How Not to Network a Nation. The Uneasy History of the Soviet Internet

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118 Chapter 4

Glushkov modeled his thinking about computer networks and process-
ing after—and often against—the prevailing trends in the study of neu-
ral networks. In a notable deviation from von Neumann digital computer
architecture that pushes all data bits through a bottleneck one bit at a time,
Glushkov theorized about what he called the “macropiping” or “macrocon-
veyor” processor architecture for transmitting information along multiple
processors simultaneously between groups of computers. Macropiping was
modeled after his cybernetic vision of the computer, which, according to a
1959 speech, would best resemble the human brain in its capacity to pro-
cess billions of bits of data in parallel simultaneity. This idea germinated
into his notion of a simultaneous national network that would function as
a self-regulating nervous system for the whole of the Soviet people. Glush-
kov shared conversations and computing technology with people such as
chessmaster Mikhail Botvinnik, among many other ambitious dreamers, to
create a machine in the image of man, not the other way around. In the
late 1950s, Glushkov sought to develop in theory a computer programming
that imitated the sophistication of human thought, cognitive function, and
natural language. For example, he and his colleagues examined processes
for distinguishing between grammatically and semantically correct sen-
tences, such as “The chair stood on the ceiling,” as a step toward achieving
natural language programming and a more human “higher intellect” in the
The OGAS Project took shape in a complex network of research teams
(at the center of which sat Glushkov). No science is a solitary endeavor,
however, and a full accounting of the details of the people who constituted
Glushkov’s teams, their accomplishments, and their frustrations is beyond
the scope of this book. Two of his favorite students and eventually a wife-
husband team, Yulia Kapitonova and Aleksandr Letichevsky, identify what
they call the intellectual “school” of Viktor Glushkov, which itself con-
tained many teams that contributed to the OGAS Project and many other
projects. The first EGSVT proposal began to take shape in the conversa-
tions of Glushkov, Vladimir S. Mikhalevich (who directed the Institute after
Glushkov), Anatoly Kitov, A. Nikitin, and others, and the first government
document published on the EGSVT, on May 21, 1963, also highlights as
coauthors Anatoly Kitov, V. Purgachev, Yu. Chernyak, M. Popov, among
others. Key members and colleagues at the Institute of Cybernetics in Kiev
included Vladimir S. Mikhalevich, V. I. Skurikhin, A. A. Morozov, Yulia V.
Kapitonova, Aleksandr A. Letichevsky, A. A. Stognii, T. P. Mar’yanovich,
and others. The Moscow-based supporting scientists included Anatoly
Kitov, Yu. A. Antipov, I. A. Danil’chenko, Yu. A. Mikheev, R. A. Mikheeva,

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