reason of drastic difference in technologies”.

Differently to series of big computers with more general predestination, production of SM computers was primarily aimed on concrete customers demands. That was the reason of making big variety of problem-oriented complexes designed or compounded accordingly to customers' specifications and always provided with all necessary, task-oriented, software. Most popular were automated working places for designer or/and technologist of electronic and machine production fields, instrumentation and computing complexes for scientific research and experimental work, etc.

As Naumov was designing SM hard- and software he also worked out original principles of function sharing in SM based systems. Their implementation permitted production of two processor complexes based on available (for civil purposes) electronic components[5]. Those complexes were compatible with already existing computer series MIR, designed for engineering calculations by V. Glushkov in Kiev, and also with computers M-5000 made for economic problems (registration and statistics).

One more interesting innovation of that period consisted in designing super-processors – accelerators of most popular calculation methods. A good example of such solution was demonstrated by computation complex – combined SM-4 and special Fourier-processor, produced jointly by IECM (Naumov) and the Institute of Radio-Engineering and Electronics AS USSR. The complex was designed for processing radiolocation images of the Venus surface, transmitted from its artificial satellite. That mini-computer-based complex proved its ability to solve the problem that normally needed usage of a supercomputer.

Alongside with compatible ES series, SM computers essentially contributed to development of automation of management and information processing in national economy and scientific research in the 1970-1980. SM computers of the IECM and Naumov's previous Aggregate system of computation machinery (ASCM-M) developed in the same direction as the first computers of academician I.S. Bruk. His thesis on, “…theory and principles of control computers design and application” suggested in 1957, was realised by following work of the IECM headed by Naumov. His intensive work and brilliant organisational abilities, as well as fruitful efforts of his colleagues and rational combining of theoretical and applied projects turned the institute into important centre of control computers already by 1983.

In 1976 Naumov was elected a corresponding member and in 1984 an academician[6] of the USSR Academy of Sciences (AS USSR). The election brought new possibilities to strengthen his scientific positions and influence, what was important because of administrative difficulties that again were hampering development of computer engineering and -especially- practical implementation of its results.

Beginning of the 1980-s became the period when industry did not have any notable economical interest in intensive production and application of new computers and computation systems. Naumov noted that the academy also did not demonstrate much interest to problems of information, computers and automation. His name in that period was closely associated with activation of computer progress. Previous administrative decisions of the 1960- s resulted in removal of many institutes (engaged in theoretical research) from administrative structure of the academy and subjected them to industrial ministries. It was the idea of, “…bringing the science close to manufacturing industry”. The AS USSR subsequently had to be partly transformed and many fundamental research programs were transferred to academies of the soviet union republics, such as Ukraine, Byelorussia, Armenia, Georgia, Lithuania, etc. Many new institutes were founded, what essentially enriched republican science for that period.

Together with other colleagues Naumov initiated new special department at the AS USSR responsible for development of automation, computer engineering and information sciences. It was soon established, in 1983, chiefly by efforts of academician E.P. Velihov - the academy vice-president. Naumov himself received new appointment as the director of new institute – Institute of Information Problems at the AS USSR ( IIP AS ). There he formed international team of experts from the AS USSR, academies of union republics and the socialist countries, which, in 1984-1985, worked out so-called “Conception for computing systems of new generations”. It determined basic directions of theoretical and applied research, “…to be performed with the objective of achieving new level of qualities for computer and information systems”, comparing with digital electronic computers of the third and fourth generations. Those “basic directions” implied development of:

Numerous research institutes both of academic and industrial branches were engaged in those projects. Activity of that work was stimulated by example of Japanese projects concerning the fifth generation computers. From his own experience, as well as from pure logic, Naumov had been convinced that new “abilities” could be more efficiently obtained by creation of computation systems, not single machines. Japanese development completely proved his statement. As usual he focused attention not on single scientific or technological achievement but on rational combining of new information processing methods with progress of electronics, engineering, etc. The complex approach to problems of development, that always characterised his scientific and managerial philosophy, fully proved its advantages and is still actual.

The problem of personal computers, whose mass production was energetically supported by Naumov, equally proved its importance. In 1986 he published a series of articles in central press, with supporting argumentation based not only on analysis of world trends but largely on his own experience from “junior” models of SM computers usage. “Although personal computers are individual appliances their massive implementation on all working places of various organisations and/or in all points of technological cycles can rapidly increase their overall efficiency”. “Just single separate machines (PCs) on some single places will not bring notable positive effect. Their direct communication with common data banks – information storage centres, is decisive condition for desirable results”. Those were reasons not only of science but of pure commonsense. No need to say that his ideas were later proved by global implementation of local, corporative, etc. information networks.

After graduation from MPEI Naumov received special mathematical education, he studied at the Moscow State University . He also possessed impressive scientific erudition and willingly worked with young colleagues. Naumov always made efforts to improve computer teaching. Already in the 1970-s he established educational centre in one for Moscow districts where the pupils of secondary schools could study programming and maintenance of computers. Now (in the 2000-s) it developed into a special Lyceum of information technologies whose graduates work at numerous programming enterprises. Naumov also promoted idea of continual education (information and computer technologies): -school –university –post graduation – continual qualification up-grading for engineers. He himself established and headed computer department at Moscow Institute of Radio and Electronics (technical university).

Educational informatics also became one of ( IIP AS ) important issues. New software tool-kits for courseware creation by teachers were developed in the 1983-1985. The institute participated in establishing of computer classes, based on imported PCs, in schools of Moscow and the whole USSR .

As he always supported extension of international scientific co-operation and implementation of positive foreign experience, Naumov initiated foundation of joint centre on automation in Moscow in 1970. Department of automatics at the USSR Ministry of Instrumentation from the soviet side and AG Siemens (West Germany) became the partners in that –in fact- first prototype of joint ventures, 15–20 years before it became common practice.

His election a foreign member of the GDR Academy of Sciences was also international evidence of recognition for his merits in development of scientific relations.

Naumov died in 1988, when he was only 60. One can only guess what would be his next step, considering his active and innovative nature. His contribution to establishing and development of the soviet computer science and engineering could be called an outstanding page in the history of science.


1. Various sport subjects are, and always were, obligatory in Russian university education. For example MPEI had two stadiums, numerous training halls and very experienced teachers and coaches.

2. ASCM-M – abbreviation for Aggregate System of Computation Machinery based on Microelectronics.

3. “…small…” – here it means “small in size”.

4. International head organization for SM computers project. Also could be defined as “technical directors board”.

5. Of course multiprocessor computers were not invented by Naumov. For example by that time M. Kartsev, who originally came from the same IECM ( ) had already produced his M-4, M4-M and was working with the next project (M-9). However, that was “closed” defence area. Naumov, on the contrary made purely civil machines and his real possibilities in information and components supply, etc. were much different (ed.)

6. Means – full membership.

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