Slava Gerovitch

From Analog to Digital via Ideological: Computing and the Anti-cybernetics Campaign in the Soviet Union in the Early 1950s

February 26,1999





This paper critically examines the popular claim that the campaign against cybernetics as a "reactionary pseudo-science" in the Soviet press in the early 1950s was a major deterrent factor in Soviet computing. Based on the archives of Soviet computer design institutions and the recently open Communist Party archives, this paper argues that such factors as centralized planning and control, bureaucratic rivalry, and military secrecy played a more important role in slowing down Soviet computing than any political constraints. This anti-cybernetics campaign, however, encouraged deep conceptual separation between computing and cybernetics, thus limiting the potential sphere of early computer applications.

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