Internet times of Khrushchev: why in the Soviet Union did not create their own computer network
It is known that the Internet in its current form is the development of the computer network ARPANET, developed in the USA in 1969. However, few people know that in the USSR, work on creating their own Internet has been conducted since the late 1950s. But, as in the case of many other revolutionary discoveries of that era, the project remained an unfulfilled dream of domestic cybernetics.
In 1959, the famous Soviet scientist and part-time employee of the Computing Center of the Ministry of Defense Anatoly Ivanovich Kitov proposed an ambitious plan to create an automated system for managing the country’s economy. The essence of the technology was to integrate computers into a single computer network.
According to the author of the project, this would significantly simplify all state processes and push the country’s economy to a new level. With his idea, he turned directly to Nikita Khrushchev. Kitov made several attempts to “reach out” to the head of state, but the consequences for the scientist himself turned out to be the saddest. The project was not only not approved, but Kitov was kicked out of the party and was dismissed from work without the possibility of holding a position. Most likely, the Soviet leadership was afraid that the widespread automation of public services would greatly shake their power and deprive people of jobs.
The legendary Soviet cyberneticist Viktor Glushkov helped not to “die” the original idea of Kitov. He seriously approached work: he rethought the technology of a computer network and made some changes. Surprisingly this time the project was approved by top management. So, in 1962, work began on the creation of OGAS – the nationwide automated system for recording and processing information. Glushkov took charge of the project, and Kitov became his unofficial deputy.
In 1964, a pilot project was developed for a unified state network of computer centers (EGSVTS). The network structure consisted in the creation of a three-tier system with the main computer center in Moscow, 200 centers in large cities and 20 thousand local terminals throughout the country. According to Novate.ru, data transfer was to be carried out in real time using telephone networks. Moreover, several years later, Glushkov proposed the introduction of a new type of economy in the USSR, namely, a system of electronic payments.
After Khrushchev left the post of first secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU, the chances of implementing OGAS began to decline, and in 1970 the financing of the project was officially completed. Experts argue that the main problem was the conflict of the parties. OGAS could become the central governing body of the country’s economy. In essence, the organization would have all the data about the country, and there was no guarantee that in the process of evolution it would not become a serious competitor to the governing authority.
Despite the fact that the project was not supported at all by the state, in 1980 a volume called “Technical Design of the OGAS System” nevertheless appeared. But the document was never approved by any of the leaders. After the death of Glushkov in 1982, the project was completely forgotten. Only Kitov, up to the 1990s, attempted to revive the idea of OGAS and convince the government that the country needed an automated economic management system. Unfortunately, the project remained “dusty” in the state archive.