Economic Automated Management System [...]

One of the first proposals for a national public computing network was made by the Soviets. In the 1950s, the Soviet Union needed computer power for central planning badly, and a proposal was made to turn military computers to that use in off-hours. The tight hold of the military on those resources prevented that from happening.

In 1959, as the director of a secret military computer research centre, Kitov turned his attention to devoting ‘unlimited quantities of reliable calculating processing power’ to better planning the national economy, which was the most persistent information-coordination problem besetting the Soviet socialist project. (It was discovered in 1962, for example, that a handmade calculation error in the 1959 census goofed the population prediction by 4 million people.) Kitov wrote his thoughts down in the ‘Red Book letter’, which he sent to Khrushchev. He proposed allowing ‘civilian organisations’ to use functioning military computer ‘complexes’ for economic planning in the nighttime hours, when most military men were sleeping. Here, he thought, economic planners could harness the military’s computational surplus to adjust for census problems in real-time, tweaking the economic plan nightly if needed. He named his military-civilian national computer network the Economic Automated Management System.

As it happened, Kitov’s military supervisors intercepted the Red Book letter before it reached Khrushchev. They were incensed by his proposal that the Red Army share resources with civilian economic planners – resources that Kitov also dared to describe as falling behind the times. A secret military tribunal was arranged to review his transgressions, for which Kitov was promptly stripped of his Communist Party membership for a year and dismissed from the military permanently. So ended the first national public computer network ever proposed. (Source)

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