Interview with Viktor Przhiyalkovsky
Moscow, May 24, 2002
In 1953 Viktor Przhiyalkovsky graduated from the Moscow
Institute and joined the Penza branch of the Special Design
Bureau 245. He was Chief Designer of the GRANIT computer for
statistical processing of ballistics data. In 1956-59, he was Chief
Engineer at the military unit 06669 in Noginsk near Moscow, where he
participated in the design of a transistor-based computer. In 1959-71,
he worked at the Special Design Bureau of the Ordzhonikidze Plant in
Minsk (later: the Minsk branch of the Scientific Research Center for
Electronic Computer Technology [NICEVT]) as Chief Engineer, Deputy
Director, and Chief Designer of the Minsk-2, Minsk-23, Minsk-32, and
ES-1020 computers. In 1971, Przhiyalkovsky became Chief Engineer, Deputy
Director, Deputy General Designer of the Unified Series of computers,
and Deputy Chief Designer of the Argon onboard computer complex at
NICEVT in Moscow. In 1977, he was appointed Director of NICEVT, General
Designer of the Unified Series, and Chief Designer of the Argon
In 1986-90, Przhiyalkovsky worked first as General Director and later as
Designer at the Research-and-Production Associaton Perseus created on
the basis of NICEVT. In 1990, he resigned his position at Perseus, and
currently he heads the Laboratory for Technical and Economic Analysis
at NICEVT. Dr. Przhiyalkovsky holds a candidate (1969) and a doctoral
(1983) degrees in engineering. He is the
author of over 100 academic publications, including 4 books on the Minsk
computers and on the Unified Series. He was awarded the State Prize (1970),
the Order of the Labor Red Banner (1971), the Order of the October
Revolution (1977), the title of the Hero of Socialist Labor (1983), the
Order of Lenin and Gold Star medal (1983), and 4 other medals.
This interview was conducted and translated from the Russian by Slava
Gerovitch: Let's start from the very
beginning of the development of onboard computers for the Soviet space
program. What were the basic problems of creating a computer capable of
working in space? Was it clear that such digital machines could indeed
be built? Were there any doubts whether this could be done?
Przhiyalkovsky: Certainly, there were some doubts. At first
the space program did not require onboard digital technology. Analog systems
were quite sufficient. However, as the space program advanced, such a
need did arise. The main problem was
technological: how to create a digital device that could carry out the
required program within the prescribed weight and size limits.
Gerovitch: Were any special elements developed
for onboard computers?
No, not at the beginning. I can tell about the Argon-11S
computer, which was designed at NIEM/NICEVT (the Scientific Research
Institute of Electronic Machinery/the Scientific Research Center for
Electronic Computer Technology) in the latter half of the 1960s. The
Argon-11S was based on
general-purpose hybrid integrated circuits of the Tropa-1 series. Naturally, all equipment
quality control in the space program was carried out by the military,
and quality standards for integrated circuits were higher than usual. As a matter of fact, the
functions of the first machine were not very broad. It was not a universal
but a specialized computer for solving only one of the guidance problems.
Gerovitch: Were there any disputes over the
weight and size specifications for the Argon-11S?
Przhiyalkovsky: I cannot tell, for I did not yet work at NICEVT
at that time. I am sure those were
typical disputes between a system integrator and an equipment
manufacturer. The system integrator needs smaller size, lighter weight, and higher reliability. The manufacturer, on the other hand,
is trying to bargain, while taking into account what can actually be
delivered. Anyway, it
all ended well. There were several launches in the Zond program, and everything worked. Once
on a test launch the parachute system did not work well, and the entire
landing module together with the onboard machine hit the ground with
excessive speed, and the computer was crumpled a bit. It is now on
display in such crumpled state at our Scientific Research Institute
Argon. They cut some pieces off and took printed-circuit boards for souvenirs.
Gerovitch: I was told that the Argon-11S had been installed on a
space vehicle sent to Mars.
Przhiyalkovsky: I did not hear about that.
Gerovitch: When you came to NICEVT, did you work directly with subsequent models of
Przhiyalkovsky: Yes, certainly. One of the areas assigned to me was the responsibility for onboard machines. I was
responsible not only for the Unified Series, but also for onboard
Gerovitch: With which spacecraft design
organizations did you work?
Przhiyalkovsky: We worked both with the Research-and-Production
Association Energia and with the Research-and-Production Association
Mashinostroenie [Machine-Building] (led by Vladimir Chelomey). For
Chelomey, we were designing the Argon-12S.
A whole series of computers was being planned for the Salyut space station,
both for the station itself and for
landing modules. Chelomey's program, however, was not completed. They had
a real competition with Energia. Chelomey designed a Long-term Orbital
Station (DOS), while Energia was building its own orbital station. At
some point, preference was given to the Energia program.
Gerovitch: Was the Argon-12S modified in comparison with
Przhiyalkovsky: Yes, this was a completely separate project, even
though it was being carried out at the same time. Of
course, we also used some standard technologies and parts, for example,
the Tropa-1 integrated circuits. In this case, a special technology of
printed circuit mounting was used. While in the Argon-11S double-side mounting
was used, in the Argon-12S we used multilayer mounting by the method of
pair pressing. In later onboard models, a new method of "column growing"
was used. Say, there is a printed-circuit board and
another board on top of it with openings in specific places, and then
through those openings they "grow" metallic columns. The
contact between one board and the other is through this column. This is
a very labor-intensive technology, and it takes a long time, but as our experience has shown,
this technology is one of the most reliable.
Gerovitch: Was this new technology used in onboard computers only or
in other machines as well?
Only in onboard computers. Higher quality
standards applied to them. All ran by the Ministry of Defense, and they
had special quality control units and special quality standards. This technology was
used in the Argon-16, and
look at the results: the Mir space station, on which it was installed, orbited
the Earth for 14 years, and there was not a single breakdown of the
Argon-16! On board the Mir there were some computer breakdowns and some repairs, but those were not ours.
The Argon-16 is not intended for repair; it is made for repair-free operation. Replacement of large blocks is
possible, but this did not happen. On one of Chelomey's Almaz space
was indeed one instance when our computer was repaired. The Argon-12A two-channel
onboard computer system broke down. And it so happened that in one
channel one block failed, and in the other channel another block. It was
not clear why this happened. There was a hypothesis that a memory block
broke down because
of a solar flare. But it was not proven, since this was a single event. In
the end we tinkered a bit and combined those channels into one. We quickly made
a new connector to link working blocks and shipped it to the station.
The connector replacement was a simple operation, and cosmonauts did it
successfully. Chelomey ingeniously presented the whole affair as "the first
computer repair in
space." Like any other "first" event, this was met with understanding [at the top].
This was serious business, and there could have been negative
consequences for us.
Gerovitch: When was it?
Przhiyalkovsky: Approximately in 1972-73. It was on one of the
DOS stations, the Salyut-5, I think. I was already in NICEVT, and
together with our experts I searched for a solution how to restore the
operation of this system.
Gerovitch: At some Salyut stations there were
onboard computers also called the Salyut.
Przhiyalkovsky: Those were not ours. They were made at the
Ministry of Electronic Industry.
Gerovitch: Were they your competitors?
Przhiyalkovsky: No, you cannot call them competitors. Under
favorable conditions, we could have handled all the computing equipment
for spacecraft ourselves. But at that time there was no market economy, and we
gained very little from participation in the space program, except
for prestige. The first flights - Gagarin's flight and a few after
that - brought the participating firms great prestige, but as the space
program developed, it all came down to rush job, because when the launch date is fixed
everything must be finished on time. Under favorable conditions, we could have done it all. At some point there
was a decision by the Military-Industrial Commission of
the Council of Ministers (which gave us contracts), according to which NIEM was to
become the lead organization for the design of onboard computers in this country.
And NIEM carried out these functions, that is, it provided standardization
guidelines in order not to allow unjustified proliferation of incompatible computer
types. It was like a curator, a monitor of activity of various onboard
computer developers. But later NIEM merged with
NICEVT, whose primary function was the design of the
Unified Series of computers for all socialist countries. NICEVT was then
relieved of its duties as the lead organization for the design of onboard
Gerovitch: Did this role pass to somebody else?
Przhiyalkovsky: No, this role did not pass to anyone else. Those are usual bureaucratic
maneuvers. A top official does not really understand what is going on
far below him. He would think: "The lead organization - what a big
deal? Let's assign this role to somebody else!" it turned out that
this was not
so simple. Competent experts are needed, experience is needed, and so
on. it is not so simple to pass the lead role to somebody else. Eventually
everything returned to the way it had been before. The lead role was
returned to NICEVT, which began elaborating a program for the
development of onboard computers for the entire Soviet Union. There were
many participants, but NICEVT was responsible for the formation of the
overall program. The most important part was standardization of
computers and parts. When people learned how to make onboard computers,
many started designing their own machines suited for their specific
goal. As a result, an incredible number of different computer types
proliferated. This caused great problems with servicing and so on.
Gerovitch: When did the lead role return to NICEVT?
Przhiyalkovsky: In about three years, perhaps by 1973. An authoritarian decision of a top official
had not worked out, and it was reversed.
Gerovitch: Did you have any interaction or information exchange with
the organization in Zelenograd that developed the Salyut computers?
Przhiyalkovsky: Yes, we had. We had good relations, for we did
not lay claims to what they were doing. The situation was quite
complicated. In the late 1970s our Minister [of Radio Industry] P.S.
Pleshakov faced a dilemma: either to expand
drastically the nomenclature of onboard (and not only
onboard) computers and to increase production volume accordingly, or to start narrowing
down the area of their application. At the beginning, in the 1960s, the Ministry
of Radio Industry required very few specialized computers for its own
needs. Therefore, NICEVT could do some work for the space program as
well, and it all went very well. In the 70s, however, huge demand for
computers arose within the Ministry. In particular, we designed the Beta-2,
and the MSM
computers for the Ministry. Those were not onboard computers, but mobile,
transportable machines, which could be transported even on caterpillar
vehicles. Those were even more complex than computers for spacecraft. In
space, there are no such vibrations and temperature fluctuations as in an armored troop-carrier.
For various systems developed at the Ministry, we designed the Argon-10,
the Argon-15, the Argon-30, the Argon-40, and the Argon-50 computers. As
a result, NICEVT became overloaded with onboard computer designs, and the
Minister gradually began to "dump" contracts with other
Ministries. The Research- and- Production
Association Energia belonged to another Ministry, and they were told
that our Ministry would no longer make computers for them. This caused
great discontent among the Energia leadership, Valentin Glushko and
Boris Chertok. They could not understand our Minister's position. At
that time, it became necessary to modernize the Argon-16, and to develop
computers for other purposes on board long-term orbital stations. The
termination of this contract also upset our engineers,
the developers who had worked with Energia for a long time and wanted
to continue; they had worked together and understood each other very well. Nevertheless, we
carried out this order and stopped all work for the space program. And then Energia began talking to other computer
designers, including the ELAS Institute [the Scientific
Research Institute of Micro-Instruments (NII MP)] in Zelenograd.
They developed the Salyut computers, including those for
the Mir space station. Our Argon-16 worked on the Mir without failures. You can see it on TV: when there is a
docking of any spacecraft - a cargo ship or a manned vehicle - to
the station, they show their approach on a computer display. This
display is part of the Argon-16, which takes part in the control of the docking operation.
Gerovitch: Is the same display installed on board?
Przhiyalkovsky: Yes, it is part of the computer.
Gerovitch: Is the onboard Argon connected to any computer on the ground?
To the same Argon?
Przhiyalkovsky: The Argon-16 is not connected to anything on the ground; it is completely
independent. It provides stabilization, docking, and separation. On the
Soyuz-T spacecraft, the Argon is located in the instrument
compartment, and so it burns down during the descent stage; it is not included
in the landing module.
Gerovitch: Besides designing hardware, did NICEVT participate in
of software for onboard machines?
Przhiyalkovsky: Yes, we developed systems software, various
checks and tests. Specialists at
Energia and Mashinostroenie wrote concrete applications and debugged
them on their simulators.
Gerovitch: Who wrote the operating system?
Przhiyalkovsky: On onboard control computers there was no operating system. Besides the computing
the Argon-16 (as well as
the Argon-11S and
the Argon-12S) contains a unit for communication with various gauges. Designing this block is a serious task. All gauges are connected to this
unit all time; the data is read and processed, and then a control instruction is issued.
Everything works in real time without any operating system.
Gerovitch: That is, the same program is running all the time?
Przhiyalkovsky: Yes, various parts of the same program.
Gerovitch: By what deadline did you have to
deliver a machine? How long before the launch was it necessary to hand the finished
computer over to the guidance system developers so that they could write their
specific program? Was it possible to change anything after the
Przhiyalkovsky: The first machines had to be finished long in
that, we could change only small details by permission in order not to
mess up the
program. Rocket specialists needed a year or two for software debugging on a simulator
before the launch. During that time onboard machines for other space ships were
being built; we launched a whole set of computers into production. Later
on, in order to shorten the application development span, they used
simulation of universal computers. Since 1973, our onboard computers
began using the Unified Series architecture, and application debugging
became much simpler.
Gerovitch: Did any software errors appear in flight?
Przhiyalkovsky: There were no big errors in the software for
onboard computers for spacecraft. There was only one case in which, I suspect,
there was a software error. If it
were a hardware defect, we would have had a lot of trouble. A special
committee would have been appointed, an investigation would have
started. It's serious business. There was nothing in our line. From this
I can conclude that it was the fault of mathematics [i.e., software
algorithms]. This is what happened. A spaceship approaches a station.
They come close, and the docking system's radar device (made by others) shows "capture,"
that is, it shows that the ship has
found the station's docking pad. The Argon-16, which turned on orientation and
other systems, receives this signal. I was at that moment at the Flight Control Center. On the
screen the space ship is very quickly approaching the station. The
flight manager from the Earth asks the question: "Is not your speed too
high?" The cosmonaut replies: "Yes, it is. Perhaps, I'll slow down."
he lowered the speed more than was necessary. But the work of
automatic systems had already began! As soon as he did it, the Argon display suddenly begins to flash:
"Alarm! Alarm! Alarm!" There was no time to investigate,
and they gave the order: "Manual docking!" And he docked the
ship to the station
manually. Then they began investigating what the problem was. In
the end, there was no breakdown: the machine was fine and everything
worked. For myself I figured that when he lowered
the speed he possibly left the capture zone, the capture was gone, and this was
interpreted by the machine as a breakdown. This was a false alarm. This happened on
one of the first launches of the Soyuz-TM, in about 1975.
Was this the true reason or not, I did not find out.
In such serious business people are very cautious. Specialists from
Energia then took appropriate
measures. There were no other incidents.
Gerovitch: Is the Argon-16 still used on spacecraft?
Przhiyalkovsky: Yes, even now the Argon-16 flies. It really boggles my mind how they do it.
There is great shortage of necessary parts. Those Argons are
made of gold! They are individually made. I've been told that the Argons
been approved for installation on cargo ships for the International
Space Station, which is flying now. This is a joint
program, and Energia works together with American companies. The Americans,
I was told, looked at it and said that it was surely bulky but extremely
well-tested, so it was worth keeping.
Gerovitch: When the Argons were being designed, was
there a requirement that they meet or surpass the level of comparable foreign
Przhiyalkovsky: There were general requirements of this kind, but
concrete terms we did not really know what onboard computers existed
abroad, and we proceeded on our own.
Gerovitch: Was there any attempt to study American experience
on a regular basis? The work on the Apollo Guidance Computer
was not classified, and information about it was published. Was there
any discussion of how to use this information?
Przhiyalkovsky: And how could it be used? In practical terms, it is impossible to copy
a computer. Let me cite another example. At some point we adopted the
IBM-360 architecture (and later IBM-370) as the basis for the Unified
System of computers for socialist countries. This architecture was
adopted because it could unify everyone: we did not
have to argue which architecture is better, ours or yours, Bulgarian or Hungarian.
Everyone agreed. Many specialists in this country were very unhappy;
they believed that we needed to develop our own architecture. To this
day we hear accusations that we have allegedly copied the American
series. It cannot be copied! In order really to copy a machine, it is necessary to
copy the entire industry required for the development and production of
this machine. It is necessary to have precisely the same
integrated circuits, precisely the same
sockets, materials, technologies, and so on. It is necessary to copy the IBM company with
its entire manufacturing facilities in order to make the same machine. It is only possible to
borrow the architecture, that is, the
logical structure. By the way, it is open, it is not patented. In the
same way, it is impossible to copy the Apollo Guidance Computer. It
would have required copying too much:
all the equipment, all the technology. And this does not make any sense.
We must design computers with our own parts and our own industry in
mind. We did not take from the Apollo even a general idea, nothing.
There was no need: we knew how build small control devices. The main problem
is to make a machine that would fit its specific place on board within
the required weight limits and the required conditions (temperature
variation, vibration, and so on).
Gerovitch: On what technological basis were onboard machines created? On the
basis of computers for aircraft? Where did this ideology come from?
Przhiyalkovsky: No, space onboard machines were completely
independent. The work on computers for aircraft went in parallel. In the
case of aircraft, the task is even more complex: there are greater vibrations and, most
importantly, huge temperature variations. In onboard
machines the greatest efforts are spent not on computing but on how to
make the computer withstand the climate, vibration,
acceleration, and so on. Appropriate tests must be carried out, and they
take a long
time. Take the Argon-16. When it was
already flying on spacecraft, for technical reasons we needed to replace
the production method of "growing columns" with a more
advanced technology of
metallization of openings. In the latter, the boards are connected not
by a continuous column but through the metallization of the walls of the
opening. The opening remains open, and it is possible to
insert in it the leg of an electronic component and to solder it in. This technology is more
advanced, it is
accepted all over the world, but it is somewhat less reliable, since these walls
may sometimes be
broken. The question whether to apply opening metallization in the
Argon-16 was thoroughly discussed. It is manufactured in huge series,
hundreds of copies. We came to the conclusion that this was impossible
for one simple reason: after we make a new sample with this technology,
we need to repeat the entire cycle of tests already done on the
Argon-16. This is simply
unreal, for it would throw us back for a long time. Very serious, long
tests are required.
Military technology in general is very conservative. It is extremely
difficult to change anything because of very laborious tests. Such tests
are usually joint exercises with many other organizations. It takes a
huge amount of work to get the machine admitted to flight tests. And
then the flight tests come - first unmanned, then manned flights.
Gerovitch: I have been told that the Tropa elements, on which
the Argon-11S was based, were very unreliable.
Przhiyalkovsky: Yes, that's true. The Tropa and the Posol, which
followed it, were hybrid elements, like those installed on the first
series of IBM-360 machines. In this case, micro-transistors were
soldered to the chip, that is, the chip was not monolithic, but it
consisted of separate, independent micro-transistors. Since soldering is
not the most reliable technology for connection, the reliability of
these elements was insufficient. For this reason, they were quickly
replaced by solid-state integrated circuits TTL and ECL, which allowed
for a fast increase in the scale of integration on a microchip.
Small-scale and medium-scale integrated circuits of the TTL type remain
now only in the Argon-16, since this computer was not timely modernized.
Today the weight and size of the Argon-16 could have been reduced by an
order of magnitude, but its modernization was not carried out in time.
The greater the scale of integration, the more reliable are integrated
Gerovitch: How was high reliability of the Argon-16 achieved,
given such unreliable elements?
Przhiyalkovsky: In this case, reliability is ensured by
structural methods. The Argon - 16 is a triple-redundancy system.
Information passes simultaneously through three channels, and it is
processed step by step. On the first level, the information is processed
in three channels, and the results are passed on to a comparison unit.
If all three results are identical, then in all three channels the
information is passed to the next level. If one result is different, it
is discarded, and the other two are passed to the next level in all
three channels. Therefore, even if breakdowns or malfunctions occur in
completely different places, the end result turns out to be correct.
Gerovitch: Are all three channels included in a single computer?
Przhiyalkovsky: Yes, there is only one computer on board: a
triple-redundancy machine with majorization. On each level, there is
triple calculation. If a malfunction occurs in one channel, the machine corrects it,
the information flows around it, and triple calculation is resumed.
During a long term of operation, this system accumulated up to 50
malfunctions in various places, but it
still worked. Such a system proved extremely reliable. But it required large
size and weight. These days, perhaps, there is no need for it, but back then,
with the Tropa elements and the small-scale and medium-scale TTL
circuits, there was no other way to ensure the required degree of reliability.
Gerovitch: Are onboard computers made with the Tropa still used?
Przhiyalkovsky: No, only the Argon-11S and the Argon-12S were
based on the Tropa. The Argon-16 uses small-scale and medium-scale TTL
circuits. I cannot even imagine
where they obtain those circuits now. The Ministry of Electronic Industry
has terminated its production, and this technology is long forgotten.
The same with vacuum tubes - they are now worth their weight in gold!
Gerovitch: How was the problem of reliability solved on the
Przhiyalkovsky: The Argon-11S was not intended for long-term
operation. Circling the Moon took only a few days. One processor was
enough to ensure its reliability. Chelomey's Almaz was intended for a
much longer term, and the Argon-12A, built for the Almaz station, had
Gerovitch: How in the case of double redundancy can you decide
which channel malfunctioned, if two channels produce different results?
Przhiyalkovsky: The Argon-12A worked with a different guidance
system. If there is a breakdown, then the testing system turns off the
broken channel, but if ithere is just an individual malfunction, then the result is simply
discarded, and the curve is smoothed out. Most often only simple
malfunctions take place, just fleeting incorrect results. Guidance
always follows certain regularity, taking into account, say, the laws of
guidance, and if a single point suddenly jumped aside from the curve,
then it is discarded by logical reasoning. The program already knows
within what approximate range the result should fall.
Gerovitch: From the outside, the Argon looks simply as a box with
sockets for connection with gauges. Did you develop any information
Przhiyalkovsky: In the Argon-11S this was not necessary, since
those were unmanned flights. And in the Argon-16 there is such a unit.
It is a small, light display, which shows only necessary information.
During docking, the data from its display is transmitted to the Earth,
and it shows speed, angles, distances, and so on.
Gerovitch: Does this machine have a keyboard?
Przhiyalkovsky: No. One can't intervene in its operation.
Gerovitch: Is there any way a cosmonaut can enter information
into the machine?
Przhiyalkovsky: This is not recommended. There is simply no need
for him to do it. The Salyuts have both a keyboard and a display. The
Salyuts are similar to personal computers in terms of functioning;
cosmonaut can work with them directly. Initially the Salyuts were not
needed; in the beginning the Argon quite sufficed.
Gerovitch: During the development of the Argon-16, did you
consult with cosmonauts how to present information to them in the most
Przhiyalkovsky: No. We had sufficient contact with specialists
from the Energia Association, and dealing with cosmonauts was their
Gerovitch: Were all such issues resolved inside NICEVT?
Przhiyalkovsky: Inside NICEVT together with Energia. The Argon-16 is included in the control loop for stabilization of a
station or a ship. There is nothing for human to do in there. The cosmonaut
has means for guiding a space vehicle, but he does not operate through a
computer. The computer only monitors parameters of the station and
controls it without any coordination with
the person on board; the computer only shows these parameters on its
Gerovitch: Is any information transmitted from the computer to
Przhiyalkovsky: In the Flight Control Center, there is a huge
screen which shows the
same picture as seen by the pilot.
Gerovitch: Can the ground control send any instructions to the
Argon? To turn it off, for example?
Przhiyalkovsky: Yes, it can.
Gerovitch: That is, the only thing that the pilot can do with
this computer is to turn it off?
Przhiyalkovsky: Yes. Only why would he do it? With other
computers it happens sometimes that the program is changed. And here the
program cannot be reloaded. Here it is well-tested and hardwired.
Nothing can be done with this program; it will be carried out in a
completely blind way.
Gerovitch: Have the technologies developed for onboard computers
been used in other areas, or they have turned out narrowly specialized?
Przhiyalkovsky: No. They have turned out narrowly specialized.
Perhaps, this is wrong; perhaps, they could have been used. If it were
today, this may have happened differently, but back then we did not need
this. First, secrecy was hanging over us. Furthermore, how could they be
used? Those machines were too specialized. What would you operate with
it - a tractor?
Gerovitch: Did secrecy seriously limit the spread of this technology?
Przhiyalkovsky: No, technology itself was not classified. The
problems that this computer was solving were classified.
Gerovitch: As you said, the algorithms of problem-solving had
been hardwired. Was the computer as a whole classified?
Przhiyalkovsky: This computer could not be sold to just anybody.
There was also another aspect. The Ministry of Defense acquired a taste
for computers and demanded that they be installed on a whole bunch of
[weapons] systems. To fulfill such intense demand, unification of tasks was
needed. For example, the Argon-15 was intended for two types of systems:
it can be used both
as a mobile computer, and as an airborne computer. As a rule, mobile,
airborne, and marine systems are completely separate. They have different
requirements - mechanical, climatic, and so on. The Argon-15 worked in more than 50 systems of
different kinds, including those on wheels, on caterpillars, in air
defense systems, on board an aircraft, and so on. It really sold well and spread widely, but only
systems. It did not go into the civilian sector, because it is too expensive.
Gerovitch: Did you develop any mobile computers for the civilian
Przhiyalkovsky: No, not the mobile ones. For the civilian sector,
there was the Unified Series (ES) of stationary machines and the Small
Machines (SM) series of the Ministry of Instrument Construction (Minpribor).
When the SM series was being planned for all socialist countries, we
held endless talks and in the end decided to take the DEC architecture as the base. For factory shops, for work in harsh environment,
they made special models. If they needed a mobile computer, they would
have just taken the military model, the Argon-15. The problem was that
it was too expensive.
Gerovitch: Was it because of the high reliability standards
Przhiyalkovsky: Quite right.
Gerovitch: Thank you very much for the interview.
See also Viktor Przhiyalkovsky's essay Scientific Research Center for Electronic Computer Technology: The Early Years, 1968-1975