Sergey Lebedev (1902 – 1974)

Lebedev was an electrical engineer and computer scientest who invented the first Soviet computer. As other Pioneers like Turing and Zuse in the West, Lebedev’s efforts and innovation were largely driven and funded by the defense needs of WWII.

His first computer, the BESM-1, was finished in 1951 but did’t go into production because of opposition from the ‘Ministry of Machine and Instrument Building’, which had developed its own weaker and less reliable machine.

Lebedev then began development of a new, more powerful computer, the M-20, the number denoting its expected processing speed of twenty thousand operations per second.

In 1958 the machine was accepted as operational and put into series production. Simultaneously the BESM-2, a development of the BESM-1, went into series production. Though the BESM-2 was slower than the M-20, it was more reliable. It was used to calculate satellite orbits and the trajectory of the first rocket to reach the surface of the Moon. Lebedev and his team developed several more computers, notably the BESM-6, which was in production for 17 years.

Fun facts:

  • The BESM-4 was later put to creative use by N. Konstantinov and his team of scientists to create one of the fist computer animated arts. “Kitty“, maybe the first ever “lolcat”, was a mathematic model of a moving cat! The computer printed hundreds of frames on paper using alphabet symbols which were then converted to cinefilm.

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