3 Minsk vs IBM

Minsk vs IBM

Exactly 35 years ago, the first IBM PC in history went on sale, but long before that day — in the 1960’s, one of the centers of Soviet Cybernetics was in Belarus. Let us remember the story of a family of computing machinery “Minsk” which won All-Union glory, and then lost it.

The gap between the USSR and the western countries in the field of computer technology in the 1950’s, according to the most optimistic estimates, was at least 10 years. Therefore, in August 1956, the decision of the USSR Council of Ministers was the start of the expansion of the production of electronic computers across the country. The resolution also provided for the establishment of centres for their production, design and development, one of which was supposed to stay in the BSSR.

Soon in Minsk, the Ordzhonikidze Plant was opened, and by 1958, the Special Design Bureau (SDB) was set up to support and upgrade the computer. Subsequently, the SDB was transformed into an independent design and research company – NIIEVM – which is still working to this day.

“Minsk-1″ – the first original Belarusian computer

*First-generation computer Minsk-1*

The first completely original project at the plant became a computer names “Minsk-1″. Development of the device occurred in a fairly short time – 18 months. In parallel with the design of the machine, they also worked on preparing its series production.

Computer testing took place in September 1960, and the first production samples appeared in the same year. The speed of the computer was estimated at 2.5 thousand operations per second (for comparison: the speed developed by the Moscow Institute of Electronic Control Machines computer M-3 was about 30 operations per second).

Achieving these results was obtained in part through the use of high-speed memory on ferrite cores, which replaced the older memory on magnetic drums (in appearance, the memory on magnetic drums resembled the tank of a washing machine).

Ferrite cores were small rings of special magnetic alloy, 1.5 mm in diameter. For the “Minsk-1″ there were 80 thousand such rings.

Ferrite core memory.

Programming for this computer was carried out in machine code, but included in the “delivery” of the machine was a library of 100 programs. Also some of the world’s first auto-programming systems — translators “Autocode Inzhener” and “Autocode Economist” – were developed for “Minsk-1″.

Another competitive advantage of the machine was its relatively modest size. It took about 4 square meters of space to accommodate the entire system, while some other computers (for example, the Moscow BESM) took as much as 100 square meters.


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3 Responses to “Minsk vs IBM”

  1. Vijay says:

    Very nice information, thanks for sharing. Will be nice to know a bit about recent PC and IT Products production in USSR, specially by local companies. Even software and services. Thanks in advance.

  2. zoidberg says:

    Great pictures!!! Especially the cpu.

  3. Pom2Ter says:

    Thanks for that quality posting, the computer era of the Soviet Union is an unknown subject to me and I enjoyed reading on it!

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