Remembering Anatoliy Ivanovich Kitov - Back to the future

(article from viperson.ru)
 

Colonel-engineer Vladimir P. Isaev

Our first meeting with Anatoliy Ivanovich Kitov took place in July 1954, when I graduated from the F.E. Dzerzhinskiy Artillery Academy in Moscow, together with other officers of the special educational group, which was taken to the academy in February 1953. We worked together until the middle of June 1960 and then, he was expelled form the Communist party and dismissed from his directoral position (Kitov was the deputy director on scientific work) of the Computer Centre N-1 of the USSR Ministry of Defence. All that happened after his submitting an analytical report to the Central Committee of the USSR Communist party (supreme body of power). The report contained description of new project - detailed plan of automating state management system; it was named "Red Book". In the presented work Kitov proposed, "measures for solving the problem of electronic computers insufficient production and inefficient implementation in the USSR armed forces and national economy in general" complimented with a great deal of rather sharp criticism (chiefly addressed to the administration of the Ministry of Defence). That was a progressive idea and promisssing project, however, it was rejected by the officials. Kitov was finally dismissed and sent to disposal of the Ministry of Defence main personell office.

Basic part of his report was focused on this project, "The ways of management automation in the armed forces and national economy". That was the USSR first project of such kind. According to A.I. Kitov`s plan all available computer centres (mainly the military ones) should be joined into a single national network for solving both military and economic problems. In his project he named it "network of `double-purpose` or `double usage` computer centres", that is, serving both military and national economy purposes.

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Beginning of my army service under Kitov was the following. We, five hundred officers - graduates of the Artillery Academy had received perfect education and training for subsequent service at strategic missile launching centres and naturally were psychologicaly prepared for joining the service. All of a sudden, a group of thirteen of us was selected for the work in some new and unknown for everybody field. We, in reality the former students of various civil universities, have already been accustomed to military secrecy, as well as to being dependent on decisions of some higher authorities, made "somewhere". So, thinking, as the disciplined military people should do, that `all that` was done in the interests of the state we anticipated our fortune with philosophycal tranquility. Especially reassuring was the fact that most of the group consisted of the best graduates. Becides, eight people earlier studied at the same faculty of the Moscow Power-Engineering Institute (before the Academy). That was the Faculty of Electrical Vacuum engineering and special instrumentation.

Of course, during the six years jointly spent at the institute they (including the author /A.N.) formed a close friendly company, especially, since most of them lived all those years together at the student hostel. They all also were actively engaged in the institute`s social work -very popular then- and all were members of the Komsomol, which most of the young people of that time joined willingly, seriously and optimistically. No wonder that we were happy and enthusiastic having finally heard, form A.I. Kitov, that our `team of thirteen` must become a pioneer research `core group` at the army`s first organisation on development, operation and implementation of electronic digital computers. Kitov told about it at special meeting with graduates, where he also invited A.P. Nechaev (our `representative`). One can easily imagine feelings of a young researcher who has been unexpectedly engaged in the most progressive scientific work.

Kitov himself had been performing duties of the - formed by him - big department of computation machinery at the F.E. Dzerzhinskiy academy since two years. Personell of the department totalled forty officers. The department served as basis for subsequent establishing of the Computer Centre N-1 in 1954.

Later we found out that Kitov had himself selected all new candidates, thoroughly studying our personal files and the points received during learling. I and two more of us already had some knowledge and practical experience with digital computers. We were: V.P. Isaev (the author), G.G. Ovsyannikov and B.S. Trifonov. Already in 1952 we were included into group of twenty students, who were given special permission to sutudy/work with -then secret- materials of the special course "Electronic Digital Computing Machines". The lectures and practical seminars on it were conducted by the inventor of the first Soviet computers (MESM and BESM family) Sergey Alexeevich Lebedev himself. Notably, as a lecturer he was not good, he was always speaking in a low voice with his back turned to auditorium and quickly whipped off the black board everything he was writing a minute before. However, as teacher he was excellent. Sergey Alexeewich was a man of high intellect and culture and a born master of human communications. He always brought us to his institute to work with the BESM (which was on the final stage of assembly then) and often invited me to his home (private flat) to study there together[1]. So it was not difficult for us to start the work, since we had got necessary basic computer knowledge, differently to most of other, military or civil, colleagues at the computer centre, who had to learn it anew at their working places. Another researcher G.A. Mironov remermbered that, "The work began with study. Everybody was upgrading, learning something. Kitov literally established university, engineering institute and a college under the roof of his computer centre".

Then, there followed the happy period of our work together with A.I. Kitov. Naturally it was under his scientific and administrative guidance. We were busy with implementation of electronic computers in various fields of the Ministry of Defence management structure. We also participated in development of new computers and other activities, e.g., such as composing fundamental tematical collection of works on encyclopaedic level "Automatisation of Production and Industrial Electronics" (four volumes issue, 1961-1965).

My first impression of A.I. Kitov was very pleasant, he was energetical purposeful person, who could see actual problems, set goals for their solution and to achieve them. He was always convinced that those problems one should and -most important- could solve.

In spite of his young age Kitov was a true veteran of war with fighting experience, but differently to some other veterans he never displayed his merits or boasted publicly. He disliked wasting time for useless reminiscences and was always inclined to get to the essence of a current problem. Kitov possessed some unicue natural attraction, or even `igniting` power and we, the young people, were ready to join and follow him in creation of something new in science, accepting challenges and enthusiastically struggling with all possible obstacles. Very important was Kitov`s skill to pass his asureness and enthusiasm to me and other our colleagues. So, he was a person of great moral influence.

Scientific works and books by Kitov introduced systematised approach to our work and helped to better analyse it. Now I have several books with his friendly authogramms in my private library. As the engineer working `with metall` I especially prize two of them. The first one is famous "Digital Electronic Computers" (1956) and the book of encyclopaedic type "Digital Electronic Computers and Programming" (1959) written jointly with N.A. Krinitskiy.

The decade 1955-1965 was really a "Sturm und Drang"[2] period. That was the time of emerging new information technologies, chiefly due to generation of brilliant scientific pioneers and leaders, whose names must never be forgotten. First of all I mean Lebedev, Bruk, Kitov, Rameev, Basilevskiy, Glushkov, Przhiyalkovskiy, Kartsev, Akushskiy, Yuditskiy, Sokolov, Burtsev, Pospelov, Brusentsov, Rudnev and many, many others. On my opinion these people formed the character of that period of establishing, development and implementation numerous automatic control and management systems in our country.

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