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“Small Electronic Calculating Machine”
The MESM ("Small Electronic Calculating Machine") project, headed by KEI’s director Sergei Lebedev, was born in Lab #1 amidst the post-World War II ruins of the Ukrainian capital city, Kyiv. The lab building had undergone several transformations over the years, starting as an inn for pilgrims visiting St. Panteleimon Nunnery before becoming a mental institution under the vehemently atheist Soviet government.
Sergey Lebedev
                   Kyiv, 1948.
                      A small electronic calculating
                                           machine, late 1940s.
The Ukrainian researchers who worked on MESM had to build their workstations, including the lab, a metalworking workshop, and even a power plant. Although initially, only about 20 people were on the team, they were extremely dedicated and worked in shifts 24 hours a day. Many lived in rooms above the lab.
Work on MESM began at the end of 1948. By November 1950, the computer was running its first program. In the fall of 1951, scientists gave the machine a real-life test in ballistics, and it identified the first error made by humans.
Retro Photo
Sergey Lebedev
                         and his colleagues at work
                                 in the Automation and
                         Energy Laboratory in Kyiv
The team used 6000 vacuum tubes, approximately 3500 triodes, and 2500 diodes to build the computer. The system occupied 60m² of space and consumed 25 kW of power. Data was read from punched cards or typed using a plug switch. The computer could stored up to 5000 codes of numbers or commands on a magnetic drum.
In the final days of 1951, after years of tireless day and night work in a makeshift lab, Sergey Lebedev and his team overcame incredible odds to create one of the firsts electronic computer in continental Europe.
Researchers at the Kyiv Polytechnic Institute used the computer until 1957. By then, Lebedev had already moved on to oversee the construction of a new generation of supercomputers.
Punched Card
Arrow Left
Lab #1
Arrow Right