Remembering Anatoliy Ivanovich Kitov – Back to the future
Colonel-engineer Vladimir P. Isaev
Our first meeting with Anatoliy Ivanovich Kitov took place in July 1954, when I graduated from the F.E. Dzerzhinskiy Artillery Academy in Moscow, together with other officers of the special educational group, which was taken to the academy in February 1953. We worked together until the middle of June 1960 and then, he was expelled form the Communist party and dismissed from his directoral position (Kitov was the deputy director on scientific work) of the Computer Centre N-1 of the USSR Ministry of Defence. All that happened after his submitting an analytical report to the Central Committee of the USSR Communist party (supreme body of power). The report contained description of new project – detailed plan of automating state management system; it was named “Red Book”. In the presented work Kitov proposed, “measures for solving the problem of electronic computers insufficient production and inefficient implementation in the USSR armed forces and national economy in general” complimented with a great deal of rather sharp criticism (chiefly addressed to the administration of the Ministry of Defence). That was a progressive idea and promisssing project, however, it was rejected by the officials. Kitov was finally dismissed and sent to disposal of the Ministry of Defence main personell office.
Basic part of his report was focused on this project, “The ways of management automation in the armed forces and national economy”. That was the USSR first project of such kind. According to A.I. Kitov’s plan all available computer centres (mainly the military ones) should be joined into a single national network for solving both military and economic problems. In his project he named it “network of ‘double-purpose’ or ‘double usage’ computer centres”, that is, serving both military and national economy purposes.
Beginning of my army service under Kitov was the following. We, five hundred officers – graduates of the Artillery Academy had received perfect education and training for subsequent service at strategic missile launching centres and naturally were psychologicaly prepared for joining the service. All of a sudden, a group of thirteen of us was selected for the work in some new and unknown for everybody field. We, in reality the former students of various civil universities, have already been accustomed to military secrecy, as well as to being dependent on decisions of some higher authorities, made “somewhere”. So, thinking, as the disciplined military people should do, that ‘all that’ was done in the interests of the state we anticipated our fortune with philosophycal tranquility. Especially reassuring was the fact that most of the group consisted of the best graduates. Becides, eight people earlier studied at the same faculty of the Moscow Power-Engineering Institute (before the Academy). That was the Faculty of Electrical Vacuum engineering and special instrumentation.
Of course, during the six years jointly spent at the institute they (including the author /A.N.) formed a close friendly company, especially, since most of them lived all those years together at the student hostel. They all also were actively engaged in the institute’s social work –very popular then– and all were members of the Komsomol, which most of the young people of that time joined willingly, seriously and optimistically. No wonder that we were happy and enthusiastic having finally heard, form A.I. Kitov, that our ’team of thirteen’ must become a pioneer research ’core group’ at the army’s first organisation on development, operation and implementation of electronic digital computers. Kitov told about it at special meeting with graduates, where he also invited A.P. Nechaev (our ‘representative’). One can easily imagine feelings of a young researcher who has been unexpectedly engaged in the most progressive scientific work.
Kitov himself had been performing duties of the – formed by him – big department of computation machinery at the F.E. Dzerzhinskiy academy since two years. Personell of the department totalled forty officers. The department served as basis for subsequent establishing of the Computer Centre N-1 in 1954.
Later we found out that Kitov had himself selected all new candidates, thoroughly studying our personal files and the points received during learling. I and two more of us already had some knowledge and practical experience with digital computers. We were: V.P. Isaev (the author), G.G. Ovsyannikov and B.S. Trifonov. Already in 1952 we were included into group of twenty students, who were given special permission to sutudy/work with –then secret– materials of the special course “Electronic Digital Computing Machines”. The lectures and practical seminars on it were conducted by the inventor of the first Soviet computers (MESM and BESM family) Sergey Alexeevich Lebedev himself. Notably, as a lecturer he was not good, he was always speaking in a low voice with his back turned to auditorium and quickly whipped off the black board everything he was writing a minute before. However, as teacher he was excellent. Sergey Alexeewich was a man of high intellect and culture and a born master of human communications. He always brought us to his institute to work with the BESM (which was on the final stage of assembly then) and often invited me to his home (private flat) to study there together. So it was not difficult for us to start the work, since we had got necessary basic computer knowledge, differently to most of other, military or civil, colleagues at the computer centre, who had to learn it anew at their working places. Another researcher G.A. Mironov remermbered that, “The work began with study. Everybody was upgrading, learning something. Kitov literally established university, engineering institute and a college under the roof of his computer centre”.
Then, there followed the happy period of our work together with A.I. Kitov. Naturally it was under his scientific and administrative guidance. We were busy with implementation of electronic computers in various fields of the Ministry of Defence management structure. We also participated in development of new computers and other activities, e.g., such as composing fundamental tematical collection of works on encyclopaedic level “Automatisation of Production and Industrial Electronics” (four volumes issue, 1961-1965).
My first impression of A.I. Kitov was very pleasant, he was energetical purposeful person, who could see actual problems, set goals for their solution and to achieve them. He was always convinced that those problems one should and –most important– could solve.
In spite of his young age Kitov was a true veteran of war with fighting experience, but differently to some other veterans he never displayed his merits or boasted publicly. He disliked wasting time for useless reminiscences and was always inclined to get to the essence of a current problem. Kitov possessed some unicue natural attraction, or even ‘igniting’ power and we, the young people, were ready to join and follow him in creation of something new in science, accepting challenges and enthusiastically struggling with all possible obstacles. Very important was Kitov’s skill to pass his asureness and enthusiasm to me and other our colleagues. So, he was a person of great moral influence.
Scientific works and books by Kitov introduced systematised approach to our work and helped to better analyse it. Now I have several books with his friendly authogramms in my private library. As the engineer working ‘with metall’ I especially prize two of them. The first one is famous “Digital Electronic Computers” (1956) and the book of encyclopaedic type “Digital Electronic Computers and Programming” (1959) written jointly with N.A. Krinitskiy.
The decade 1955—1965 was really a “Sturm und Drang” period. That was the time of emerging new information technologies, chiefly due to generation of brilliant scientific pioneers and leaders, whose names must never be forgotten. First of all I mean Lebedev, Bruk, Kitov, Rameev, Basilevskiy, Glushkov, Przhiyalkovskiy, Kartsev, Akushskiy, Yuditskiy, Sokolov, Burtsev, Pospelov, Brusentsov, Rudnev and many, many others. On my opinion these people formed the character of that period of establishing, development and implementation numerous automatic control and management systems in our country.
Kitov’s personal attitude to me I’d characterise as respectful to my professional qualities with full confidence in my engineering solutions. Having positively appreciated my computer competence he started with appointing me a seniour engineer and soon after put in charge of a shift team working at electronic computer STRELA. Engineering part of the computer maintenance was rather complicated and so was the team itself. Our work at the Centre was very serious one – we solved broad range of problems for the Ministry of Defence and for some other military administration and organisations. Those times even academician S.P. Korolev with his Space Research Centre (Scientific Research Institute N-4) did not have such equipment as we at the Computer Centre N-1, so his specialists came to solve their problems at our centre. Cosmonaut K.P. Feoktistov (ther first cosmonaut-scientist /A.N.) also used to be our guest. Therefore, following the rules and logic of a military organisation, we not only maintained stable, faultless operation of the machinery, but had to constantly do all what was necessary to meet the “Top Secrecy” demands.
Soon after my having made some technical proposals on improvements in computer STRELA (ЭВМ «Стрела») A.I. Kitov appointed me as the seniour scientific collaborator of the scientific research laboratory and subsecquently promoted me to be its chief. I was the youngest labotary chief at the Computer Centre N-1 and considered it as a sign of Kitov’s confidence in my competence. Thus, rather unexpectedly I turned to be the head of a team with most of its specialists older and more experienced then I, many were veterans and had higher military rank. At the same time Kitov also promoted another lieutenant Igor Danilchenko, who had been taken to work together with me and worked as a routine engineer in STRELA maintenance team. To tell the truth, not all colleagues accepted our appointments in a friendly way. Sometimes we even were severely insulted. However, Kitov always supported us both with advices and with his personal authority. Similar occasions, with promotion of collaborators purely on their professional competence grounds were characteristic for Kitov.
I communicated with him every day and it was a close scientific cooperation at solving numerous research problems. Kitov himself was more interested in theoretical problems: algoritmisation and programming, however, according to his duties of the centre scientific head, also paid attention to applied, technological and engineering, realisation problems. In reality, if we make parallels with, very popular then, space researches, Kitov was in position some half-way in-between academician M.V. Keldysh (leading theorist) and academician S.P. Korolev (main designer of Soviet spaceships). That’s my personal opinion. At the Computer Centre N-1 he was the most initiative one, always generated ideas and formulated problems. So, generally speaking, he was the brain of the projects.
Those times, computer memory storage was the most actual and “painful” problem. Available volumes of computer storages were always catastfophically insufficient and same was with their reliability and speed. Neither ultrasonic delay lines (computers MESM, BESM designed by S.A. Lebedev) nor operative memory on electronic cathode ray tubes (STRELA by Y.Ya. Basilevskiy) could meet demands dictated by the level of solved problems. Other devices of computers: central arithmetic device, control unit, ROM, etc. were more progressive since they were constructed on various “flip-flop” circuits, electron tubes, etc. These basic electronic components were already in industrial mass production and were sufficiently supplied with acceptable quality level. Then we already had ring-shaped ferrite cores, with rather broad and essentially rectangle magnetic hysteresis loop (Russian engineering slang – “hard loop”) and they were able to stably keep a reached state without being supported with external power supply. That was logically a good means to represent binary system codes (“1” or “0”) each with one of two possible magnetic states. In other words, such ferrite ring turned into one bit memory cell. Several organisations simultaneously conducted design of new memory devices. They were Computer Centre N-1, Institute of Precession Mechanics and Computer Engineering (S.A.Lebedev) and so called Special Design Bureau – 245 (SDB-245), Institute of Authomatic and Remote-mechanics. At our computer centre Kitov engaged my laboratory in development of the ferrite-core memory. Our efforts were complete success, so creation of two-level ferrite memory – operating and superoperating, was an essential step towards producing the quickest computer of its time “M-100” (hundred thousand ops). Kitov was its chief designer and ideologist.
I would like to remember some more episodes of Kitov’s activity. Usually, he was very ’selective’ when new candidates applied for working at the Computer Centre N-1. In such cases he personally interviewed applicants thoroughly testing each of them. Once a former coed Dina Smetanina, with whom we studied together at the Moscow Power Engineering Institute asked me about possible position at the Computer Centre N-1. She studied very well and was a good researcher and analyst. Dina was an expert on cathode-ray tubes and that was good coincidence, since we had some problems with them in computer STRELA.
On my request our personell manager introduced her to Kitov, who studied her documents and then asked who recommended her. On having learnt that she was my ‘protegee’ Kitov gave his consent and Dina received position at the centre. Usually, interviews with Kitov were difficult, long and everybody could hope for success. One could say that Kitov was a ‘maximalist’ by nature. However, this episode displayed broad mind and confidence in the people he knew and whose opinion he respected. Thus, he trusted our colleagues, his friends N.P. Buslenko, N.A. Krinitskiy A.N. Nechaev, O.V. Sosura and others. For me personally that was same as the highest award. May be there is some vanity in my words, I do not know, but after having worked many years with numerous ‘high’ administrators and leaders, even with marshals of army and the prime-minister’s deputy, I must say I have never seen such friendly confidence and respect to colleagues as by Kitov anywhere again. For me personally, his attitude still remains as ‘sign of quality’ on my professional reputation.
Another personal story is connected with my meeting with academician admiral Axel Ivanovich Berg (А.И. Берг), to whom I was introduced by A.I. Kitov. Then, in 1959, Axel Ivanovich was the director of Central Scientific-Research Institute-108. He also was Kitov’s seniour associate in implementation of computers in army and national economy. At our meeting I could feel his true respect to Kitov, who introduced me as one of the future autors of several articles in, planned by him, encyclopaedia of cybernetics. That work was published in 1962-1965, as four volumes with general title “Industrial Automation and Industrial Electronics”. The editorial board was afraid to give it more ‘clearly cybernetical name’. Due to Kitovs favourable characteristic A.I. Berg invited me two more times to discuss some details.
In February 1960 Kitov invited me to call on him at home, after work. There we discussed the future book – encyclopaedia on computers, its structure and, as we called it, a ‘glossary’ – list of desirable articles. Our long and detailed conversation was wery useful for me, as I was still a young specialist with no experience in such things as ‘big writing’ that time.
As we were working Kitov’s wife Galina Vladimirovna, a very friendly lady, brought us tea with excellent cakes she had baked just before our arrival. That was really wonderful! Even at the first visit I could feel many nuances displaying deep mutual respect and notable order – obviously the basis of their family life. During our conversation their son Volodya a boy of some 10 or 12 years entered the room and asked permission to go for a walk. It was already dark, but Anatoly Ivanovich casted a glance on a clock and told him to be back not later then 22.00. We still were talking when he returned (about two hours passed) and told the father about it. It was exactly 22.00. Such pinctuality really impressed me, I thought, that was their custom to value even a small detail of the given promice.
Now, looking back from the ‘height of my numerous years’, I would wish many younger families to have some similar qualities as those of the Kitovs. Things would go much better then!
It is well-known that the quickest computer of that time “M-100“, was designed at the Computer Centre N-1 under scientific guidance of colonel A.I. Kitov. Its performance reached 100,000 ops. For comparison, the parallel work of S.A. Lebedev on popular civil computer “M-20” (with good characteristics, for that time) was only on the design stage. Its speed, as one can easily understand from its name, equalled 20,000 ops.
It was the year 1959 that is just 8 or 9 years from creation of the first computers in the USSR. It’s clear that so high performance as at M-100 needed progressive engineering solutions. Luckily (speaking in ‘modern language’) Kitov was an ambicious scientist, in the best sense of the word, with very practical clear ideas. He was not a ‘dreamer’, but on the other hand he could, quite seriously, set almost unsolvable problem with almost naive self-confidence and sincere assureness in success. And he literally radiated those feelings so that they deeply influenced all around. No wonder that research and development of the M-100 was performed with enormous enthusiasm. Nobody paid attention to the time. We really were working almost round o’clock and every of us could feel that his work was appreciated and respected. Designers of each computer unit were besieging Kitov almost ‘tearing him into pieces’ with ideas. Everybody knew his ability to immediately analyse and evaluate proposed solution, always finding proper place for its application.
At designing of the central arithmetical unit for M-100 A.I. Kitov proposed new principle of computation organisation. It was based on 4-times superposition of operation stages of the arithmetic unit of the accepted architecture with three-address commands. That principle was patented. Next problem consisted in designing high-speed memory RAM, which was necessary for computer with high-performance processor. The signal retrieval and recording cycle should be naturally so short that it didn’t slover the central processor work. Therefore Kitov engaged me and the whole my laboratory in development of RAM with corresponding characteristics. On having performed thorough analysis we came to conclusion that ferrite core RAM would be the most promising solution, especially in machines intended for anti-aircraft defence systems. Then the problem seemed unsolvable, as the construction with needed parameters would not satisfy even minimal reliability demends.
Nevertheless Kitov was determined to do it. He believed in our competence and together with us searched for solution of the problem. Soon we developed a structure, which consisted of two interacting RAM blocks – one was common ferrite-core based with 50 K storage capacity and the other one “superoperative” with 5 K storage, its retrieval time was compatible with the arithmetic unit operation cycle. “Superoperative” RAM components were made of ‘superminiature’ cores (according to technical standards of that period), which we ordered at some military plant. System of control and data exchange algorithms of that two-stage RAM unit were our pioneer inventions, of what we all were very proud, and could be also patented. However, we were not much interested in such things as patents, those times. Most important was the fact that we did find the right solution. We did not let down our leader.
Very little is known about the further events with M-100, although it was recommended by the Ministry of Defence special commission on Scientific and Technical Control to serial production. Not only the computer but also the special programming system (software package) adopted for solution of the anti-aircraft defence problems. This system was also created by our Computer Centre N-1. Unfortunally our successful work coinsided with the “new trend” – closing the sector of industrial production at the Ministry of Defence research institutes. In particular that happened with experimental production centre at the Institute N-5, which helped us in manufacturing the “iron“ (metal parts) for M-100. At the same time the chief designer of computer M-100 – colonel A.I. Kitov, got under severe opressions from the ministerial top administration.
A.I.Kitov – the chief designer of digital electronic computer “M-100” and the author of, the USSR first, project of the State Network of Computer Centres to function on all therritory of the USSR (1959). The project was a “double purpose” one – for management in both the USSR defence system and national economy.
Luckily we did not work in vain. Many of our pioneer solutions were later used for development of other computers and not only in military field. Those times many people from other research institutes and enterprises of defence industry constantly visited Computer Centre N-1 to study our experience. Generally speaking the notable scientific role our Centre played in the 1950-s is somehow forgotten at present. It is really pity, because then the centre was almost as important source of computer scientific and engineering information in our country as, say S.A. Lebedev’s Institute of Precise Mechanics and Computer Engineering in Moscow or V.M. Glushkov’s Institute of Cybernetics in Kiev in the 1960-s.
The assembled experimental piece of “M-100” was given to the Kiev High School of Radio-Engineering (military institute) and mounted at its educational testing centre in town of Boyarka.
We developed series of detailed educational methods for the students of that school so “M-100” was intensively used as educational tool for training several generations of the students – future officers-computer experts and operators who served in army. That was also Kitov’s contribution to military cybernetics.
So, I’d like to say again, that A.I. Kitov was a very talented person with original and progressive ideas, which often ranged far in front of the time, a broadminded man with creative thinking.
Some more words about the last period of our common work at the Computer Centre N-1. The second attempt of A.I. Kitov to promote his ideas on the highest governmental level and at the Ministry of Defence was a complete failure with negative consequences. He composed a report with proposals, named, “The Ways of Management Automation in the Armes Forces and National Economy” (so-called “Red Book”) and presented it to the Central (Communist) Party Committee (the USSR supreme body of power). His progressive and daring project proposed creation of single national automated management system based on the network of computer centres maintained by the Ministry of Defence. That computation system should solve not only military problems but also current problems of national economy. Unfortunately his proposals found neither support nor understanding on the highest administrative level of the state. The report also contained critical analysis of the current state of computer development and implementation in the military sphere, particularily of its obvious lagging behind the American progress in similar field – most of the criticism was addressed to the Ministry of Defence, first of all to its central administration. However, due to the irony of life, the Central Committee did not appoint some independent commission to study the problem, but simply re-addressed his report to the Ministry of Defence itself.
To give its following actions ‘appearance of impartiality’, the Ministry of Defence appointed special commission consisting of approximately 30 generals and officers taken from the ministerial staff. The USSR Marshall G.K. Rokossovskiy (very popular hero of the war), a person of great influence was the commission official chairman, however, he was absent at all sittings of the commission, which I also should attend as the Computer Centre N-1 party committee member. Frankly speaking, we had big expectations – I’d say cherished the hope – that presence of that world famous military authority would give positive character to the commission’s work, but in reality it was not so. What was the reason of that, I can’t say. A.I. Kitov openly criticised ministerial chiefs (if I am not mistaken they were, General A.V. Gerasimov – the ‘supreme chief’ of our computer centre, Marshall R.Ya.Malinovskiy – the USSR Minister of Defence and some others). May be Rokossovskiy did not want to get into conflict with his colleagues? Who knows...
Anyway all those ’big chiefs’ did not notice, or did not understand, the most important ideas and proposals of A.I. Kitov. According to his own words, effect of new computer usage organisation (the network) could provide possibility to, “Overcome the lag from the USA in computer development ‘without overtaking’ them”.
Instead of that (analysis of Kitov’s proposals /A.N.) the military bureaucrats of lower rank were busy looking for mistakes in all his scientific work, not even in the report, for various weak points etc. That was very similar to journalists of some ‘yellow press’. Most probably their actions were directed from the Defence Ministry’s high quarters.
All officiers of the Computer Centre N-1 were invited to the closing meeting of the commission. Several people criticised A.I. Kitov’s theses and position in general, very similarly to how it was in the earlier ‘hard times’. Of course, they did that according to the directives from the ministry. However, two of us (I and another officer) tried to defend Kitov and his theories claiming (in written) the “special opinion”. After that some higher officers from the ministerial central administration tried ‘to influence’ me, ‘persuading’ to withdraw my statement, but in spite of their pressure I refused.
The final decision of the commission was the following, the projects should be rejected and the author punished. The commission reasoned its ‘grotesque’ decision with accusations in ‘discovered private interests’ of the author and the ‘egoistic, career-making grounds’ of his proposals. On the commission’s opinion, “Kitov with his proposals (and criticism) disgraced the USSR Ministry of Defence administration” and (still worse) “did not find a place for ‘ruling role of the Communist party’” in his projects. Thus, instead of a reasonable discussion on ‘pro’ and ‘contra’ of the proposed project (‘Red Book’) Rokossovskiy’s commission limited its activity to open blackmailing of A.I. Kitov.
Most puzzling (or absurd) of that ‘event’ was the fact, that nobody was permitted to read the report itself. The commission members only quoted sporadic (or planned) fragments and immediately ‘commented’ them with biased criticism. All that reminded me a ‘public discussion’ of writers on the famous novell “Doctor Zhivago” by B. Pasternak in 1950. Then, many speakers began their speech so, “I myself have never read the novell, but I absolutely don’t agree with it”.
All members of the commission and also A.I. Kitov were sitting in presidium of the selebration hall of the computer centre. Kitov always kept quiet with great deal of impressive selfcontrol. Then he was really ‘cold-blooded’. During the talks he made some notices of the opponent speeches and then quickly, but still quietly and cleverly parried their arguments. In his word of conclusion Kitov did not withdraw any of his theses. He pointed out that two thirds of about thirty speakers in principle supported his critical comments on the Ministry of Defence work and main ideas of his ‘Red Book’. He again made attempt to persuade the commission in impressive effect of his project “Double usage of the Soviet computers” (“Red Book”). Unfortunately, the final decision had been made long before by the Party Central Committee and the Ministry of Defence. Nothing could be done.
We all regretted that this talented person, the brilliant organiser – founder of the Computer Centre N-1 with its unique team, was so unjustfully and cynically mistreated before our eyes. Kitov was a true scientific ideologist of the institute researches. It was due to his efforts that the computer centre N-1 received status of the scientific research institute – ‘Institute N-27’ of the Ministry of Defence.
That act of humiliation was not only his personal tragedy, but a painful blow for many collaborators of the Indtitute N-27. Seing everything what happened with their leader, they lost confidence in reasonability of their work and personal efforts and also in perspectives of implementation of computers for military purposes.
Such devoted scientific leader (‘the team brain’) with so broad mind and large-scale ideology as Anatoliy Kitov has never appeared in that organisation again. Later the Ministry made attempts to revive at least some scientific traditions established by A.I. Kitov, but with little success. Once the administration even invited Prof. N.P. Buslenko (Kitov’s close collaborator at the computer centre N-1) as the institute’s director, but after two years of work he left both the institute and army, also not without a scandal. Anyway, Buslenko was not equal to Kitov. Being really attractive person, friendly, attentive and democratic, Buslenko was also brilliant, prominent mathematician. However, he was typical academic scientist, very good analytist and helpful with colleagues, but without such ‘radiating energy’, dash and ‘igniting spirit’ as Kitov. In American scientific parlance scholars like Buslenko are nick-named “soft brain”, while Kitov was a typical “hard brain”. Besides, Buslenko was not a born organiser of great dimensions.
Most tragically and at the same time ironically, looked the return to constructive considering of the same problems, ideas and systems, which had been analysed and proposed in Kitov’s ‘Red Book’. That time it was the initiative of … the Ministry of Defence and the government, several years after the ‘incident with Kitov’.
In reality Kitov’s ideas were turned to be so advanced and ahead of the time that their (partial) practical realisation began some 10 or even 20 years after. In 2005, Academician V.K. Levin mentioned in his memorial spich dedicated to A.I. Kitov that more or less full-scale realisation of his projects “started only now”, almost fifty years after. He means the project on the system of distributed computations – GRID.
On my opinion, the young generation of to-day will be really surprised to know that there was a period in the USSR history, when a scientist colonel A.I. Kitov not only tried to raise alarm about lagging of our computer implementation in management behind the American development, but proposed concrete measures to overcome it. Then we seemed to have real chance to get ahead of the USA.
Now I would like to mention some myths, appearing in connection with his project of the double-purpose national network of computer centres.
Recently I got a book „Essays on the History of Informatics in Russia“ – a collection of essays composed by D.A. Pospelov and Ya.I. Fet (Novosibirsk 1998). In fact it is collection of memorial-articles on number of the (civil) scientists’ initiatives in the field of computer science and cybernetics in the USSR (predominantly at the civil research centres).
In the book I’ve found with surprise an article by A.I. Poletaev “Military Cybernetics or a Fragment of the Soviet ‘folse science’ history”. A.I. Poletaev is writting mainly about his father (Igor Poletaev /A.N.), who also worked at the computer centre N-1 in the 1950-s. In the article author mentiones Kitov’s project on the network of computer centres but, probably for lack of information or misunderstanding gives a list of the authors with many names, who may be participated in the work but certainly were not the authors. They were I.A. Poletaev, N.P. Buslenko, (mathematician) L.A. Lusternik and some others. That was the point – Kitov was its only author, it was signed only by him and finally he was the only one, who suffered all consequences.
Naturally, they themselves, most of whom were Kitov’s friends, would never thought of claiming any ‘author’s fame’. Quite different thing was their active direct support of the project. They all (I.A. Poletaev, N.P. Buslenko, A.A. Lyapunov, L.A. Lusternik, etc.) attended the commission meetings and spoke in favour of the ‘Red Book’.
So I say again, the mentioned article was obviously based on insufficient information, as the given narration is generally incorrect, including even the dates of the work. Thus, although Kitov was the single author of the project in this publication his name stays even not the first on the line, but after several other persons (all prominent scientists and decent people). However, I, as Kitov’s collaborator and participant of the Ministry of Defence commission meetings, have never heared about them in direct connection with the “author’s rights” (using modern lexicon). Unfortunately, such articles become the informational basis for some later publications (often of younger authors) and the initial mistakes spread on. For example, the mentioned ‘list of authors’ has moved into biographical essay about L.A. Lusternik.
Anyway, A.I. Poletaev (the son) probably could feel that the information he obtained was not sufficient, because he made a comment like, “… that already belongs to history and addressing the history always gives rise to some myths”. What I personally don’t agree with. I insist on operating with only proved, purely factual material when it concerns historical problems.
Twenty years after (like the famous novell by A. Dumat /V.I.) in 1985, I again met A.I. Kitov, this time at popular G. Plekhanov Moscow Institute of the National Economy (now Russian Economic Academy). Here Kitov held the chair “Computation Engineering and Programming”, being already at the ‘eventide of his scientific way’. I received position at the neighbouring ‘friendly’ chair “Automated Control Systems”. Its head, Prof. Dr. G.A. Meshcheryakov also made researches under Kitov at the Computer Centre N-1 in the 1950-s. That was a total surprise for me to see Kitov there, as our connections had been broken, but it turned to be sincerely happy meeting of the old friends. Kitov looked same as always, as in our young years. Although, he was more reserved and I seemed to feel some tiredness in him.
May be that was the ‘enormous weight of his scientific potential and daily experience’ accumulated during many years, or may be result of the university life specifics, which I, as newcomer, did not clearly understand.
Besides happy feelings brought by reunion with the old friend I was also impressed with coincidence of our scientific careers. Practically all those twenty years we worked in the same fields of computer development and implementation in economic management (especially in the military industry), but our ways have never crossed and we neither saw nor even heared of each other. Or, it would be more exact to say, I heared a lot about him but only in connection with some new publications, which regularly appeared almost every year.
Especially interesting were his monographs that contributed to foundation of special cybernetic branches, like what is now called ‘information technologies and systems’. Those books were focused on programming of the informational logic problems and also problems of economic and management, associative programming and of course the cycle of monographs on medical cybernetics. Such fundamental works could be only written on basis of abundant research experience, after analysis and generalisation of the experimental material. They did not appear as ‘result of fantasies’ or logical speculations. As a scientist, Kitov developed many systems of automatic control for various industrial branches and also for the healthcare purposes. So, his books resembled visible part of an iceberg.
Although displaying traces of fatigue Kitov in reality posessed his impressive energy as ever. The 1989 conference in town of Penza was a good prof of that. The conference subject read, “Role of the contemporary computers and human factor in process of enterprise management development (perfection)”. A.I. Kitov was the chairman of its programming committee. As he knew that I worked until 1985 at the Main Information and Computation Centre of the Ministry of Electrical Industry as its scientific director, he asked me to invite to the conference several experienced specialists (heads of computer centres), per my own choice. So I did; among them there was rather young woman, N.V. Brodyagina – chief of the computer centre at the technical porcelain factory “Electro-insulator” in town of Gzhel (Moscow area), famous for its traditional porcelain manufacturing traditions. All conference reports were interesting but her lecture was especially pleasant for Kitov. In fact, Brodyagina proved his theories on factors making role of leading administrator the decisive one, because highly efficient administrative system created by efforts of their factory specialists was essentially supported by work of their computer centre. That was their basic source of factual and analytical information. As result the enterprise many years occupied leading places in electrical branch. Anatoliy Ivanovich was so inspirited that immediately invited her to the Economic Acadenmy, to be his post-graduate. Unfortunately crumbling of the state, beginning in the next following years, turned over all plans. Most destructive bolw was given upon such advanced scientific and engineering branches as space researches, aircraft industry and, of course, national computer development. The “new times” began…
Notably, that was not his first visit to Penza. Mine too. He was well aquainted with the cybernetic school of Bashir I. Rameev and also with history of the town. He told us about its well-known picture gallery, named after K.A. Savitskiy – famous Russian artist of XIX c. and about other interesting facts from the history of Russian culture. To tell the truth, I’ve never spoken with him on something outside scientific or administrational problems and that time was both surprised and impressed with his profound erudition and general cultural interests.
As a conclusion I would like to summarise everything most impotrant about my teacher and leader. Of all higher administrators and scientific leaders I’ve ever met or dealt with, A.I. Kitov was the most sincere and devoted scientist, most dutiful and selfless worker. His confidence in close colleagues made him very attractive and in relations with them he never displayed any arrogance or familiarity was equally respectful with everybody but never tried to ingratiate himself with superiours. In working communication Kitov could listen and hear opinion of other person irrespectively of his rank. He was a man of (scientific) ideas but a though person, who did not give up before difficulties and boldly accepted challenges.
His strong character often demonstrated itself. For example in 1951, having realised advantages of the cybernetics and its role in general development of science, engineering and management he was the first of the authors of the famous – positive – article “Main Features of Cybernetics” and also active initiator and participant of the broad scientific movement for its official recognition. Clear understanding of the future problems and perspectives powered his work on the project “Red Book” and –one could say – patriotic determination backed him at submitting it to the highest state authorities (to N.S. Khrushchev /V.I.) in 1959, as well as in attempts to defend the idea of ‘double purpose’ global network of computer centres, reasoning it with displaying realistic possibilities of accelerated computer development in the USSR and chance to overcome our computer lagging behind the USA.
He was a brave man also according to the definition given by his seniour colleague academician A.I. Berg, “Bravery is one’s ability to remain his own self in all circumstances”.
Anatoliy Ivanovich Kitov was a ‘military intellectual’, true pioneer of cybernetics and computer engineering, and the model for all of us, his young collaborators. I am glad to have had a chance to serve and work under his scientific guidance.
The patent of A.I. Kitov (filed on the 27.06.1958) for his invention of a macro-conveyor method of parallel performing of computer commands by its Central proccesor unit. That method was first implemented on practice during development of secret military digital computer «М-100», aimed for processing of the flow of signals from the soviet radar stations. During the 1959-1960 the M-100 was the most powerful computer in the USSR and one of the world’s most powerful machines.
About the author: Vladimir P. Isaev, colonel-engineer, candidate of technical sciences (speciality “Military Cybernetics”), author of more then 100 scientific publications made during his work at various military and civil scientific organisations.
1. Although it is not so common for the Western university life in the USSR and even earlier, in pre-revolutionary Russia, such way of teaching and close communication with students was not unusual for scientists/lecturers of ‘older school’. Even more, sometimes it could be considered as –inofficial– proof of very high professional and human culture and ‘professional devotion’. Therefore, close contacts with students was a tradition. Many famous Russian scholars used to ran scientific seminars at their private homes – some few do it even now. No need to say – it has nothing in common with private lessons. Even mere mentioning of fees would be an absolute disgrace in such cases. (AN)
2. Popular in Russia German slogan, ”Storm and Urge“, in the sense of ‘young energy’. Emerged form the young ‘romanticism’ period in German poetry of the first half of XIX c. (A.N.)
3. Academician admiral-engineer Axel I. Berg was famous administrator with ‘born organisation talents’ and a brilliant scientist, who did a lot for development of the Soviet radio-location researches and engineering (especially during the war). Due to his powerful influence development of electronic research and production made impressive progress in the post-war period. In 1953-1958 A.I. Berg was the USSR Minister’s of Defence deputy on scientific problems. A.I. Berg is also the most prominent person of the USSR cybernetics beginning period – in 1958-1960 solely by his efforts and energy the first official scientific cybernetical organisation was established at the USSR Academy of Sciences (‘Scientific Council on the Complex Problem Cybernetics’). A.I.Berg personally headed it the next twenty years making it the organisational core of all Soviet cybernetic researches of that time. (A.N.)
4. That was the time when cybernetics was just beginning to be publicly recognised. Many found it still to be a ‘dangerous topic’ to be discussed ‘loudly’. (A.N.)
5. In Russian computer lexicon RAM is named „Operative memory“ (A.N.)
6. The notion „commercial production“ was not known in the planned military production (A.N.)
7. Serious blame on an army officer at those times (A.N.)
8. Its full name is “Central Scientific-Research Institute N-27“.
9. Most of the numerous articles, memoirs and scientific-popular essays of historical character, published since the end of the 1990-s by the scientists – authors or partiscipants of the USSR post-war computer and cybernetics development – provide plenty of earlier little- or un- known information. Usually, they provide objective and thorough analysis of events. However, sometimes one can find contradictions in descriptions of the same events, made by different authors and disagreement in their evaluation. Most probable reasons lie in their very personal character (A.N.).
10. One of the most detailed and popular books (collection of essays) on the history of Soviet cybernetics (A.N.)
11. No wonder, all military centres (in the whole world) were (and are) working in conditions of secrecy (A.N.)
12. His father Igor Poletaev was a scientist and an officer and made researches under Kitov at the Computer Centre N-1 in the 1950-s.
13. Town of Penza – some 600 km South-East from Moscow – was a powerful computer centre. Main working place of Dr. Bashir I. Rameev famous computer scientist and designer, one of the leading Soviet computer pioneers, who created scientific school of computer development in Penza and himself designed and produced the whole family of very popular universal computers URAL (A.N.)
Edited and translated by Alexander Nitusov
Published in museum, 31.12.2009