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First Computers: Big, Slow, and Amazing
       Time Frame
                                     50-s was the first decade of the full-scale Cold War between the Soviet Union
                                     and the United States (and their allies). Those were years of intensive econom-
                                     ic and technological competition, culminating in the nuclear arms race and the
                                     space race. Those races demand solution of complex scientific and engineering
                                     problems, which, at the end,  required thousands and millions of calculations.
                                     Mechanical calculators and analog differentiators could not do it, so ideas of us-
                                     ing electronic calculating machines  led to the
                                     design and construction of the first computers.
                                     Sergey A. Lebedev and Isaac S. Bruk were
                                     the  designers  of  the  first  Soviet  computers.
       Amazingly, their biographies are very similar: they were born in the same
       year (1902), graduated from the same college,  started their research carriers
       at the same institution, both  came to the development of digital computers
       via working first on analog  computers, and both started their first computer
       designs at the same year (1948) and finished their projects approximately at
       same time. They passed away three months apart.

       Lebedev and His Computers
                                    Sergey Lebedev started the design his first computer ( the first in the continental
                                    Europa) MESM (Mini Electronic Calculating Machine)  in 1948 in Kiev, Ukraine,
                                    and at the beginning of 1950 he demonstra was organized in Moscow to lead re-
                                    search in computing and Lebedev was invited to head a new project of a larger
                                    computer BESM (Big Electronic Calculating Machine), which started the first se-
                                    ries of Soviet mainframe computers BESM and M-20 built in 1950-1960s.
                                    The first BESM used more than 5000 vacuum tubes, had 1024 words of  the ferrite
                                    core memory, 4 magnetic tapes of 30,000 words capacity each, and a fast magnetic
                                    drum with a capacity of 5120 words and an access rate of 800 words/second. The
                                    computer was capable of performing 10,000 operations per second and was the
                                    fastest computer in Europe at the time.
                                    The series was continued with BESM-2 and M-20 (also used vacuum tubes) and
           Sergey A . Lebedev       BESM-3, BESM-4, M-220, and M0222 (built using transistors). M-20’s perfor-
               (1902–1974)          mance was 20,000 operation per second due to fast arithmetic and pipelining of

                                    operation. These machines were designed jointly with industry and were better
       suited for serial production and maintenance.
       The culmination of the Lebedev’s design became BESM-6, a computer with a simple yet advance architectural
       solutions that  became the apogee of the Soviet high performance computing in 60-s.

                  Lebedev’s monument in                 Russian envelope, issued in 1977, commemorat-
                       Kiev, Ukraine                              ing Lebedev’s 75  birthday

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