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Anatoly Ivanovich Kitov – the creator of the Computer Centre №1

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In 1950 Anatoly Kitov graduated from the (educational) F.E. Dzerzhinskiy Artillery Academy of the USSR Ministry of Defence in Moscow, being distinguished with a gold medal. His name is engraved on special marble wall-plate, placed in the academy’s celebration hall. Kitov had been also awarded with a personal “Stalin Stipend” for his success in studies.

 In 1952 — 1953 A.I. Kitov headed department of computing machines at the Academy of Artillery Sciences[1] (USSR Ministry of Defence), which existed until 1953. USSR Marshall of artillery N.N. Voronov was the president of that military scientific academy, which -among other- headed a network of some scientific-research institutions and centres belonging to the Ministry of Defence. Marshall Voronov invited Kitov to be his adviser. As an excellent student, Kitov had right of the appointment free choice[2] of all vocations available within the – both scientific and administrative– area, controlled by the ministry.

It was at the Academy of Artillery Sciences (AAS), where Kitov started his preparations for establishing the first computer centre at the ministry. In 1952 he successfully submitted dissertation thesis at the Academy Scientific-Research Institute N4 and received degree “Candidate of Technical Sciences”. His dissertation research topic was named ‘Digital Computer Programming of Ballistics Problems’. That was the USSR first scientific dissertation on electronic computer programming for military problems (technical).

In July 1953 the AAS was closed and Kitov received appointment as the head of computer department at his «Alma mater» – F.E. Dzerzhinskiy Artillery Academy. He remained in that position until May 1954. By that time computer department grew to be a serious scientific team – about forty people were working there, most of them officers. That was primarily the result of Kitov’s inexhaustible energy and ceaseless efforts.

The first three departments of the Computer Centre N1 (CC-1) with officially confirmed lists of personnel, registered as the military Regiment N-01168, were established by the directive of the Ministry of Defence. The date of its issue should be also considered as the foundation date. From the 1st of May 1954 A.I. Kitov was appointed as the first head of the developed Computer Centre N-1 (Regiment N-01168) of the USSR Ministry of Defence. So read the official Directive N-0873 of the Main Personnel Department of the USSR Ministry of Defence. Kitov was just 33 then. He received military rank “Engineer – Lieutenant-Colonel”[3] only half-year before, in December 1953. So, Regiment N-01168 was born at the F.E. Dzerzhinskiy Artillery Academy and remained there for about a year.

 By 1954 only computers of the first generation were in operation. They were based on electron tubes and didn’t have universal programs[4], which could be used by all programmers working on that machine. That time Soviet computers were practically as advanced as the American ones. Some technical lagging was in peripheral devices (input-output systems, magnetic tapes). There were three basic development centres[5]: Institute of Precession Mechanics and Computer-engineering (under S.A. Lebedev), Laboratory of electric modelling of the USSR Academy of Sciences and powerful research, design and production complex – Special Design Bureau 245 (SDB-245) belonging to the USSR Ministry of Radio-Engineering (integrated into military production complex). After graduation in 1950 Kitov himself was sent to the SDB-245 to study electronic computers and possibilities of their military applications[6].

By that time regular training of young computer specialists – engineers and programmers – had already started. Thus, the Moscow Power-Engineering Institute[7] already had in its curriculum –and conducted– the courses for speciality “Computer Engineering”. Academician S.A. Lebedev himself was the lecturer. The first group graduated with this speciality in 1953. Practically all those graduates eventually grew into prominent scientists, applied specialists and leaders of famous research and design teams.

In the beginning the Computer Centre N-1 (CC-1) had three scientific departments: department with operating computer STRELA – “Integral”, programming department and so called maintaining group.

One of the first and most important organisational problems of the centre was the need in quick but correct completion of the staff. Here the leading role was performed by its factual founder A.I. Kitov. Ministerial administration charged A.I. Kitov with the task of finding the suitable graduates of the Artillery Academy, Moscow Power-Engineering Institute (MPEI), Moscow State University (MSU) and some others for the work at computer centre.

Among them there were also the students who first graduated form MPEI, MSU, etc., and then studied at the Artillery Academy to obtain the second specialisation, with military diploma. They all naturally received military rank ‘Lieutenant’. The CC-1 (regiment N-01168) was first subjected to Marshall Voronov, if I am not mistaken, and then directly to the, educational, F.E. Dzerzhinskiy Artillery Academy. Here, Kitov and – generally speaking, the Ministry of Defence – rather unexpectedly got a piece of luck. There was the whole group of the MPEI graduates among the academy students. All of them received the speciality “Computer Engineering”, which was absolutely new educational subject then and was taught only at the MPEI. At the academy they were trained to be specialists on rocket control. Those young people were graduates of the second group, the first one received diplomas a year before, but Kitov managed to find A.N. Nechaev from that first group. Nechaev had already a year experience of the work with computer STRELA at the SDB-245 and was also enlisted to the CC-1. Therefore CC-1 received a team of the best possibly prepared Soviet young specialists available at that time. Here are their names: Artem Nechaev, Boris Bukin, Anatoly Gusev, Vladimir Isaev, Gennady Ovsyannikov, Gleb Smirnov, Alexander Sukhov, Boris Trifonov and Yuri Uvarov. They all formed the core of the computer STRELA operation and maintenance department, named ‘Integral’. Then STRELA was the centre’s main (and practically the only) computer; beginning from 1956 it calculated flight orbits of all satellites launched in the USSR.

To make final selection of the candidates A.I. Kitov himself had an interview with each one of them and thoroughly looked through their personal files and lists of marks (points) supplemented to diplomas. Of course it’s difficult to recollect what the people were thinking then, but many years after all of them agree that the work at CC-1 had decisive influence on their whole professional life. Thus, for example, Gleb Smirnov said that he was deeply grateful to Kitov, who chose him from many others because it determined all his further life.

Many of the F.E. Dzerzhinskiy academy graduates were specialists on electric and electronic instrumentation, they came from MPEI and from polytechnic institutes of Kiev and Lvov. Vladimir Davydov, Lev Golubev, Vitaly Stashevskiy and Evgeniy Shklyar received positions at the computer maintenance department ‘Integral’. I and Alexey Bukhtiyarov (MPEI) joined the programmers.

My first meeting with Kitov happened in July 1954 and looked the following. On the 4th of July I, a young graduate returned from the vacations given after finishing the academy and, according to directives given to me earlier by the academic appointments commission, appeared in the room 412. Nearing the door I first had to wait a little outside since somebody was speaking on telephone and did not want to begin with interfering. Then knocked and on being invited reported to the sitting young officer, “Comrade Lieutenant-Colonel, lieutenant Mironov arrived for joining the service”. The officer was A.I. Kitov himself. He was performing duties of the commander of regiment, later named “Computer Centre of the Artillery Chief Commander”, still later, “MD Computer Centre N-1” and finally “MD USSR Central Scientific-Research Institute N-27”. Nowadays, all these names one can literally read in every boulevard newspaper, but then they were exceptionally a subject of secret official correspondence, one might openly use only the regiment number – famous 01168.  

In fact our first meeting had rather formal and official character. It was not much more than my introducing to a new commander. Really serious and constructive talk took place a little later, when Kitov studied in detail my work on new computer program. That time I was really impressed, since he did not summon me to his study – and made waiting in a line of other visitors – as some ‘big bosses’ used to do, but unexpectedly entered the hall were we – the programmers were working together and sat beside me at my desk. That was a real scientific discussion; it lasted several hours. The working day was over, all colleagues left and only we two remained in empty room emotionally and enthusiastically analysing endless variants of programming, until the darkness fell. I think that was the decisive moment in my professional life. Later I noticed that it was Kitov’s style to study his future collaborators. Same as with me he used to sit together with each programmer and analyse the problem he was working upon. Although Kitov was strict when it concerned the matters of work, he was generally very friendly, informal, but not frivolous. Such common talks were normally long, but that was enough for him to get an impression of the collaborator. For example, same as in my case, he also stayed hours long together with Aleksey Bukhtiyarov – later famous programming expert – and remained satisfied. I also ‘witnessed’ his talks with some of other our young colleagues: Gleb Smirnov, Artem Nechaev, Boris Trifinov, Peter Komolov, Vladimir Isaev, Vladimir Golubev and some others. Those were the only ‘interviews’ by Kitov he did not need anything else. 

Kitov himself was sincerely involved and very enthusiastic during such discussions, what created atmosphere of mutual confidence and cooperation, in spite of the big difference in ranks. In reality Kitov was still young and friendly by his nature and for him, the work – new ideas and projects were the only things that counted. Differently to many ‘classical administrators’, who traditionally preferred ‘to downstream’ their orders and directives to ‘bosses of lower grade’, etc. A.I. Kitov was first of all the scientist with profound knowledge on computers; the professional involved in all principal problems of the CC N-1. That was the most important and attractive thing about him. His rich erudition and high qualification made him able to understand and evaluate every problem being solved by each collaborator. We all learned a lot from him.

Kitov, in his turn, did not need much time to understand professional potential and attitude of each of us. Anyway, I think he made his opinion on my scientific abilities already after our common ‘midnight’ analysis of my program. Notably, everybody gained much more respect from colleagues and, so to say, ‘equal rights’ at the centre after working discussions with Kitov (provided his work was approved). Thus, the friendly atmosphere created by Kitov strongly backed successful scientific progress of our CC-1 and obligatory military discipline was in our case a sort of ‘auxiliary decoration’ (if one may say so). Most important result of it consisted in extremely enthusiastic, selfless attitude to work. It was typical to work until late, sometimes up to midnight, not for additional payment of course, but merely of the interest to receive the best possible results. The results were really very good.  Now, many years after, I realise that we were lucky to be among the world’s first programmers working at the USSR first computer centre, which was then one of the most powerful centres in the world.

That friendly and true creative atmosphere of the CC-1 was typical for all discussions with leading scientists – collaborators of the centre: A.A. Lyapunov, L.A. Lusternik, N.A. Krinitskiy, N.P. Buslenko, I.A.Poletaev, O.V. Sosura and others. Besides being intellectuals they all were people of high cultural level that is why all sensible proposals, no matter whose – experienced professional’s or yesterday graduate’s – were accepted and objectively studied by them.

Intensive engagement of new collaborators lasted all time during the 1950-s. Graduates of the Moscow State University Gennady Frolov, Vladimir Bitutskiy and some others first were civil specialists, but later received officer ranks. Bitutskiy was especially famous for his programs – he did not make a single mistake during all time of his work at the CC-1. 

Among them there was Igor Pottosin – graduate of the University of Tomsk. He received appointment to the CC-1, worked for several years gaining profound experience and then, in the beginning of the 1960-s, left for Novosibirsk, to newly-founded Siberian branch of the USSR Academy of Sciences, where he eventually became a director of a research institute. The CC-1 was a good school.

Besides purely scientific work Kitov performed administrative functions, what he also did conscientiously and efficiently. Thus, during all those years a new building was constructed for CC-1, not far from the city centre. He ‘monitored’ it constantly and did not hesitate to personally participate if necessary. 

Mathematician Lieutenant-colonel Nikolay Andreevich Krinitskiy was deputy chief of our programming department. In spite of the difference in age – he was ten years older than Kitov, they were close friends and efficient collaborators. Their computer books were famous not only in the USSR but in some other foreign countries. It was Kitov who invited Krinitskiy to the CC-1. Before that he worked at the F.E. Dzerzhinskiy Artillery Academy at the chair of mathematic. The chair was very strong, besides permanent collaborators there were famous professors mathematicians from the Moscow State University: A.A. Lyapunov, M.R. Shura-Bura, Levitan, Tumarkin. Colonel G.P. Tolstov headed the chair; he himself was the author of a good course book on mathematical analysis.  

Simultaneously with development of working projects Kitov organised upgrading and training for practically all CC-1 collaborators. One could say that we had university, technical institute and college under our roof at the same time. Often the same people were both students and teachers. There were several courses taught for engineers and programmers. Thus, A.N. Nechaev conducted lectures on “Design of computers”, Kitov himself delivered “Computer programming”, lieutenant - colonel Yavna was in charge of the “Theory of automatic control”. All collaborators of the CC-1 attended these lectures therefore the auditorium was always full.

Beside those common lessons, each department had its own courses. At the department of operation scientists and engineers lectured on their professional subjects, e.g.: Smirnov and Gusev worked with central arithmetic devices, Uvarov and Isaev told about memory storage, Bukin about peripheral devices, Sukhov and Trifonov about control units and Ovsyannikov about magnetic tapes. At the same time, our programming department was given rather ambitious task to study basic courses of the Moscow State University mathematical faculty curriculum. The lessons were conducted by the three CC-1 collaborators with superb level of qualification. Corresponding member of the Academy of Sciences Prof. L.A. Lyusternik taught variational (tensor) calculus, N.A. Krinitskiy taught theory of the functions of complex variables, professor of the Artillery Academy and the Moscow State University A.A. Lyapunov ran the course, “Some problems of the set theory”.

The first years of its existence CC-1 was located within the Academy campus and we were grateful that academy ‘tolerated’ us. The programmers who spent most of their time working there naturally had the strongest impressions. According to the rules of internal order we had the same rights as the academy lecturers and teachers. Thus, we could use special (teachers’) sections of the library and its special storage with various secret documents. We were also allowed to have meals in the special teacher’s hall of the academy canteen and wear trousers and common shoes – same as the teachers and professors; while the students were wearing ridding breeches and high-boots. That caused many humorous stories, since many of them had higher military ranks than we – young lieutenants, however – some automatically and some of ‘newcomer’s fear’ (candidates and beginners) – they dutifully saluted us at the academic corridors, as if we were really their commanders. It’s not difficult to imagine our great amusement with that “saluting our trousers”.  

As I’ve already mentioned, from the very beginning we, collaborators of the CC-1, formed an impression of A.I. Kitov as of high qualified expert and very friendly man, but strict in the matters of work and, besides, “seeing you through” with all your pro and contra. He set both for us and his own self a very impressive goal – to create so powerful computer centre that it would be able to accept every reasonable scientific challenge, that is perform theoretical development and practical application of every computer project initiated by the state. For that purpose he managed to invite some famous scientists (his teacher A.A. Lyapunive, academician L.A. Liusternik, N.A. Krinitskiy, etc.) for permanent or part-time work at the CC-1. Kitov also established co-operation with some more scientists, for example with director of the Laboratory of Electrical Modelling (AS USSR), Prof. Gutenmakher. And of course, he went on taking new graduates from the Moscow State University and Moscow Power-Engineering Institute, military academies, etc. After a year of intensive completing the staff, upgrading personnel’s qualification and establishing principle directions of researches – that is by the autumn 1955, the CC-1 turned into a scientific centre able for conducting serious researches and doing other works corresponding to the Ministry of Defence problems.

Since 1956 till some years after, scientific researches and practical projects, performed under direct supervision and personal participation of A.I. Kitov produced programs for launching of the first long-range ballistic missiles and space satellites. The centre also created both theoretical and practical fundamentals, which made possible flights of the first Soviet cosmonauts: Yuri Gagarin, German Titov and others. The first serially produced[8] digital computer STRELA was mounted on the CC-1 premises. That was a slow computer, with performance 2,000 ops, and it needed more than 400 sqw/m space. However, that was the first universal computer entirely used by the Arms Forces.

Thus, the role the CC-1 played in general development of the Soviet computer science is difficult to overestimate. That was the USSR pioneer computer centre that appeared a year before the centre at the Academy of Sciences and some others. One more Kitov’s talent – his born ability to quickly formulate the core of each scientific idea or other proposal and evaluate it in practically no time was an invaluable quality for the leader of such ‘enterprise’ as the CC-1. That was, of course, a great help to its forming and progress, unfortunately military administrators did not let Kitov work long enough. His brilliant career lasted just six years or so. Other leaders that succeeded him at the CC-1 could be good like anything, but, just the same, not to be compared with that unique person. That was really pity, since the centre had both the potential and all possibilities to make a serious rival to the leading computer centres of the world (e.g. to Microsoft /G.M.).

A wave of passions caused by some reasonable scientific idea was another quality of this emotional nature. There was even something childish in his sincere attitude to it. On such occasion he was literally ’glowing with enthusiasm’. Interesting that it was also the reason of his weak point – longing so much to obtain results as soon as (im)possible he often underestimated ‘realities’, when planning project schedule, and appointed seemingly unrealistic time for its performance. That brought a great deal of ‘hypertension’ in our work.  As we know from philosophy there are three stages of cognition – thesis, antithesis and synthesis, Kitov was immediately and entirely possessed with thesis. However, we were young and adventurous, same as him we possessed both enthusiasm and energy. And almost always did fulfil the ‘crazy plans’ in time.

As scientific chief of the CC-1 A.I. Kitov sometimes had to receive the highest commanders, marshals and administrators of the Armed Forces and display them his organisation. For them computers were totally unknown things those times. 

I very well remember the visit of very popular war-time commander – Marshal K.K. Rokossovskiy. He was the chief of the USSR Ministry of Defence Military Inspection. Rokossovskiy[9] had recently returned from Poland where he had been the Minister of Defence and vice-chairman of the Polish government. He was followed by some assistants. The marshal put his hand on Kitov’s shoulder, attentively looked at everything and asked him many detailed questions. After demonstration of computers Kitov made a report on solving some military problems with usage of those machines. General impression of the visit was very positive.

Unfortunately not all were so positive and attentive. Another marshal – Grechko, was obviously not so much interested, but openly demonstrated his scepticism to computer-assisted informational technologies.  

Another field where Kitov has demonstrated his qualities was the cybernetics. That was actually his first serious – or rather, public – ‘probe of forces’ in the very beginning of scientific career. In the early 1950-s attitude of official philosophers and essential part of state administrator to the cybernetics was definitely negative[10]. Position and attitude of official philosophy that time, could be good illustrated by an article in the Encyclopaedic Dictionary (the fourth edition) published in 1954, where it read: “Provokers of new world war utilise the cybernetics for their dirty practice… for working out new methods of people mass elimination – electronic, automatic and remote-control weaponry, designing and manufacturing of which became a flourishing branch of the military industry in the capitalist countries. Thus, the cybernetics is not only ideological arms of imperialist reactionary forces but also the means of realisation of their aggressive militaristic planes”. For some period of time the mass media was bursting with epithets addressed to the cybernetics, like “scientific forgery”, “a maid of the capitalist world” and even worse.

Therefore, it’s clear that A.I. Kitov possessed unusual scientific insight, as he could realise the high value and perspectives of that new science almost immediately on having read translation of the N. Wiener’s “Cybernetics” (available only in the academic library, at the section of secret documents). He also demonstrated definite determination and enthusiasm by writing the article propagating cybernetics, “Main Features of Cybernetics”. It was the first work on the new science and it had very positive character, although 1952, when it was written, was the period of beginning criticism against the “Western ideology” in science and culture. Besides A.I. Kitov his former teacher of mathematics at the Artillery Academy Prof. A.A. Lyapunov and academician S.L. Sobolev were its co-authors. However, it needed almost three years of Kitov’s and Lyapunov’s public lectures before broad scientific and just educated auditorium as well as efforts of many people before it was officially published in 1955. Notably it was printed in the official philosophic journal “Problems of Philosophy” (N-4), the same, which two years before published the most negative article “Whom serves cybernetics”, that totally ‘razed’ the ‘building of reactionary cybernetic ideas’.  

The emerging of the article clearly reflected the struggle for progress of new science. One of its most influential supporters was admiral and academician Axel Ivanovich Berg. Outstanding organiser, administrator and scientist – A.I. Berg[11] held position of the USSR vice-minister of defence on scientific problems (chiefly development of radio and electronics). It was A.I.Berg, who conducted the meeting of ‘Scientific and Technical Council on Radio and Electronics’, where he asked A.I. Kitov to make a report, named “The positive significance of cybernetics and perspectives of digital electronic computers implementation”. Then, Kitov was chief of the computer department at the Artillery Academy. Berg already knew that he had red the “Cybernetics” by N. Wiener and prepared an article on the subject. After the council’s meeting Berg made a telephone call on the editor N.G. Zabolotskiy – then director of the big publishing house “Sovetskoe Radio” (Soviet Radio) and asked him to publish a book on computers. Then he addressed Kitov with the following, “I trust you, major Kitov, to write a book on the computers”. So, in January 1956 – almost in a year, Kitov presented his book “Electronic Digital Computers” to the editor. That was the first solid work on electronic computers ever published in the USSR. The first third of the book (about 100 pages) contained pure technical description of electronic computer. The second – the basic – part was dedicated to problems of programming, including the automatic programming methods. The conclusion was more theoretical, abstract; here Kitov –already in 1955– wrote on possibilities of “non-arithmetical” usage of computers.

Generally speaking, appearance of electronic computing machines in the USSR had taken place years before and without the slightest connection or association with any cybernetics[12], so the official decisions on computer development might be made (and did) without any mentioning of the cybernetics. It could be quite justly said that the cybernetics does not exist without computers but the computers do pretty well without it. The quick mathematical computation with maximal performance was initially their principal predestination. In hypothetic case, such problem arose at all, that statement alone would be more than sufficient argument for the administration deciding on their, say, production.

A well known fact is that technical progress of weaponry and general military development, accelerated by the ‘arms races’, was impossible without solving numerous scientific and engineering problems. First of all those were the physical ones, like modelling of atom explosion, ballistics, rocket control, etc., therefore, enormous amount of highly precise mathematical calculations was needed most urgently. No need to say that it was the best reason for computer development.

As I already mentioned, Kitov already organised for us permanent qualification upgrading when we were still quartered at the F.E. Dzerzhinskiy Artillery Academy. It was there, when the first book of programming problems was written. It contained many small problems and the reader –trainee– should write the shortest possible programs for their solving. The ’etalon’ solutions (answers) had been found by our best programming experts. 

As it often happens, one of the newcomers, lieutenant-colonel Vladimir Golubev found a solution shorter than the etalon. That granted him great deal of respect, what was very characteristic for the ‘CC-1 of the Kitov’s period’. Our working atmosphere was friendly and enthusiastic; all were happy when someone solved some difficult problem or did something interesting. That was really the ‘team spirit’. If the newcomer had high military rank he was normally given personal experienced instructor. 

As the official military organisation CC-1, naturally had complete administrative staff including secretary of the local affiliate of party (communist) organisation. Only the commander’s (director) position was vacant. Kitov temporarily performed his duties; unfortunately – only temporarily. The ministerial superiors, probably with the aim of ‘balancing’ his ‘ungovernable energy’, finally appointed a series of chiefs, always much older than he (than, it was for granted that they had very little (if any) knowledge of computers /A.N.). Kitov remained at CC-1 as vice-director on scientific work.

The first director in the row was Colonel V.M. Maiskiy. His way of leadership was absolutely alien to our scientific stile. Being dutiful and disciplined administrator he had neither knowledge nor proper experience. However, later, when he was dismissed after a shot time, he made himself very good – almost ideal– chief of the group, which stored information on punched-cards.

General Berezin was the second to come. Earlier he worked at the Artillery Academy and was a good man but by no means a computer specialist. Berezin was already going to retire, as he was older than sixty, or in fact he did retire, but the ministry asked him to stay some longer and to head our regiment N 01168. Although he had a scientific degree it was in other field, not in computer engineering. However, being a reasonable person Berezin wisely decided not to interfere in scientific matters but quietly withdrew and focused his activity on discipline and establishing of more or less acceptable military order. Luckily, everything related to science was totally controlled by Kitov and Berezin controlled polishing boots by the soldiers of our security platoon. He also loved to feed pigeons in the garden. Berezin was a clever and friendly man with a soft nature.

Anyway, one could say that in spite of some ’administrative inconveniences’ work of the CC-1 in general was going well. The real Kitov’s problem arose from his relations with members of our party committee (i.e. the deputy on political work, secretaries, etc.). He couldn’t or, may be, didn’t want to hide his irritation when some of them tried to ‘intrude’ his scientific realm without demonstrating anything besides ‘annoying demagogy’. Unfortunately almost all of them were alien to scientific matters and only brought disorder, every time they were ‘actively demonstrating their presence’. Oppositely to unusual tolerance and friendliness that he demonstrated to every dutiful professional regardless of rank or age, Kitov could be (and was) ‘very direct’, or even rough, with those who just ‘senselessly interfered’. Later the military party-officials fully used the opportunity to pay him all that back.

Nevertheless, there was an exception. That was the commander’s deputy on political work general Vassily Yakovlevich Golovkin. Since the arrival to the CC-1, Golovkin felt deep respect to A.I. Kitov and never interfered in his plans or projects with any directives. It was really pity that Golovkin did not stay long with us. Soon he was promoted and transferred to Kiev to be appointed as the deputy commander of the Kiev military region. There he received still more promotions, eventually getting close to the top of military hierarchy, however, he always kept friendly relations with the Kitov’s; they always stayed at each other’s on visits to Kiev and Moscow. 

Academician admiral A.B. Berg also was Kitov’s true ‘protector’. He was the USSR defence minister’s deputy on scientific problems, from 1953 till 1957 and then left his position because of serious health problems. Since 1958 and until his last day (20 years after) Berg organised and headed the USSR first official scientific organisation on cybernetic problems, famous “Scientific Council on the complex Problem Cybernetics” of the USSR Academy of Sciences. Berg and Kitov were very similar in characters: witty mind, strong will, resolute nature always displayed at making risky decisions. They even looked somehow alike despite big age difference (Berg was 27 years older). No wander that their working relations grew into long close friendship. Kitov always experienced deep respect to his elder friend and loved to tell others about their scientific cooperation. He kept Berg’s portrait on his desk and treasured the book – presented and signed by the ‘scientific admiral’.  

Thus, Kitov created both the computer centre (regiment 01168) and chose ways of its development. One can say that due to his efforts and personality the centre possessed a living soul. He was the most efficient of all scientific leaders of CC-1 during the first decades. I’d dare say – the one and only, as, later, somebody was always holding position of the commander’s deputy on scientific problems but none else has been the expert good enough to lead the institute.

Now, I’ll try to name and speak some words about each of the centre’s principal activity directions and reasons of their emergence. The centre was founded to be a sort of production enterprise – that is, to perform calculations ordered by other military-oriented organisations. For that task there were already necessary specialists and computers. That could be named “production” (‘mathematical support’ speaking in the popular slang of Russian programmers). As that was really production consisting of setting problems jointly with customers, then the programming itself, debugging, testing, preparation of documents, etc. – it was important to properly organise and maintain technological process. About 160 programmers and developers of algorithms were simultaneously engaged in that work but there was only one computer – of the first generation – STRELA. Our department consisted of laboratories in the beginning they were all of general profile without any specialisation. Some of their chiefs were professional mathematicians, such as Colonel A.V. Zansokhov, who came to us from the artillery academy chair of mathematics. Others were just former students of academies, but already with higher ranks. The laboratories were divided into groups headed by officers but the specialists were normally civil mathematicians – university graduates.

In the beginning Kitov paid much attention to organising of proper production process, first of all efficient cooperation with customers. At the same time, being himself a scientist by nature, he clearly realised that limiting the CC-1’s work to pure production inevitably brings stagnation and degrading. No wander that he was constantly looking for new principle research subjects and design projects.

In this connection it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that design of new special-purpose computers at the CC-1 was one of his most important achievements. That time, our centre was subjected to the ‘department five’ of the Ministry of Defence, which was in charge of electronics development in the Soviet Army. The idea of special computers design at the CC-1 was positively accepted by the department administration and its head – General R.P. Pokrovskiy, agreed to provide financial support and additional working positions for appropriate specialists, who should be found among the university graduates with suitable qualification profile.

Why did he propose design of special digital computers – complicated issue having little to do with our ‘accustomed’ programming? On my opinion, the perspectives of universal computers, especially their future parameters and the scale of problems they would be able to solve, were not quite clear. Most of the new hardware and components developed by civil scientific organisations was still on experimental stage. However, military progress always needs stable facilitation and backing with reliable technical means, it can’t depend on ‘unpredictable course of scientific events’. On the other hand the computer parameters that had been achieved by that time already corresponded with many important problems, especially those of objects control, or the always available important ones that could –and should– be solved really quickly. As such control and computations needed special computers-objects communication lines (‘interface’ in the modern lexicon /G.M) the computers automatically turned into some specialised ones.

Thus, Kitov’s efforts resulted in development of special computers at the CC-1. He trusted the software production control to the heads of departments, as their technological processes had been already established. Then engaged several experienced ‘old colleagues’ (who were not yet 30! /G.M) in new design group, such as G. Smirnov, A. Gusev, V. Isaev, who were maintenance engineers at computer STRELA and V. Stashevskiy an engineer from the team prepared to maintain new computer “Integral”. However, the main body of computer design team was formed of newly invited specialists (military Academy of Communications and some civil institutes).

Two special computers were produced by our centre they were M-100 and UDAR (the blow). The former was designed for radar information processing and the latter should perform preparations for ballistic missile launching. Computer M-100 was based on the electron tubes but its performance –100,000 ops– was the USSR (may be world?) absolute record for its time – 1958. Well, in fact its operands were short – 16 binary bits and the processed numbers had fixed point but, just the same, the speed was incomparable. Input data for programming algorithms were based on the time intervals between the moment of a radar direct impulse emitting (output of search signal) and the moment of the reflected signal reception.  M-100 received name from Kitov for its amazing performance; unfortunately only one piece was made, for it belonged to the first generation. The computer was tested and passed to Kiev Higher (military) School of Radio-Engineering. The other computer was more modern one, as it was entirely built on transistors. It was approved by ministerial commission and went into serial production.

The information processing algorithms that we developed, were sort of extrapolation ones, which analysed the radar data received at its previous (or the first) revolution and enabled locating of a target (aircrafts) in the zones of expectation at the radar next – the following – revolution. As far as I know those were the first algorithms of such type produced in the USSR.

The major V.N. Vanin headed our department of algorithms and programs. He was a serious, rather silent man and famous specialist on radio-location information processing. Much later he characterised Kitov as the following, “Anatoly Kitov was the cleverest scientist, filled with knowledge ‘up to the top’. I’ve never met another person so decent, modest and with so high morals in my life”. 

М-100 pioneered not only new algorithms but also many progressive engineering solutions. Thus, it realised parallel operation of different devices – due to separation of statements memory and operands memory, retrieval from the two storages ran simultaneously. At the same time already selected operands were being processed at arithmetic unit. It also had the first ROM ferrite core storage device for statements where binary codes of commands were hardwired. The device was made by Captain Ivan Fedotov, who actually had had much stress with it. At first he followed Prof. Gutenmacher’s ideas to use capacitors for the storage basic components, but things went slowly as the strong interference of parasite capacities dumped the device’s work and none of his measures could improve it. When almost no time was left he ventured to quit and make his own structure. That was his real success.

While the command storage was read-only one the operands’ storage enabled both reading and recording – changing of contents. That was the first such ferrite device however, later they were broadly used. In the beginning only one engineer Vassiliy Prokudin was working with it, but when Kitov saw its progressive design he enforced and accelerated the work by having withdrawn V. Isaev and A. Gusev from STRELA maintenance team.

Arithmetic device of M-100 was totally different from similar unit of STRELA. Devices of M-100 type were later further developed and are used in processor units until now. On the 27th of June 1958 its designers – CC-1 collaborators: A.I. Kitov, M.V. Melnikov, A.I. Shuvalov and O.V. Selesnev received patent of the USSR Council of Ministers what was official recognition of the M-100 pioneer design and technical solution priority. The biggest disadvantage of M-100 consisted in its basic components – electron tubes which caused the whole chain of its weak points: increased power consumption, big size, overheating and lower reliability.

The processor unit was designed at Valeriy Nikitin’s laboratory. Gleb Smirnov form STRELA team – our best expert on arithmetic devices, was its leading specialist and Marina Chaevskaya and Valentina Yashina were his assistants. Marina was a good engineer but Valentina Yashina was a volleyball player of the highest grade. She was a member of the central sport club of the Soviet Army and a world champion. Most of her time she spent at playing grounds and we did not meet her at the laboratory too often. To be honest, she was a good girl and tried to do something when working ‘on visiting us’, but it was little of course, so, most of her (and his) work was done by poor Smirnov[13] (who ironically was also a volleyball player, but luckily not so ‘advanced’). There was an attempt to appoint one more prominent girl from the Army Central Sport Club but terrified Nikitin made an ‘uprising’ and Kitov did not insist.

Kitov and Krinitskiy also established department of “mathematical support for design of new computers”. Its primary tusk consisted in theoretical research for M-100 design. This department consisted of several working groups. The first one – A. Nechaev, B. Trifonov and V. Trutovskiy – dealt with reliability problems. I was making tests for M-100 and Petr Komolov with Marina Gorizontova composed its model on computer STRELA. With this model we were going to probe new software while the computer was in project stage. Testing and debugging of the programs was very responsible work because they would be hardwired in command storage and each changing, introduced later, in the process of work was difficult and expensive. The hardwiring of commands was performed by special assembling team, whom the commands should be given in suitable preliminary prepared form. For that purpose I composed special program which printed M-100 commands on STERLA’s output devices in binary form. Printed sheets were glued together according to special pattern and sent to the assemblers. Finally M-100 was officially approved and we celebrated it making party at somebody’s summer-house outside Moscow. Kitov as usually was besought by somebody of collaborators who was trying to present all his ideas at once. That was his ‘fortune’ – everybody used every opportunity to discuss something with him.

Vladimir Isaev (then a major), who also is proud to have been Kitov’s trainee and assistant was commander of mobile computer system “Platform”. That was an auto-trailer housing two computers RAZDAN, produced at the Yerevan Institute of Mathematic Machines (Armenia), a bus for personnel and full complex of auxiliary installation and materials. All that arrived to Moscow and our collaborators enthusiastically ‘explored’ it.

In August 1956 Kitov and Krinitskiy presented their book “Elements of Programming” at the publishing department of the Artillery Academy. The book had about 300 pages, dedicated to logical basis of computers and programming. Kitov was the editor in chief of that publication, printed in 1956 and also of the periodic Collection of scientific works, which he founded at the CC-1. Many progressive ideas and projects published that time are even more promising in our days.

As I already mentioned, CC-1 was also engaged in calculations – a part of preparations for launching space satellites and later for manned spaceship flights. Candidate of technical sciences Konstantin Feoktistov was representative of a customer for a state project. Feoktistov was (civilian) senior scientific collaborator of the Scientific Research Institute N-4 (of the Ministry of Defence). Several years later he himself became a member of one of the first Soviet space crews and the world’s first scientist to fly in space.

Our work on special computers was rather long, but at the same time universal machines in general made a good progress and already created real possibilities for development of complex information processing systems. Although there was neither theoretical nor practical basis for such work Kitov realised importance of the subject and made efforts to organise researches in this field. By that time it was also clear that, in spite of noticeable progress in design of special computers, military research centres could not compete with established scientific institutions and special industrial design bureaus.

Generally speaking, development of concrete computers was not the work for military organisations, which should mainly work out detailed and substantiated assignments for manufacturers. Our enthusiastic work with M-100 and UDAR was rather exception. Nevertheless, our hardware designers, who had already accumulated experience, even offered certain resistance to Kitov when he proposed to ‘switch’ to new subject, but he managed to organise stable work on “Calculation systems” and “Information systems”.

New scientific topic “Development of Information Retrieval Systems (IRS)” was then a pioneer subject not only for the army but for the whole country. Kitov persuaded responsible officials of the General Staff – our main military customers, that they did need it and they selected military organisations charging them with the task of working out detailed assignments for the problems we should solve. As we later discovered, those who formulated the problems also influenced future results of the work and thus contributed to researches.

Department of Krinitskiy or, rather its laboratories headed by Gerold Georgievich Belonogov and me were most lucky in this sense. We were charged with development of informational systems: I – with factual information processing and Belonogov with documentary systems.  

G.G. Belonogov came to the CC-1 as graduate from the Military Engineering Academy. In fact he had two diplomas, one as power-engineer and the other as interpreter of German language (he also graduated from the institute of military interpreters). On the arrival he immediately began post-graduate study and Kitov became his scientific supervisor. Kitov proposed a subject for his dissertation research that was actually a mathematical linguistics issue. Belonogov introduced sparing (‘economical’) coding, which presented processed text not with alpha characters – alphabetic string, but with sequence of word codes (or coded words). That reduced volume about three times. A coding like that hasn’t lost its practical meaning until now, as it makes possible direct retrieval of so coded information, oppositely to archived texts.  

Documentary retrieval systems are much closer to computer (digital) technologies of text processing than the factual information systems. That was Belonogov’s (and Kitov’s) reason of his active interest and researches in mathematical linguistics. One can say he was making preparations for a ‘long siege’ of the computer assisted automated translation problem. Even then the first basic results were obtained at our 01168, for example the system of Russian language morphological and syntax analysis was composed.

However, we might not openly say that the (military) laboratory was engaged in ’automated machine-translation’ because the ministerial administration wouldn’t understand. Therefore, Belonogov named his work ‘development of information systems’. Several such systems were really produced and given to customers. As the team head Belonogov had a deputy – Yuri Gaikovich, who deeply respected Kitov and maintained friendly relations with him, many years after.

Almost all CC-1 commander’s deputies on scientific work, who succeeded Kitov were so incompetent, comparing with him, that they often simply could not understand, what their researchers were doing. They knew even less how to use the obtained results. Therefore, soon the decision-making ‘passed by itself’ to higher officials, who in their turn were often not specialists at all and had reached their positions chiefly by being very active in ‘political mainstream’. They naturally considered interests of their own selves, of colleagues, of (their) chiefs and subordinates but never of the scientists and of science itself. Meanwhile the scientists were busy with work and supported themselves with rather naive belief, that their results ‘will explain everything’. Then it will be clear for everybody, ‘who did the best’.

Thus, development of information processing systems at the CC-1 – an ‘unexplored area’, those times – became an evidence of Kitov’s free creative mind and clarity of scientific vision. Unfortunately, nowadays most of the programming is limited to the Windows technology. 

The first researches on the automation and automated systems were also made at that period. A.I. Kitov became a pioneer in that field too. Thus, in autumn1959 developed a concept of computers and computing centres double usage in the national scale and made appropriate project. His idea consisted in joining all computer centres of the country into a network, both for the needs of defence and for national economy. He named the project – “The Red Book”.

Kitov submitted the project to N.S. Khrushchev – Secretary General of the USSR Communist Party Central Committee, in other words the government’s first person, but the Central Committee forwarded it to the Ministry of Defence, which in fact was severely criticised in the introduction part of the project report for its slowness at computer development and insufficient administrative actions at implementation of mathematic methods. Finally the project was rejected by the special Ministerial commission under the USSR marshal K.K. Rokossovskiy, despite its being actively supported by Krinitskiy, Poletaev, Lyapunov, Buslenko, Lyusternik and other Kitov’s leading scientific colleagues. It happened in 1960. After that Kitov left the CC-1, or rather was rudely fired by the ministerial administrators. He was also expelled from the party and removed from the Ministry of Defence system.

The precise title of the project was, “Ways of the Management Automation in the Armed Forces and National Economy”. It was naturally a ‘top secret’ document. During the next few years the scientists, who supported Kitov and his project, interrupted their cooperation with the defence ministry and left for work at various civil institutes.

As the idea of the computer network was really a progressive one it could not ‘just vanish’. So, rather soon – already in the first half of the 1960-s – it emerged again, that time among the academic scientists. Now, the leading role in its development passed to academician V.M. Glushkov – director of the Kiev Institute of Cybernetics. Although being, officially, a Ukrainian republican organisation, in practice it was All-Union scientific centre, considering level, importance and dimensions of its work. V.M. Glushkov, famous for his profound knowledge and overwhelming energy was undoubtedly a match to Kitov. Glushkov first learned about Kitov in 1956, when he read his book “Digital Computers”. In the beginning of the 1960 Kitov was his deputy (or representative) in Moscow on development of management systems at the number of enterprises subjected to industrial ministries of the state military-industrial complex[14]. Of course they were already personally acquainted. Glushkov knew about the “Red Book” and, realising its importance, as well as possible related (administrative) dangers, did not hesitate to support the project. Not without serious efforts, the scientists managed to reach their goal. Several governmental decisions were made, according to them a big number of new scientific-research and manufacturing organisations should be founded to conduct automation of the whole structure of national economy. 

Kitov’s active and open nature always helped him in maintaining scientific and also personal contacts with people. Most of the leading scientists who used to cooperate with him experienced friendly feelings to that attractive person. Among them there were: A. Berg, Lyapunov, Shura-Bura, Lyusternik, Glushkov, Kantorovich, Pospelov, Zhuravlev, Papernov, Benenson, Levin, Akushskiy, Yablonskiy, Lupanov and many others. Representatives and customers from various organisations of the Academy of Sciences, industry and military centres always visited the CC-1 for both receiving results of solved problems and experience exchange. Therefore, one may claim that, in the 1950-s, the CC-1 performing its functions was simultaneously one of the most important centres of scientific development in its field. In the 1960-s, its role was taken by the Kiev Institute of Cybernetics (Academy of Sciences of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic).

In the 1960-s, when Kitov left the CC-1 we continued our personal cooperation. We regularly met at the working meetings of editorial boards of periodical collection of works “Digital Computers and Programming”, which he headed, and then of the journal “Programming” where we both were members of the editorial council. He was always modest but firm in statements.

He also continued his friendship with many other colleagues from the CC-1. Knowing very well their high professional level he almost never refused to be scientific opponent at their dissertation works. His presence was a sort of ‘Quality mark’ for scientific councils. 

A.I. Kitov once participated in a meeting dedicated to the memory of Alexey Andreevich Lyapunov. Many people who personally knew him made speeches, Kitov unfortunately did not. It’s a pity that I did not insist. Kitov enjoyed respect of his teacher Lyapunov, who often called him a ‘Pioneer of cybernetics in the USSR’. He could tell a lot about Lyapunov’s notable role in ‘military cybernetics’, and not only in military. He had all reasons for that.

The greeting telegram, which Lyapunov addressed to Kitov in 1970 in connection with his 50 years birthday, reads,  

“Moscow,

Scientific-Research Institute of medical and medical-engineering information

To Prof. A.I. Kitov

Dear Anatoly Ivanovich,

We are sending to you – the first knight of the Soviet cybernetics – our warmest greetings on the occasion of your noble Fifty. We wish you many more years of young healthy life and exciting work.

Yourssincerely

TheLyapunovs

Many years later, in the 1980-s, at one of the All-Union conferences on information sciences, professor D.A. Pospelov (expert on information sciences and the author of popular scientific books about it) proposed a toast „To the colonels of the regiment 01168 who did a lot fort he cybernetics and computer engineering. Anatoly Kitov’s name must stay on the top of the list“.

 

Kitov

Anatoliy Kitov - the creator of the Computer Centre №1 ( 1954 ) - the first computer centre in the USSR.


Computer Centre No 1

Computer Centre No 1 (USSR Ministry of Defense) Command staff members in presidium of the centre meeting on the 1st of May 1959. Colonel A.I. Kitov is in the first row on the left.


The building of the USSR Ministry of Defence Computer Centre No1

The building of the USSR Ministry of Defence Computer Centre No1, created by A.I.Kitov in 1954. That was the first Soviet computer centre.


The patent Reactive Cannon

The patent “Reactive Cannon” – a weapon of a new type filed by A.I. Kitov on the 19.04.1949. He had invented the cannon during his study at the F.E. Dzerzhinskiy Moscow Artillery Academy (military engineering). That project of his was presented to I.V. Stalin by the USSR Ministry of Defense.

About the author: Mironov Georgiy Akimovich – Colonel-engineer, Professor, Doctor of technical sciences.

Notes

1. Not to be confused with (educational) F.E. Dzerzhinskiy Artillery Academy. Since the time of the king (tsar) Peter the Great (begin. XVIII c.), artillery has been being the object of special attention in Russian army; Peter himself had a rank of artillery captain. As technical progress involved great deal of mathematics, mechanics, etc., artillery research and design centres logically developed into important scientific organisations. They were often better established and supported than civilian researchers. Artillery Academy of Sciences became very serious institution; many leading scientists were engaged in its activity. (A.N.)

2. Normally, graduates receive obligatory appointments (A.N.)

3. A young age officer can receive a high rank (at no-war time) only after graduation of a military academy; there are some exceptions, but very few. (A.N.)

4. In Russian programmers’ parlance it’s called “mathematical support“. This term is widely used (A.N.)

5. Here the author doesn’t mention two more important centres: Laboratory of academician I.S. Bruk of the USSR Academy of Sciences Power research Institute and famous computer plant and institute of B.I. Rameev in Penza.

6. From: B.N. Malinovskiy. “History of Computer Engineering in Personalities”. Kiev, KIT, 1995.

7. The Moscow Power-Engineering Institute (electro-engineering university) played outstanding role in development of the Soviet computing. Most of the Soviet computer pioneers of the beginning period, as well as countless specialists of later, have been its graduates.

The institute was founded in the 1930-s by the AS USSR academician Karl Adolfovich Krug (founder of the Soviet school of electro-engineering – see his bio.) as the USSR principal school for research and engineering in the field of electricity, electronics, etc., with most powerful pedagogical staff famous for many prominent scientific names. In the 1950-1990-s studied and graduated form it. MPEI was very big, up to 20,000 students including thousands of young people from many countries (MPEI never was a ‘closed’/ i.e. secret/ organisation). Besides profound scientific researches it always maintained intensive cultural work involving both all students and personnel. Unfortunately the crisis of 1990-s caused serious destruction and the general level of MPEI notably declined.

8. „Strela“ was really the first serial electronic computer. Seven pieces of that computer were produced by the powerful research and production centre “Special Design Bureau – 245” (Moscow), which in fact integrated some institutes and a manufacturing plant. In reality, the seven computers were made one after another, each had some – sometimes essential – improvements, based on the experience of previous models, what naturally introduced some differences and led to certain incompatibility (A.N.)

9. Rokossovskiy also enjoyed in public opinion – unusual for an officer – fame of being the ‘most attractive and handsome Soviet high-rank commander’. (A.N.)

10. Most of them (if not all) had no, or very little, technical knowledge to understand essence and main ideas of the cybernetics, so they based most of their reasoning on the statements (or slogans) like, “Cybernetics leads to bringing working people under control of automates”, “Its usage is aimed at increasing exploitation of labour”, “It serves most aggressive plans of militarists, for rapidly increasing production of automated weaponry is their source of super-incomes”, etc., etc. what looks ridiculous (or even preposterous) to a modern educated person. However, can we deny the rapid development of modern automated weapons or the progress of military cybernetic systems including various sophisticated ‘spyware’, cybernetic means of psychological influence, etc.?

11. Being himself highly educated and intellectual person A.I. Berg played leading role in creation of the Soviet radio-location and development of electronics (A.N.)

12. Even the notion itself (cybernetics) was little known (in its ‘Wiener’s variant’) in the beginning of the 1950-s. This name/idea (as the science of control) was introduced in the mid-XIX c. by Andre Marie Ampere in his fundamental work on classification of sciences. Later it was used by Polish philosopher Bronislav Trentovskiy. So, it was rather interesting for historians. (see - Prof. G.N. Povarov in his book, “Ampere and Cybernetics”).

13. There was no professional sport system in the USSR; all sportsmen worked somewhere, but the prominent or high-grade masters were, of course, busy with training and games, so they almost did not appear at their nominal working places. Although being paid salaries according to nominal positions (but not for real work, like it’s described in the given example) they brought pure financial profit, as all incomes from sport went to the state and the money given to organisations where they were collaborators was just a ‘microscopic’ sum comparing with what the state received. The sportsmen themselves received modest payments incomparable with the millions of roubles (or dollars) given to contemporary professional sportsmen. However, the atmosphere of genuine ‘struggle for high-class sport’, patriotic mood, true friendship and ‘team spirit’ were also of no comparison to contemporary ‘individual sporting for money’.

14. This and some other facts on Glushkov and Kitov cooperation are given in the book by V.M. Glushkov’s assistant B.N. Malinovskiy, “History of Computer Engineering in Personalities” - Kiev, KIT, 1995.

Edited and translated by Alexander Nitusov
Published in museum, 12.01.2010

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