As IT matured in the 1950s and 1960s, Soviet computer science was held back by the usual culprits:
opposition to Western ideas, few market incentives and secrecy. Soviet data processing specialists routinely adopted Western systems, some swiped from U.S. government research. To run the software, in 1967 they built mainframes such as the BESM-6, the Bol'shaya Ehlektronno-Schetnaya Mashina, or Big Electronic Calculating Machine.

The room-sized machine used 192K of core memory, said Soviet computing enthusiast Leonid A. Broukhis. It had 60,000 transistors and 170,000 diodes, and ran at 9 MHz to achieve
1 million instructions per second using 48-bit words.

The BESM-6 used compilers for common programming languages of the era, including Algol-6, Fortran and Lisp.

Want to build a BESM-6 emulator? Broukhis has posted the source code at

inside gcn

  • A framework for secure software

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