Yerevan Computer Research

Development Institute

Orders of USSR

In the late 1950s, the IBM Corporation opened a research center, with a literal space budget of $ 5 billion. In 1964, the launch of the IBM System/360 family of computers was announced: almost two dozen models included in it were built on general principles, but differed in the configuration of the processor and memory, as well as a set of peripheral devices. Mainframes, invented by IBM, largely determined the path of development of computer technology and programming for the whole world: data channels and the 8-bit byte were standardized, the address byte replaced the bit, the nine-track magnetic tape was adopted, etc.

The USSR could not help but react to the initiative of the Americans: the lag behind the United States threatened to become insurmountable, since the spread of new standards could ensure the previously incredible mass production of computers. In 1966, the eighth five-year plan included the development of the "Ryad" experimental design project - a series of computers for different tasks, of different power and complexity, consisting of a set of standard elements.

The project leaders had two ways: to start the development of original machines from scratch or copy ready-made, primarily American, solutions. The idea of cloning has caused the indignation of almost all famous computer designers. Nevertheless, the Ministry of Radio Industry decided to take the IBM System / 360 architecture as the basis for the ’Ryad’ family.

The first order for the project came to Armenia in 1968: the Ministry of Radio Industry instructed YCRDI to develop the medium vehicle ES-1030. The project team, headed by the future director of the Institute, Mihran Semerdjian, had to create a new computer modeled on the IBM System / 360, the original of which was, of course, not available.

Radik Ananyan, employee of YCRDI in 1950-1980s.

"When the book "IBM-360" was published in the USSR, it was immediately sold out in Armenia. But it was incomplete, and some chapters remained a secret to us. Which means it was impossible to make the machine according to the documentation presented in it - we had to think out ourselves.Our boys made a lot of changes, for the better, as they tried to surpass the prototype."

The ES-1030 scheme - one of the first machines of the Unified System - was ready in 1972, in 1973 the production of the new electronic computer began at the Kazan Computer Factory, which lasted five years. Actually, the manufacturers were not satisfied: the machine turned out to be hard to assemble and not very reliable in exploitation.

Despite the issues, 436 ES-1030 machines were produced, and the experience gained by the designers from Yerevan was useful in working on new projects, primarily the ES-1045 complex. In addition to that, already in the early 1970s, YCRDI managed to establish links with other institutions also engaged in the development of new EU models and individual nodes for them.

Since 1972, YCRDI projects for the development of Unified System machines have been directed by Arman Kuchukyan, chief designer of the "Route-1" computer complex, completed a year before. The complex, which consisted of three "Hrazdan-3 " electronic computers, initially served the Kievsky railway station, and since 1974 - the entire Moscow railway junction: 580 automated ticket offices. It became one of the first automated booking and ticketing systems and was exhibited twice at the Moscow Exhibition of National Economic Achievements, and was protected by dozens of copyright certificates.

In 1979, the production of a new machine, developed by the group of Arman Kuchukyan, began at the plant in Kazan. The ES-1045, which belonged to the second generation of EC computers, was called "the most balanced machine in terms of performance" among all models of the global project by the chief designer of the entire Unified series Viktor Przhiyalkovsky.

In 1982, based on the ES-1045, again the team of Arman Kuchukyan - now an academician - created a new automated ticket sales system with expanded functionality. Machine complexes were installed not only in Moscow, but also at other large railway junctions of USSR. In Russia, the system, named "Express-2", operated until 2005.

In 1984 YCRDI presented the third generation machine of the Unified System. ES-1046 performed up to 1300 operations per second; it was supplied to the computing centers of research institutes and universities, as well as some ministries and departments.

From 1972 to 1988, 1836 “ES-1045”s were produced. The production of the ES-1046 continued until 1992, even after the collapse of the USSR: 800 such computers were delivered to customers in eight years.

Since the early 1960s, the Yerevan Institute of Mathematical Machines has been actively involved in the development of military automation systems. Only a little information about this part of the research institute's work was published - some information is still sealed, so this section of the virtual exhibition is almost entirely built on the recollections of participants in several specific projects. 

In 1963, the "Mergelyan Institute'' was headed by Fadey Sargsyan - earlier he worked in the Scientific and Technical Committee of the Missile and Artillery Directorate of the USSR Ministry of Defense. Together with him, military orders came to YCRDI, to which many of the best designers of the institute were reoriented.

Eduard Ghazaryan, employee of YCRDI in 1950-1980s

“Working for the Armed Forces brought in a lot of money, which was used to build residential buildings for the employees of the institute. In 1967, we began to deal with the automation of the Air Force together with the Moscow Research Institute of Automatic Equipment. Based on the American ARPANET protocol, we built a computer system that would unite the General Staff, the Air Force and the Navy. The task was this: if an order for an airstrike comes from Moscow, it should reach the most distant of the air regiments within ten seconds.”

In the early 1970s, in cooperation with the Air Force, a narrower area emerged - the automation of strategic aviation control. In 1973-1975, a specialized computer complex - SVK was created at YCRDI. Work on the new car was carried out in secrecy.

Rafael Sargsyan, YCRDI employee in the 1970s-1980s

"Those who have been working on the military order were divided into a separate large unit that required special confidentiality. Each had its own little piece, and many did not even imagine what the result of the work would be as a whole. I was engaged in devices and systems for displaying information.

Then it turned out that my friends were building specialized electronic computers in the neighboring office two floors downstairs."

Hamlet Harutyunyan, Deputy Chief Designer of SVK

"The structure of a separate SVK machine resembled the IBM System / 360, but did not repeat it. The architecture of today's machines is about the same - a processor, RAM and external memory, communication channels with external devices. But the processors of all the devices were made by our own designs."

Eduard Ghazaryan, employee of YCRDI in 1950-1980s

"One of the tasks of our department was the development of a display system. Imagine two large dashboards, one for the commands and the other for data, for instance the number of planes. It was necessary to think about what and how exactly they should show it, and how the information should be updated. In addition, we had to think about the work of the operators at the managing point, as well as the integrated and information workplaces of the complex. That is, to determine what the officers will see on the screens, what keys will be at their disposal, etc.”

In the 1980s, YCRDI engineers developed a new, more advanced computer to replace the SVK. It was named "Sevan", was tested, and in 1987 it was put into service and supplied to the Ministry of Defense.

Hamlet Harutyunyan, Deputy Chief Designer of SVK

"The architecture turned out to be flexible, these were no longer two separate machines, like the SVK: there was a common field of the processor, RAM, and external devices. The program could type a two-machine computer complex on a multiprocessor basis. For example, two machines had six processors: both had three, or one had two, the other had four, or one had one and the other had five - this did not matter in a software-controlled architecture. The two-machine computer complex could operate in a duplication mode, comparing the results obtained by each machine. But if the load on the system increased, the system temporarily switched to full multiprocessor mode, doubling the performance.

In the second half of the 1980s, YCRDI also dealt with micro-computers for portable devices, also by the military order. At that time, there were practically no civil orders at the institute: the Ministry of Defense loaded its capacities almost completely. In any case, the most capable employees concentrated on projects for the Air Force, and all promising developments, for example, on the possible creation of personal computers, were transferred to research institutes of other republics of the USSR.