A book about the "Paragraph" on Habr. The new chapter is about programmers-co-operators: Beta
A couple of weeks ago I laid out first chapter of books about the "Paragraph" , over which I work. The experiment as a whole turned out to be inspiring. The post caused a whole discussion. Which, I confess, sometimes took a somewhat unexpected direction for me.
I did not expect to meet here so many people who are nostalgic for the USSR and are ready on the blue eye to prove that under Communists schoolchildren ate black caviar for breakfast. There is something to think about.
I am extremely grateful to everyone who pays attention to errors and inaccuracies, and also shares additional information. This will all be taken into account when working on the final version, which will go to print. For the sake of such comments, I spread the drafts.
A new fragment of the book tells about the birth of the cooperative movement, the first - mind-blowing - deals on the sale of software and the basis of the "Microcontour", from which the Paragraph will then grow.
The main character of this chapter is the famous programmer Anton Chizhov.
Photo of 1992 year from the magazine "World of PC"
Technically, the book is the fourth chapter, one after the published two weeks ago. In the foregoing, we are talking about how Stepan Pachikov, with the help of Garry Kasparov and vice-president of the Academy of Sciences Evgeniya Velikhova organized a children's computer club in Moscow. Thanks to this club, he got a lot of new acquaintances in the computer hangout.
It's a curious story, but we'll skip it for now. I want to go straight to describing the events that I think will be of particular interest in Habr: the emergence of a cooperative movement and the formation of the first computer firms.
But for those who want to read all the chapters ready for today, and also receive all the subsequent mails, I advise simply subscribe to my newsletter and get the entire manuscript in one file.
Anton Chizhov went to the nearest telephone booth, called my sister and asked her to come - so she would take him home.
The sister hardly corresponded to the role of the bodyguard assigned to her. But there was no one else to call - but the two of them were not so scary. To knock on the head of a lonely passer-by is a trifling affair. To attack at once for two is an enterprise that requires much more arrogance.
However, these reflections had little to do with the real situation. No one really knew what was in his bag. Why would someone attack him?
However, I still did not want to go home alone for some reason.
While waiting for reinforcements, Chizhov tried to comprehend what had just happened to him. And what happened was this: in an instant, without expecting anything at all, Anton became fabulously rich.
While developing the Russification system for IBM computers, he did not expect that he could earn a fortune on it. Did purely out of sport interest - and love of art.
Imported computers, however, despite all the difficulties gradually penetrated into the Soviet Union. The need for a driver Chizhov was growing. Without it, IBM simply could not be printed with Russian letters - and it was difficult to understand how these things were managed.
All programs tried to explain themselves to Soviet citizens in English, which they did not know. Chizhov also solved this problem.
Like other participants in the computer movement in Moscow, Anton attended Velikhov's computer seminars. Academician and introduced him to Artem Tarasov.
Tarasov was neither a programmer nor a scientist-he was a cooperative, representative of the first generation of Soviet entrepreneurs who appeared in the country with the coming to power of Mikhail Gorbachev and the declaration of a new political course of the communist power - Perestroika.
Previously, they were imprisoned for private commercial activities in the USSR - if they were not shot. Now, opening a cooperative, any Soviet citizen could legally provide services or trade.
One of the first opportunities opened was Chizhov's new acquaintance.
Tarasov established the trade in computers under the signboard of the cooperative "Technika". He wanted to supply cars with the driver Chizhov installed on them to save customers from the hassle of finding a cracker. For this he promised Anton to pay a fee on every copy sold.
A few months later the businessman invited Chizhov to his home to pay for the driver. Climbing the stairs of a typical Khrushchev, Anton thought that it would be good to get a hundred or two rubles.
Tarasov laid out two dense packs of hundred-ruble notes-twenty thousand. Two hundred rubles in the late eighties was considered a good monthly salary for a person with education.
So on the table in front of the programmer lay the amount that would have been enough for about eight years of life. In the modern equivalent - somewhere around half a million dollars.
Chizhov left Tarasov, staggering, and was able to catch his breath only in the phone booth. When the sister arrived, together they safely brought their wealth to home.
Anton knew before that new times were coming in the country. Holding in his hands two packs of hundred-ruble notes, he felt it.
Historians still can not understand what purpose the Soviet leaders really pursued, allowing people to open cooperatives and engage in commercial activities - to produce and sell goods, provide services and earn income.
It is difficult to believe that the authorities began a conscious dismantling of a planned socialist economy, in words retaining loyalty to the former course.
Rather, she was just trying to straighten out the ugly everyday life of a Soviet man by giving away small, insignificant services for the state-restaurants, taxis, laundries.
But how could you not see that the new laws contradicted the very foundations of official ideology? After all, she considered private property the cause of all the world's misfortunes, and the "exploitation of the working people" by those who possessed this property - the main sin of capitalism.
However, initially co-operators were forbidden to hire employees - it was allowed only to divide the income between the cooperative's members. So, the authors of innovations could say that the cooperators did not exploit anyone.
However, it was clear that this restriction was an empty formality. To get around it was not difficult. Apparently, therefore, in May 1988 - less than a year after the legalization of the private initiative - cooperatives were officially allowed to use hired labor.
Legislators "overlooked" another, even more serious threat to the current system: the emergence of cooperatives led to a loss of control over the planned economy in general - and over the money of the state in particular.
Before, the director of the state enterprise could not, at his own discretion, spend extra rubles on his salary account. Money for settlements between organizations was in fact a separate currency and it was forbidden to transfer them into cash.
In addition, because of the availability of the plan, the money was quite ephemeral. Even with excess funds on the account, the enterprise could not purchase the necessary equipment - for example, several trucks - because the truck manufacturer did not have such a deal in the plans.
In a planned economy, money played a secondary role. But now everything has changed.
Now the cooperator could conclude an agreement with the state enterprise, provide services and receive payment for them at his own expense, and then give the participants of the cooperative money earned by the cache.
Thus, cooperatives opened up to Soviet people unprecedented opportunities for organizing both large-scale, and elementary corruption schemes.
Often a part of cash received by co-operators from a state enterprise for the provision of services or the sale of goods was simply returned to its director in an envelope or suitcase.
Even those co-operators who aspired to work honestly turned out to be willy-nilly involved in illegal schemes.
To establish even a small handicraft production, entrepreneurs needed raw materials - but under a planned economy there was no open market, where one could buy it. Co-operators had to "get it" - often in the same illegal ways.
Obviously, the authorities did not realize what they were doing. It is not surprising that in the minds and deeds of the Soviet people, complete confusion has begun. What is already allowed, and what is still forbidden, even the officials themselves, who should have been forbidden and allowed to understand, did not understand.
In this turbid water, people who pursued very different interests were involved in the cooperative movement. However, there were among them those who saw in the new laws the opportunity to create a real business on the Western model - how much it was possible to imagine it to a person born in the USSR.
One of these people turned out to be another friend of Chizhov on Velikhov's seminar - the founder of the children's club "Computer" Stepan Pachikov.
To these new times he was prepared like no other - and not only because he already had a room, computing power and communications.
Reading Western Aichi magazines and studying the specifications of new computer gizmos, Patchy willy-nilly acquainted with the history of Western innovation business.
Of course, for a scientist who has never been in America and has not seen a millionaire himself, Microsoft founder Bill Gates or the creator of the Lotus Mitch Capor remained the same mythical characters as Sherlock Holmes or Indiana Jones.
However, the result of the work of Gates or Kapor could be bought, turned on, used. So, they could not not be real.
Somewhere there, beyond the border lines, across the ocean, thousands of miles west of Soviet Moscow, everything Stepan read about in magazines, poking through the jungles of unfamiliar English words, really happened.
Everyone with his head on his shoulders can create a revolutionary product in his garage, create his own company, build a big business and change people's lives for the better, and in the process, earn a couple or two million.
This concept did not look very fantastic for Pachikov - unlike most Soviet citizens.
In August 198? the head of the club Computer published an article in the journal Vestnik NTR, in which he urged the country's leadership to abandon attempts to organize the production of their computers.
He argued that the train had left - it would not be possible to catch up with the West. It is more expedient to concentrate on software development. This will be a much better application of the mathematical talents of Soviet scientists.
"In 198? the sales of software products by US firms will amount to twenty-four billion dollars and will continue to grow," the author said. "If the USSR takes at least four to five percent of the US market alone, it amounts to an export of one billion dollars."
Expressed in modern language, Stepan Pachikov proposed to turn the USSR into a world center for offshore programming.
The cooperative movement made it possible to make its own contribution to the realization of the plan, without waiting for decisions at the top.
The founder of the club "Computer" offered Chizhov to unite. Open your cooperative. To sell the driver yourself - instead of addressing to such businessmen as Tarasov. Call other programmers who have already created popular products. Start creating a new revolutionary software. And there, what the hell is not joking, to get out somehow to the world market. Why not?
A few years ago, these daring dreams would border on complete folly. But now, after announcing the course to liberalize strict Soviet laws under the flag of Perestroika, things have taken a completely different turn.
If earlier the Gulag Archipelago was sent to prison for storing the book, now the maps of Stalin's camps were printed in newspapers.
Whereas earlier religiosity was condemned, now the millennium of the baptism of Rus was celebrated at the state level, and the "Bible" was published already in a hundred thousand copies.
If you pretended earlier that sex does not exist, now Soviet cinemas with bedtime scenes were spinning in the cinemas, and the Komsomol organized beauty contests, in which the girls paced the stage in swimsuits.
If previously unofficial artists and musicians were pursued as parasites and insane, now rock stars collected stadiums, and the Soviet vanguard for tens of thousands of pounds sold to Sotheby's - and not abroad, but directly in Moscow.
Life changed so quickly that everything seemed possible.
True, many people in the USSR believed that all these perestroika liberties would soon be over, as happened after the sixties. And those who believed in another fleeting thaw will end up behind bars.
Both Pachikov and Chizhov were ready to take the risk and put on the fact that this time the changes - for good. Anton agreed to join forces with Stepan and sacrifice some of the new revenue from his driver in favor of their firm and its future prosperity.
To go to this step was even easier because the programmer did not know where to put this money.
Even in spite of the development of the cooperative movement and Perestroika,To the Soviet Union, wealth itself still did not cost anything - and could not somehow significantly change a person's life. Money then did not solve almost anything - communications, influence, party status played a much greater role.
The shelves were empty - and the same goods were sold there. Going abroad is a whole story, and it's not a fact that they will be released.
One could buy a car or a cooperative apartment, but Chizhov was where to live, and the car had to stand in line. And he did not really want to have his car. In the absence of a normal service, it would be necessary to mess with it yourself.
As a result, Anton spent a considerable part of the fee received from Tarasov on the purchase of two VCRs. Together they cost as a car - several thousand each.
One stayed at home, the other was given to the school in which the child was studying.
In other words, having earned twenty thousand rubles, Chizhov remained at the same time who he was - a programmer. And as any normal programmer, the prospect of creating the first software company in the USSR enticed him much more than getting another pack of cash from Tarasov.
The organization of its own cooperative, however, in 1988 was not such a simple matter. The dual nature of a private enterprise in a country that rejected private property created many obstacles to the first co-operators.
To register his "Technique", Artem Tarasov, for example, had to literally take an official of the Moscow City Council by the measure.
Having received a refusal at first, the entrepreneur became just a clock on duty at the office of the person in charge. Crowded his eyes. Then the boss took pity - and let Artem drive himself to the house. Then he began to give small orders, which Tarasov unquestioningly carried out. In fact, he turned into a personal assistant official on a voluntary basis.
Finally, he gave permission to register the cooperative. The whole operation took three months.
To avoid such entertainments, novice Soviet entrepreneurs often preferred to join an already operating cooperative - using the "roof" of those who had already been able to overcome bureaucratic obstacles. Pachikov and Chizhov decided to go the same way.
Then Stepan was helped by his hangout, which developed around the club. Eduard Minkovsky, one of the participants of the Computer, introduced him to his uncle, who managed to open a construction cooperative "Kontur".
Pachikov persuaded the cooperator to take them under his wing - and to open under "Kontur" a more or less autonomous unit for the development of computer projects.
Metal boxes packed with electronics with hundreds of kilobytes of RAM on board, along with displays, scanners and printers, occupied the whole desktop at that time, if not immediately two, but were called "microcomputers." Therefore, the computer department of "Contour" was called "Microcontour".
The meaning turned out to be double: with a large building cooperative, a small unit, which also deals with microcomputers. There was also a hidden self-irony: the ideas of the microcooper were already on the move though vague, but quite grandiose.
The enterprise began work on October ? 1988. The first officially established employee of the Microcontour was Stepan's younger brother George.
Dawn of the cooperative movement caught him working as a programmer at the Moscow Art Theater - one of the leading theaters in the capital. George was responsible for the performance of the stage equipment, but for the most part - just laying the fool, enjoying the artistic atmosphere.
In addition, he actively helped in organizing a computer club. When Stepan asked to help and co-op, the younger brother agreed not long time.
Work "Microcontour" began in the premises of "Computer" on Christmas Boulevard. But it soon became clear that the company was interfering with club activities. For the cooperative they rented a separate room on Petrovsky Boulevard, a ten minute walk away.
The first co-operators, somehow related to technology, usually made money on computer trade.
Few people believed that the sale of one software, you can earn something - because no one in the country did not understand why you pay for the program, if you can just copy from disk to disk. In a state in which everything was common, intellectual property was considered a bourgeois excess.
The copyright, which was formed in the countries of the potential enemy, was not recognized at the state level, copying all the western developments, as far as possible, from tape recorders to cars.
Actually, the Computing Center of the Academy of Sciences, in which Anton Chizhov worked, partly did this.
To prevent the Soviet people from being out of the digital revolution, its employees hacked foreign software imported from Western countries on copy-protected discs so that nothing could prevent their spread in the Union.
However, for the authors of the first Soviet programs, the established system of relations to copyright had its own advantages.
Both "Alpha" and "Beta" - both versions of its driver, named by the letters of the Greek alphabet - Chizhov created at work, on computers belonging to the Academy of Sciences. If it were the case in the twenty-first century - or at least in a capitalist country - its employer would consider the Russifier its property and claim all the money received by the programmer.
However, the computer center worked according to the laws of the socialist planned economy. There were no additional revenues from the sale of the cracker in his plans.
How to explain the origin of profits from the sale of software in the language of Soviet economic science? No one knew this. Therefore, the immediate superiors of Chizhov, knowing that he earns on the driver, preferred to turn a blind eye to his "unearned" income.
So he could dispose of them at his own discretion.
And if private users and did not think to pay for software, then with organizations it looked not so hopeless. Directors of enterprises did not spend their money and parted with them easily.
In addition, many needed to consult and set up programs and were not averse to entrust this work to a cooperative founded by employees of the Academy of Sciences.
Pachikov understood that on one driver Chizhov could not go far, so he immediately began to collect other programmers under the roof of the Microcontour.
At the first stage, the cooperative had nothing that the trading company should have - no established sales channels, no trained sales people, no clear commercial strategy, or even minimal expertise in the trade.
But the cooperative had a seal, the opportunity to enter into contracts with other organizations and receive money on its account. And then this was enough to attract the creators of the best programs.
In addition, Pachikov was for them his man - a computer enthusiast, expert, scientist, organizer of seminars known all over Moscow in the club "Computer".
It also helped that he was not greedy, offering programmers extremely favorable conditions. Selling someone else's software, Stepan was ready to leave himself a very modest commission - fifteen percent. The rest went to the creator of the product.
It was quite practical, mercantile generosity. The creator of "Microcontour" did not plan to immediately become a millionaire - he wanted to create a prosperous software company. And for this he needed the best programmers.
To involve them in the activities of the cooperative, he was ready to sacrifice short-term earnings.
This strategy has fully justified itself and tactically, because programmers often came with their customers. From the "Microcontour" it was required simply to spend money.
Thanks to such a loyal policy, soon Pachikova cooperative began to sell all the main products that allowed full-fledged work on IBM computers with text documents in Russian.
Evgeny Veselov - another employee of the Computing Center of the Academy of Sciences - gave the "Microcontrol" for distribution his text editor "Lexicon". And Andrey Skaldin is a set of Russian fonts that were adequately displayed when printing on laser printers.
The revenues of Microcontour did not go in any comparison with the turnover of Artem Tarasov, who soon became the first official Soviet millionaire. But the profit was quite enough to keep the company afloat and start implementing more ambitious plans - finding an idea for your own breakthrough development.
Neither Stepan himself, nor other members of the Microcontour have so far imagined, for which one could take - and that could not only benefit people, but also a good income for the creators of the software.
However, they knew perfectly well that hundreds of giddy scientists worked in Soviet scientific research institutes, which often could not realize their ideas because of the inertness of the Soviet bureaucracy.
They languished in anguish at their research institutes, not realizing that the world had changed. What can not be done in a public institution can be realized in a private enterprise.
Besides, being talented mathematicians, not all were "on you" with computers - and still did not realize what opportunities were opened to mankind by home computers.
To make a breakthrough, the founders of the Microcontour needed just to find these geniuses - and open their eyes.
And, fortunately, Stepan Pachikov already knew where to find them.
All ready-made chapters:
Chapter 1. "Wait a minute," - said Mzhavanadze
Chapter 2. Scientist-vohter
Chapter 3. Computer men
→ Chapter 4. Beta
Chapter 5. "We can solve any problem"
Chapter 6. The Wild East
Chapter 7. Eight hrenjatin
Chapter 8. I am the walrus
Chapter 9. Reinforcement in the caterpillar tracks
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