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CD in the USSR (part 1)
© 2015. Kuzin Viktor Evgenievich.
PART ONE: The first Russian CD. Start.
I immediately remembered Dovlatov:
“Recently I read “The Technology of Sex”. Bad book. No humor.
– What does it mean – without humor? Where’s the humor in that?
– Judge for yourself. I open the first page, it says – “Introduction”. Is that possible?”
Since we have “Technology and History of the CD” – an introduction, perhaps, is appropriate . ..
Two circumstances prompted me to write this article. Firstly: December 2014 marked the 25th anniversary of the release of the First Russian CD; secondly: at the beginning of 2015, a unique project was launched, which has no analogues, dedicated to the history of CD production in the USSR, as well as the Russian performing school, as part of the global educational process in the Soviet Union in the 20th century. The Melodycd.su information portal, which I hope will remain competent and viable, will present extensive and reliable information, serious publications and, possibly, in the future, an exchange of opinions.
Most of the materials on the history of CD production launched in the USSR in 1989 are reprints and excerpts from articles by Viktor Kuzin (i.e. mine) and Alexander Tikhonov (chief expert of the news agency InterMedia ). Or often a set of unreliable information, which is extremely harmful to the reader. The Internet is a powerful conductor of information and it is quite logical that distorted information spreads as quickly as the truth, and sometimes much faster. Therefore, I will try in expanded form once again to state the events of those years. Otherwise, time will “eat” them irrevocably.
Historical facts and myths
Now a little about the myths associated with CDs. There are always two personalities here – Vladimir Kotelnikov and James Russell, as well as Optical Recording . In recent years, a large number of publications have appeared that promise sensationalism about the “true CD makers”. Let’s see if there is ground for a sensation?
First, about Vladimir Aleksandrovich Kotelnikov (1908-2005). Being a young (25 years old) novice scientist, he formulated the sampling theorem fundamental in the theory of digital systems, which states that a continuous function with a limited spectrum can be represented as a sum of discrete samples. Details can be found here. This decision is of fundamental importance for the development of digital technologies, but does not directly apply to the advent of compact discs. I emphasize once again that V. A. Kotelnikov is an outstanding Russian scientist, and I advise you to read about his work at least on Wikipedia.
Left: Vladimir Aleksandrovich Kotelnikov (photo: www.sciencephoto.com)
Right: James T. Russell (photo: depts.washington.edu)
Now about James Russell. It makes no sense to retell his biography, any search engine will return dozens of pages of materials. The trouble is that most of these publications have an element of sensation, which they try to surprise the reader with. But when I see the title “James Russell Version”, the phrases “Philips and Sony did not invent at all …” and “the creator of the CD did not receive a cent”, I immediately understand that this is another “stamping”, “donkey ears of King Midas” come out ” (i.e. plagiarism that cannot be hidden). Even relatively serious articles on sites like Veni Vidi Vici have not escaped such phrases. So here I will leave only my comment on the topic “James Russell”:
1. Indeed, his idea of removing the physical contact between the recording medium and the pickup device is revolutionary. Next, there was decent work at Battelle Memorial Institute and then at Optical Recording . There were numerous inventions and patents.
2. Yes, Philips was interested in these works and used them in the creation of their audio CD ( CD-DA ) and players to play it. Philips and Sony paid royalties to Battelle Memorial and Optical Recording for CD players. Russell could not get any money for his ideas,
because he worked at the firm’s workplace, during working hours and under a contract. This is a global practice – payments for the use of patents go to the company and its owner.
3. Russell himself received bonuses from the employer, fame and prestige, and was also awarded the award Howard Vollum Award for outstanding contributions to science and technology. He never entered into either informational or judicial showdowns about his inventions. James Russell, as a true engineer, went further and began to deal with ORAM (optical random-access memory) drives.
4. Any CD manufacturer will say that the BIBLE for him is the Red Book (Red book) Philips , and everything related to the start of serial production of discs is Philips and Sony . And the name “CD” itself is the result of discussions Philips and Sony . And all manufacturers paid a fee Philips for the right to use the Red Book, on the basis of which our GOST and TU were issued. For VFG Melodiya this payment in 1988 was US$5,000.
Summarizing the comments, I can draw the following analogy: in 1926, Robert Goddard (Robert Hutchings Goddard) created the first LRE (liquid-propellant jet engine). But the development of satellites, the ships “Vostok”, “Voskhod”, the first manned flight into space was brought to life by S.P. Korolev (using LRE Academician V. Glushko). We consider him the General Designer and founder of modern astronautics! Although, of course, Korolev didn’t just know about all of Goddard’s work, he knew all the technical details and details of all Goddard’s inventions.
It is impossible not to mention one more scientist and inventor. His name is Vyacheslav Vasilyevich Petrov, currently an academician of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. In the 1960s, as a post-graduate student at the Institute of Cybernetics of the Academy of Sciences of the Ukrainian SSR, he carried out work on obtaining elements of submicron sizes in photolithography. And at the World Electrotechnical Congress in 1977, five years before the appearance of the first CD (album “The Visitors” of the group “ABBA” , 1982) proposed the concept of an optical disc as a “single information carrier”. His name rarely appears on the World Wide Web, there were no scandals, but there was serious work on the creation of the physical foundations, principles, methods and systems of optical recording of information. If there is interest from readers, the topic can be continued even on the example of basic materials for the production of CDs. So with a difference of several days, the connection of polycarbonate in 19In 53, two firms received at once ( BAYER, Germany and GENERAL ELECTRIC, USA ) and the issue of priority and name was resolved for two years. So the topic is extensive and debatable.
Contract for the production of CDs at VFG Melodiya
In 1987-88. for the VFG (All-Union Recording Company), numerous equipment was purchased for recording “in digital” and digitizing analog recordings. After that, there were only two ways for the appearance of CDs “Melodies” : to release them abroad or organize their own production. Vadim Vasilyevich Smirnov, Leading Specialist of Department VFG “Melody” , the most knowledgeable at that time in the prospects of digital sound carriers, insisted and convinced the management of the company and the USSR Ministry of Culture in the implementation of the second direction. Vadim collected information about equipment manufacturers, met with foreign engineers and began to prepare materials for the contract. At this stage, he had to face a lot of technical, organizational and financial problems.
For the supply and installation of “clean room” equipment, air supply systems, water treatment and the replication equipment itself, it was necessary to choose a company that, on the one hand, could coordinate all these works (because it was necessary to involve several highly specialized firms – manufacturers), and on the other hand, to have at least some experience of working in the USSR, taking into account all the features and problems that arose in those years. From an organizational and financial point of view, the fact that “Melodiya” supplied abroad a huge amount of its products (vinyl records, audio cassettes, etc., through the / about “International Book” ) did not give her the right to dispose of the earned currency at her own discretion. For this, there was the USSR Ministry of Culture and numerous foreign trade associations ( Mashpriborintorg, Tekhmashimport , etc.) on which it depended what and from whom it would be purchased. “Melody” acted only as a petitioner, trying to convince high officials of what is needed for normal work and development. In general – “one with a bipod, and seven with a bowl.” However, this is probably true in many respects even today – the official is sure that “the navel of the Earth is he.” Returning to the contract, I will say that Smirnov insisted that he deal with it “Mashpriborintorg” . In previous years, while working on compact cassettes at factories in Baku, Tallinn, Tbilisi and Riga, I worked more with “Techmashimport” .
Just like now, in those years there was a semblance of the current tender. Namely, they chose from 3-4 offers of foreign firms. Of course, there were kickbacks even then, though much more modest, not on the same scale as after the collapse of the USSR. Sometimes it was like N.V. Gogol: “Yes, I take it, but I take it as greyhound puppies.” As “greyhound puppies” there were trips to get acquainted with technologies and equipment, as well as to receive equipment. Most often, instead of service engineers or adjusters, heads of factories or departments went “Melodiya” and, of course, representatives of foreign trade associations – they did not forget themselves. And therefore, often, after such an “acceptance”, it was necessary to invite specialists from manufacturers to us in order to start up the equipment on site and train our adjusters and operators.
Left: Viktor Kuzin in Sweden, 1989
Right: Viktor Kuzin and Vadim Smirnov, 2008 – Fighters remember the days gone by…
What is it – a trip to Germany, France or Sweden, i. e. “kapstrana”, young people will not understand. They will not understand that for 5 dollars you could get 5 years. After all, even some kind of trip to Bulgaria or Poland had to be approved by the trade union and the party bureau, but approved by the district committee of the CPSU, where old men with cotton in their ears, remembering the storming of the Winter Palace, asked all sorts of idiotic questions.
But the training and acceptance of equipment for CDs went completely differently: after the management of the company and people from the Ministry of Culture went to Sweden, Germany, Holland, more than 20 engineers and future equipment operators in the summer of 1989 went for a few weeks for real training followed by practical exams. And the fact that without this it would be practically impossible to start production, so difficult for those years, was insisted by the president of the company ANCLA , Mr. Shirsh and Vadim Smirnov, for which I am very grateful to both of them. I was with this group at various stages of training in Germany and Sweden. He mastered the work in “clean rooms” directly on the equipment of casting, metallization, varnishing. Service maintenance was very important for the normal functioning of production. Our young engineers made a very good impression on the “Westerners” and did not let me down in the future.
Four companies participated in the tender, including ANCLA (Germany) and NIMBUS (England). With a clear advantage, the Germans won. The fact is that Mr. Shirsh worked in Russia for a long time, successfully completed several projects related to equipping many organizations with electronics and acoustics, including the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. Volker Schirsch was not very tech savvy, but he had a gift for organization and persuasion, even with the use of “greyhound puppies”. He managed to attract maybe the best forces then, namely:
1. KRANTZ (Germany) – construction of clean rooms, air preparation;
2. TOOLEX (Sweden) – electroplating, injection molding machines, training;
3. BALZERS (Luxembourg) – metallization machine;
4. GLOBAL MACHINERY (Japan) – varnishing machine;
5. SICK (Germany) – automatic quality control;
6. KAMMANN (Germany) – silk-screen printing;
7. ILLSEMANN (Germany) – packaging and cellophane machines;
8. CD PLANT Malmö (Sweden) – internships and training, and this is not a complete list of companies.
In addition, Volker had to provide the production of CDs with basic and auxiliary materials for the first year of work, and this is more than 30 main positions! For example, Japanese polycarbonate was used – TEJGIN , and 65-70 tons were required for 3 million discs. Large volumes were occupied by cases (then they were only JEWEL BOX + black TRAY ), their production in the Russian Federation was established only in the middle of 90-s. But even now the main part of the cases comes from Southeast Asia. I look at the list of materials and wonder; I had to import everything, up to cotton and rubber gloves, activated carbon, polypropylene film and so on and so forth…
It should also be noted that the mastering was organized by ODME (Holland) using technology Philips . The training of four engineers and the acceptance of equipment also took place in Holland. And this part was allocated from the main contract and amounted to 10% of the total cost.
And a few more facts… The British ( NIMBUS ) didn’t want to put up with the fact that they were “rolled”, because everyone recognized that the discs NIMBUS were of the highest quality. So far, there is no better CD-R NIMBUS for burning master discs and probably will not be. Someone suggested to them that it was useless to complain about “Melody” , “Mashpriborintorg” and Shirsh somewhere other than the CCP (Party Control Committee). This is what they did. And I must say that in those years the CCP was in such cases more powerful (and more terrible!) And the prosecutor’s office, and OBKhSS. Vadim Smirnov had to endure several unpleasant days of “interrogations” with explanations of his choice. Sounds like a joke, but Suhorado (CEO Melodii ) told Vadim: “If you don’t return by the end of the day, we will help you out.” It is good that the British project was not cheaper and did not include the supply of all materials.
At that time, the first monolines had already appeared. lines including casting, plating, varnishing and inspection with a “clean zone” inside and service personnel outside. “Clean rooms” are a thing of the past, the total space for a monoline is an order of magnitude smaller. And the cost of the project itself was reduced several times, which is millions of dollars. At 1992-93 monolines supplanted the traditional schemes, which, already operating productions, were finalizing for many more years. So we were among the last to use clean room technology and spend such a huge amount of money.
Of course, ANCLA , ODME and others insisted on this contract – the main thing for them was time and money. But our specialists can also be understood: if the contract had not been prepared in 1988, signed in 1989 and everything had not been purchased, including elementary screwdrivers, hardware, etc., then later the money most likely would not have been allocated at all, given the events and the situation country in the early nineties. Installation and launch could drag on for a year or more, and not be carried out in 6 months, as it turned out in reality. Payment was made in three stages: before the start of equipment manufacturing (winter-spring 1989), after testing and acceptance (summer 1989) and after installation and commissioning. According to some reports, the total value of the contract amounted to just over 11,000,000 US$ , which could later be adjusted in one direction or another, but the final amount cannot be established now.