Bashir Iskanderovich Rameev
Composed and translator
by Alexander Nitussov
Bashir Rameev was born in small town of Baymak (Tataria) on the 1 st of May 1918. His grandfather Zakir Rameev was member of the Russian (pre-revolutionary) parliament, also a famous Tatar poet and an enterprise owner. He established special foundation from his incomes which sent able young people, who needed financial support, to study at famous European universities.
Bashir Iskanderovich Rameev
Bashir's father Iskander Rameev graduated from the Mining Academy -“Bergakademie”- in Germany before the World War One. In the Soviet time he worked as a mining engineer and demonstrated his technical abilities by designing an automatic line for gold ore processing (full cycle), controlled/maintained by only one man. Bashir Rameev also demonstrated unusual engineering talents. As a school boy he built a radio controlled model of armoured train which was so good that Bashir was elected a member of the Soviet (All-Union) Society of Inventors. That was a special exception for the membership regulations demanded candidate to be not younger than 18 years.
Bashir began study at the Moscow Power Engineering Institute (MPEI) (technical university) but in 1938 his father –Iskander- was arrested and later on perished in a prison (presumably in 1943). After the father's arrest Rameev was forced to quit his learning and leave the institute as he had become the son of “the soviet people's enemy”. Then he could not find a job for a long time. Besides, his health was weak and he attempted to settle somewhere in the South but also without success. Only after a year he finally managed to obtain a minor position as a technician at the Moscow Central Scientific Research Institute. It was in 1940. His interest in radio and membership in the society of inventers were the main reasons to be accepted. With the beginning of the war he volunteered to army (he wasn't subjected to mobilisation for the health reasons) and first was enlisted (rather ironically) to the ciphering unit at the army's general staff quarters in Moscow . There he again demonstrated his inventive nature by having devised new ciphering machine, which turned to be good enough for serial manufacturing. Later he was sent to front and participated in actions as a radio operator during the battle for Kiev (autumn 1943).
In 1944, when it was clear that the war was coming to end, a new government directive was issued. According to it most of the scientific and technical specialists were to be demobilized and dispatched to restoration of industry damaged by the war. Rameev began work at the institute of electronics No 108. In application form he just wrote that his father had died (what was nothing unusual at the war time). The institute was headed by admiral and academician Axel Ivanovich Berg the founder of Soviet radiolocation, one of the leading soviet specialists on electronic and future USSR vice-minister of defence. Berg was a man of brilliant intellect, of a strong character and also outstanding organizing talent. He was very friendly and attentive person and always took care of his young collaborators who needed help. Rameev, who used to listen to BBC broadcasts, once heard that electronic computer ENIAC was produced in the USA . He did not hesitate to tell Berg about that invention . Berg was a shrewd man. He immediately realized its importance and introduced Bashir to academician I.S. Bruk, who was interested in computing machines and himself was engaged in their development (analog computers) already before the war. Bruk was happy to find such able assistant and in May 1948 Rameev received position of designing engineer in laboratory of electrical systems at the Power Engineering Institute USSR Academy of Sciences (AS USSR).
Their work was intensive; after four months Bruk and Rameev submitted description for the USSR first project of “Automatic Digital Electronic Machine”. The set of documents contained flow-chart of computer structure, definition of arithmetic operations in binary codes and description of operation control from the main program reading device (punch-tape reader). The same device recorded intermediate data on another tape which was again read by it (now as reading device) to continue the computer operation. On the 4 th of December 1948 I.S. Bruk and B.I. Rameev received patent No 10475 ( USSR author's certificate). It was the USSR first officially registered invention in the field of electronic digital computers.
Having obtained the patent Bruk planned practical design of the computer itself but that time Rameev could not continue the work. In the beginning of 1949 he was again mobilized (now as radio location specialist of the institute No 108) and dispatched to the Far East to be a teacher at a submarine crew school.
In 1950 one more computer research and design centre was established in Moscow . It was so- called Special Design Bureau – 245 (SDB-245). The centre was empowered by joining to it the plant that had been founded for commercial production of calculating machinery (mechanical and electromechanical). Rameev was recommended to head one of its new laboratories. He had been demobilized on the personal request of P.I. Parshin – the USSR minister of machinery and instrumentation. Although military authorities reacted with consent Parshin had to provide guarantee of his personal responsibility for Rameev's further actions. Computer development was and remained a secret matter for a long time. As for academician Bruk, who was an impulsive nature, he felt very insulted with losing such assistant as Rameev.
Beginning work at SDB-245 Rameev submitted draft project of computer which integrated some ideas of his earlier work at Bruk's laboratory. It was confirmed by the SDB-245 technical council and taken as basis for new computer STRELA – the first soviet computer produced in series (7 machines). Rameev was deputy designer-general of the whole work. He headed design of its central arithmetic unit. He also persuaded designers to use electron valves, not slow electromagnetic relays. In 1953 experimental model of “Strela” was tested by a state commission and recommended for serial production. In fact the seven computers were not absolutely identical because some corrections were always implemented in each following piece after testing the previous one. They were placed in the Institute of Applied Mathematics AS USSR, computer centre AS USSR and computer centres of some ministries. They were engaged mainly in nuclear physic researches, atom power plants design and space programs. In 1954 Rameev and other collaborators of “Strela” team were awarded the USSR State Preium.
Now it sounds more than ridiculous but it was the first time when he officially received a room (not a flat!) in a flat sharing community in the house that belonged to SDB-245. All time before (since 1944) he had to rent private rooms and move from flat to flat several times a year. The owners were afraid to deal with “unreliable person” for some longer time. However Bashir did not complain. He was an intelligent person, who possessed quiet and modest nature and accepted all turns of fortune (or misfortune) rather philosophically. Besides he was a wise man and could tell the main goal of his life from the “small daily troubles”.
In 1951-1953 Rameev delivered lectures on digital computers at MEPI ( Moscow university of engineering physic). Such courses were available only at two universities MEPI and MPEI. The later was organised by S. Lebedev . Many of Rameev's students would turn into famous computer designers. Some of them joined SDB-245 taking part in “Strela” testing and adjustments and in development of the next computer URAL-1. Later they formed a core of new Rameev's team, that time in town of Penza (600 km South-East from Moscow ). Among famous future famous scientists were V.V. Przhijalkovskiy, V.Y. Pychtin and others (later worked in Minsk ) and V.V. Rezanov (later in Severodonetsk in South Ukraine ). In spite of the successful work Rameev still was not allowed to complete his university education and in 1953 was even refused permission to deliver lectures at MEPI (as a person without diploma).
In 1953-1954 Rameev was appointed a director of a new project - small computer URAL-1. It started at the SDB-245 but soon a new plant was assigned for its production. It was in Penza where Rameev moved in 1955, followed by the group of young engineers. . In Penza he became the chief-engineer of the SDB-245 affiliate and then vice-director for scientific work of Scientific Research Institute of Control Computers (later re-named Institute of mathematic machines). “Ural-1” was in operation in 1957. Its speed was 100 op/sec, magnetic drum was used for RAM with capacity of 1024 words with thirty six places, commands had one address and numbers were represented with fixed-point. External memory device – ROM stored 40 000 words. “Ural-1” was intended for engineering calculations and so it was used at numerous computer centres and enterprises.
“Ural-1” was followed by universal computers (mainly for civil purposes) with the same electron valves based circuitry. “Ural-2” (1959), ”Ural-3”, ”Ural-4” (1961) with ferrite cores RAM and extended ROM on magnetic drums (8x8 K words) and magnetic tapes (12x260 K words). Besides computers “Ural” Rameev produced several special computers:
- “Weather” – for meteorological calculations;
- “Granite” – for probability characteristics of the experimental data arrays;
- “ Crystal ” – for crystal structure X-ray analysis;
- special computer for (geographic) bearings definition from radio detection data, etc.
In 1962 Rameev was awarded doctorate without submission a dissertation thesis. It was collective initiative of S.A. Lebedev, I.S. Bruk and A.I. Berg and official recognition of high scientific level of his long and fruitful work. So, Rameev finally received degree “Doctor of sciences”, however he never received university diploma.
In 1960 he began new computer series with compatible software. That was extension of the “Ural” family but already of the second generation. Their basic features, such as main models - those were “Ural-11”, “Ural-14”, “Ural-16”, their structure, architecture and interfaces were defined in 1959. He also worked out principles of their unification .
In 1962 Rameev designed unified complex of semiconductor modules " Ural -10" which was intended for automatic production . Those modules were designed primarily for “Ural-11, -14, -16” but they were widely implemented in various computing systems and also devices of automatics. Several millions of “Ural-10” modules altogether were produced in the 1960s.
In April 1963 he completed draft project for line of semiconductor computers “Ural 11 – 16” and presented it to the USSR State Committee on radio and electronics. The project was approved and recommended to begin serial production of all machines in 1964-1965, so that manufacturing of electron valve computers could be quickly replaced. “Ural-11” and “Ural-14” really came into commercial production in Penza in 1964 but “Ural-16” appeared a little later, in 1969.
Rameev's deputies V.I. Burkov, A.N. Nevskiy, G.S. Smirnov, A.S. Gorshkov and V.I. Mukhin also took active part in development of the URALs. Rameev specially emphasized role of V. Burkov in creation of structure, system of commands, operating system and software in general. The latter included unified (for the family) assembler ARMU and translator from ARMU into machine codes and libraries of standard programs in languages ARMU, Algol-60, ALGAMS and ALGEC. That was the first (confirmed by AS USSR) “system approach to development of software for the computer family/line”. During that work Burkov also proposed (presumably first in the USSR ) formal specification of the command system with the aim to create conditions for mutual understanding of architecture both by system programmers and computer designers.
In 1968-1969 V. Burkov, A. Nevskiy and A. Gorshkov were working on the project of the last computer of the “Ural 11 - 16” family. It was multiprocessor “Ural-25”. At the same time Rameev started theoretical research on new computer "Ural-21" with integrated circuits.
By the end of the 1960s computers “Ural” were widely used at numerous computer centres, at research institutes, factories, banks and also for needs of defense. They served as main computers in –civil- multi-machine complexes “Bank”, “Builder” and space satellite data processing systems. Many veterans call computer “Ural”, “one of the main working horses” of the Soviet computer centres in the 1960s.
Computers of the third generation appeared at the end of the 1960s. In the USSR it was mainly new line of computers called ES or Unified System of Electronic Computers. New research centre was established in Moscow for that purpose in 1967 (Scientific-Research Centre for Electronic Computers). Rameev was invited there as deputy chief designer of ES computers.
Big problem of that time consisted in big number of various computer models and modifications (both new and old) produced and used in the USSR . Most of those machines were incompatible, neither on soft- nor on hardware level. That was result of parallel, uncoordinated and sometimes competitive work of many computer development schools and manufacturing enterprises. Ten years before, when computers were installed only in big computer centres, first of all at big scientific organisations, in ministerial offices etc., their hard- or software (in)compatibility was an issue of not big significance. Each of those organisations had its own staff of programmers and its own specific field of problems to be processed by computers. Regular information exchange with the use of such media as computer punch-tapes, punch-cards or more advanced data storage, or transmission, means (digital), was just beginning.
However, with growth of economy and steady progress in many other fields of life situation drastically changed. Computers became popular and got a tendency to be widespread. They “left secret laboratories and came out to meet with mass-customer”, for whom the compatibility and communication were the matters of decisive importance.
Generally speaking, that was not specific problem of the USSR only. That time the whole of the West Europe was suffering from the same “superfluous variety” (i.e. incompatibility) of computer models. Besides, the West was additionally affected by both corporative and national rivalry.
Rameev, with his scientific intuition and rich experience, realised the problem and was fully aware of the importance of common (all-union) technical politics in creation of new unified computers of the third (next) generation. He was sure that (only) joint efforts of numerous soviet computer producing centres, as well as wide implementation of microelectronics and common standardised design and technologic principles, would enable intensive increasing of amount and quality of compatible computers to meet the demands of national economy. Corresponding software should also be compatible and of the same standard. He also spoke in favour of international –European- co-operation, considering the fact that Western countries already had to confront pressure from american IBM and they themselves proposed joint work.
He took active part in negotiations with British computer company ICL, which could provide for the USSR full set of documents of computer family “System – 4” software and all necessary consulting. The ICL also proposed to join efforts with the soviet side for development of the fourth generation computers. On Rameev's opinion cooperation with ICL could enable quick reproduction of “System-4” machines in the USSR, by efforts of one or two research and design centres. At the same time the main work should be focused on working out new line of advanced computers with implementation of ICL experience in the world's achievements. For some of those projects Rameev could also provide his computers. One should not forget that “Ural 11– 16” were compatible machines used in multi-machine complexes, e.g. “Bank”.
Rameev was not alone in his opinion; many leading experts, first of all Sergey Lebedev and Viktor Glushkov, energetically supported the ideas. Nevertheless, in December 1969 an administrative consultation meeting took place at the office of V.D. Kalmykov - the USSR Minister of radio producing industry (in charge of computer production), and the next one –with numerous audience- also at the Radio ministry. According to decisions of the both the ICL co-operation proposals were declined and the new ES computers line was decided to be based on the IBM-360 standards. The latter was the proposal of the ES designer-general council headed by S.A. Krutovskikh. The decision also had negative impact on many national computer projects. Some principal scientific programs were subsequently closed. B.I. Rameev submitted a resignation application.
In 1971 he received –rather bureaucratic- position of a deputy director of a computer development department at the USSR State committee on science and technologies. His next 20 years were busy with co-ordination and implementation of national computer design projects, estimation of their technical level and efficiency. He was also in charge of planning for scientific development programs and of work with the State fund (library) of computer algorithms and programs.
Bashir Iskanderovich Rameev died on 16 May 1994 in Moscow .
Being an ordinary person with many human advantages and weaknesses (as he considered himself) Bashir Rameev, at the same time, possessed something so unique in his nature that nobody ever dared to say anything really bad of him.
Now the Moscow Polytechnic Museum is arranging his permanent exhibition and collection of personal documents.
1.Rameev - is pronounced [ r a m ‘e j e v]
2. Communications between all collaborators of some organization, enterprise, etc., in the USSR were normally easier and more dynamical than similar in the West. Irrespective of their administrative level all persons had equal social status (at least in official theory) and were considered to be a friendly team solving common working problems with collective efforts. So it was nothing special when a young technician rushed to a director of one of the biggest institutes to inform him about a “hot news” (provided it was really important) and was admitted at the first free minute.
3. Not to be confused with the Moscow Power Engineering University .
4.Academician Sergey A. Lebedev one of the world leading computer scientists, than director of the Moscow Institute of Precession Mechanic and Computer Engineering.
5.URAL (russ.) means ‘the Urals' - mountain area where Rameev himself was born.
- Bashir Iskanderovich Rameev (biography), Virtual computer museum
- B.N. Malinovskiy “History of Computers in Persons” KIT, Kiev, 1994