I don't remember really thinking about design back then. Maybe because we didn't have many choices. You wanted a tape player you picked between 4 models, cars - same thing, and so on. And there is probably an effect here of finding the best stuff and displaying it. But that wasn't the average. Most of the stuff remember being unreliable and needing repair. Electronic equipment came with nice diagrams of how everything worked, but it wasn't from the goodness of their hearts, environmental concerns, or trying to foster a "maker" culture, it was because it would actually be unreliable and break down quite often.
Contrary to my previous western bias, some things were clearly being built very sturdily. In comparison, a lot of things built in the '90s and 2000's seem to be crumbling already. It all smells of inferior materials, quick and dirty fixes... I don't know if that is survivor bias kicking in though...
A quick google search confirmed what I had already suspected, that is that those trams are Tatra trams, built in former Czechoslovakia. I’m a big fan of them, I think they are the main reason why I immediately became a tram-lover as a student almost 20 years ago when I moved to Bucharest in order to study. Of course, the newer trams look and are often times a lot more comfortable, but those Tatra trams have something of a “timeless design” about them that is hard to pin down but which you can still feel. Ever since I’ve become a tram lover I starting seeing cities without electric public transport (trams or trolleys) as belonging to an “inferior” stage of civilization.
(I guess almost all HN readers are familiar with this term from software "accessibility" design. USA English is my native (and at present, only) language but I find these terms odd.)
If you're a company who wants more profit, you'll want to make your product as cheap as possible. If you don't make profit, you'll be eaten by other capitalists.
And a CRT is not something to take lightly, as there is a sizable transformer in there to drive the electron gun and the magnets that deflect the beam.
What happened, imo, is the increasing used of ICs (first standardized ones, and later ASICs). This made it much harder to troubleshoot a device without access to an oscilloscope and the ability to order up OEM parts.
Before that a multimeter and some basic understanding of electric circuits could get you a long way.
I believe it was printed as a fold-out at the back of the programmer's reference guide.
That schematic probably more than anything else influenced my later career as an electronics engineer - I really, really wanted to be able to figure out how it all came together and actually made a useful product.
I'm not trying to be a political apologist here, but it doesn't have to be just one of them, right? I mean, the products could be inferior because of some factors, and there could be attempts to foster a "maker" culture because of other factors.
Most of the stuff remember being unreliable and needing repair.
I personally have once had these Sputnik razor blades: https://www.ebay.com/p/Sputnik-100-Double-Edge-Razor-Blades-...
In addition to being dirt cheap, I also found the branding funny. Somehow I felt like I am buying something not very good in terms of quality, but which does work (somehow) anyway. There were also pack called Lada's in there. I definitely felt like the Sputnik ones were better than the Lada's though.
It is a transliteration of Russian "Лада" - short form of "Ладная" - beautiful/harmonious.
You have no idea what are you talking about.
It's not about the car. It's about a totally different product -- razor blades.
So, I always find the bits of Soviet thought fascinating. In large part, I think it is because it is both modern and alien. A different road was taken and a different perspective was built in so many things. Even when I work with people who grew up in that world, they have a variant viewpoint versus people from other worlds.
I would love to see a volume translating the key developments of Soviet computer science & programming languages. There's drabs of translated information, but not a coherent narrative & a solid compare & contrast.
Agreed, surveillance, oppression are all terrible, but I highly doubt you can really choose any system you may want now, (see Confessions of an Economic Hit Man).
But democratic election where I can oversee voting, join one of many (or start a new one) political party or even go for office myself is infinitely more free than in Soviet system.
Completely overhaul is probably not possible, because there would be a lot of people opposing it and simple majority is not enough to implement it. But significant adjustments are happening all the time. Point in case - France and Macron's reforms.
Not complete, just a minor improvement that benefits your country is enough to put a quick stop to it, see Iran in the 50s for a good example of this.
The industrial design showcased in this article is nice. But the reality was that most “nice things” were replicas, authorized or otherwise, of the things developed in the first world. I remember in 1980s looking throw the mail catalogues people brought from abroad and being amazed on how many nice things there were in the world. Obviously, I was mostly interested in the toys section back then - but those toys were decades ahead of what we had in USSR.
And it still survived WWII to become a competitive space-faring superpower.
I don’t particularly like Russia, but I think it’s wise not to underestimate what the country is capable of.
Also applies to China, even more so.
Moreover, in WWW2, USSR lost about 1/6 of population. It's hard to name such losses as "win". Western Allies, which is also at war with Germany, provided continuous aid to that "superpower" in addition to their own soldiers at war.
I can't speak for your country as you haven't mentioned it but mine was certainly not pre-industrial in 1868.
Brunel was already dead by then (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isambard_Kingdom_Brunel) and Boulton and Watt were but a distant memory (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Watt).
On D-day the nazis were on the run, pushed back to Poland. The USSR did more than 90% of the winning and much of it before anyone else invaded. This thinking that the UK, US, etc. did anything near the winning that the USSR did is getting old. Of course we helped but it was a tiny drop in a big sea. The biggest help was by far the supplies to USSR, not the soldiers.
Look at how people saw things back before the US spread its culture everywhere:
It says a lot.
That said, the russians did most of the dying to win the war.
The Russians contributed blood, the americans, material, and the british, spirit - or so the old saying goes.
About polls: lies are quick to spread. In 1940, USSR was major enemy to France after Germany. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Pike .
Western Europe is all about that. How many colonial guldens are under each stone of town squares of its cities ...
No surprise that technical revolution was originated there.
Back to Russia...
At WW1 it had no chances to confront rest of Europe.
Like it was "shell hunger" in Russian army in 1916 - it's "industry" simply could not produce enough.
But at WW2 time it did that - pretty much all Europe was working on Hitler's war machine.
Rise of potential was tremendous if to consider that it happened between 1917 and 1941.
Of course the only option of that burst was exploitation of its own people - Russia didn't get any (significant) investments from outside.
USSR supplied most of the manpower, but without the American military-industrial complex, Germans would have rolled all the way to the Pacific with no problem.
That's simply not true.
58,000 of T34/T34-85 was produced during WW2 time. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soviet_combat_vehicle_producti...
That's just medium tanks - workhorse of the war.
Total production of armored vehicles in USSR at WW2 > 100,000.
While it got 19,510 tanks in total on Lend-Lease: https://ww2-weapons.com/lend-lease-tanks-and-aircrafts/
Only 4,000 of them were Shermans - the only Lend-Lease tanks that were comparable at least somehow. All others were nicknamed "wheeled coffins".
The same ratio is for aircrafts.
As of fuel then only some high-octane ones - for some aircrafts.
But the most important part is that without American alloys, fuels, machine tools, let alone food and warm clothing (something USSR had a big problem supplying the populace with even during peacetime) there would be nothing to make T-34s with. That's what strategic supplies are.
Some of the important battles early in the war, i.e. stopping Germans from marching on Baku oil fields, were fought mostly with British tanks.
That's revisionist history -- and not the way things went down, or even how people that lived it knew them to be.
Or even how Hitler knew them to be:
That reminds me of one time I was asked to help in translating some "documents" showing that it was US soldiers rather than Soviet that moved pretty much every German that still moved. A quick fact check showed that they lifted the passage from a neo-nazi site, which is where most attempts to defend the USSR usually end.
Jointly dividing Poland and having a military parade there is not an alliance?
Providing secret base for U-boats - just a pact, not an alliance?
Which fits the duck allegory perfectly, since it refers to something that is not actually a duck.
You'd be very surprised.
>in addition to their own soldiers at war.
All 20 of them?
We shouldn't underestimate what focused dictatorships are capable of. They're bloody effective.
That's easy to say now but no other country achieved that at that time. Especially not in a such a short time, it was an impressive feat.
And Russian empire was not that much backwards. Their economy was agriculture-based. But they had quite a few smart people. The only lacking thing was push from the government to industrialize.
Let alone they were far from catching up with the West by the time WW2 started or at any other point in their history.
It’s impressive in the same way that holocaust is impressive.
That's quite an understatement, the Russian empire did not do any industrial revolution at all, it was a mostly undeveloped agricultural wasteland.
> Plenty of countries had to catch up with the UK.
But none of them succeeded to the extent of the Soviet Union at that time. One of the main argument of the communists at that time was actually to point out the failures of capitalism in Asia as why capitalism would never work. At that time the industrialisation receipe did not work for a lot of countries and plenty of people believed the industrialisation of the West could not be reproduced, and especially not with capitalism.
Everything is obvious in hindsight, it's how history work, you would create your own country now, it would not take that much time to industrialise it with modern techniques. The Soviets managed to take one of the least developed agricultural country of Europe (comparatively worse that current African countries) and transform it into a global superpower while other countries failed to even industrialise, this isn't a small feat at all.
They did have factories. In fact, factories in Petrograd were one of the hotbeds of revolutionary mind. Railroad in more densely populated areas. Electric power plants did exist here and there. St Petersburg or Moscow were rather similar to cities of similar size in the West. Countryside was just too sparsely populated to do anything with it.
> But none of them succeeded to the extent of the Soviet Union at that time
Succeeded by what measure? GDP? Satisfaction of citizens? Soviet Union had abnormally large amount of people working in agriculture all the way till the fall. Consumer industry never even came close to West. Sure, if you focus on military alone and put oppressive state apparatus behind it, with a lot of natural resources, you can have a damn sweet army. But the rest will crumble. And it did.
> transform it into a global superpower
Russia was already a super power. Purely by sheer size and manpower. They had some great minds in science in arts as well.
The 19th century super powers fell in first half of 20th century thanks to the raise of national identities and human rights. Making vast colonies too expensive to maintain in all sorts of ways. This gave birth to 2 superpowers that ruled the world in 2nd half of 20th century. USA avoided the fall because they were built on freedom and humanity (to certain extent, obviously) to begin with. USSR just avoided all of that thanks to totalitarian regime.
> Especially on electronics and computers.
I strongly suspect that was due to lack of resources for research, rather than lack of ability, as by the time there was a serious focus on these areas, the economy wasn't doing so well.
"Economy" didn't mean shit in USSR. It was all about priorities. War in Afghanistan got plenty of resources in meantime. As well as aiding friendly regimes around the globe. Meanwhile citizens were having a hard time in their daily lives and civilian industry was falling behind.
If we're going to cherry pick, we could say that tsarist Russia was highly modern country since Medelev figured out the elements table. Yet it's accepted it was an agricultural country, falling behind and fast. USSR, aside from several areas where they threw all their resources, was falling behind too.
So yes, sending first human to space is sad when you can't provide adequate life to your own citizens. It's like saying that North Korea is catching up thanks to their ICBM programme progress :)
P.S. Germans/Nazis were the ones who got both USSR and USA into space.
True, what I meant was exactly this.
There's always resources plenty for the things elites consider important, but if there was enough of them and then some, something would have trickled down to computing also.
> War in Afghanistan got plenty of resources in meantime. As well as aiding friendly regimes around the globe. Meanwhile citizens were having a hard time in their daily lives
Just like in every empire ever, including the U.S. at present, (still no universal healthcare there).
> So yes, sending first human to space is sad when you can't provide adequate life to your own citizens.
Agreed, but how is this different today?
Or they'd have had more resources towards military or friendly regimes. Those 2 are kinda black holes for money
> Just like in every empire ever, including the U.S. at present, (still no universal healthcare there).
I don't think finances are stopping universal healthcare in US. It's purely ideological.
> > So yes, sending first human to space is sad when you can't provide adequate life to your own citizens.
> Agreed, but how is this different today?
In Russia - it's same old. I wouldn't consider it a democracy or west or whatever either. In the west, people have radically better living standards and they seem to be going to much bigger compromises with their ideals for the sake of comfort. E.g. Nord Stream gas pipe.
Ideology is used as a mask to protect corporate (private insurance) interests, which is why the top brass doesn't have interest in universal healthcare. It's a matter of interests and priorities, just like it was a matter of interests and priorities for the Soviets to ficus resources on things other than improving people's living standards.
> In the west, people have radically better living standards
Compared to Russia, yeah, but there's always the supposed lack of money for public services, which is often magically found for military purposes. It's the same mentality that the USSR had in that instead of funding public services, fund military endeavors.
Of course, I am not making a 1:1 equivalence in terms of freedom, but when it comes to allocating resources, today's world doesn't seem all that different.
I met lots of Americans who don't want universal healthcare purely for ideological reasons. Their arguments sometimes do make sense actually. Universal health care in Europe has it's fair share of problems and some aspects of US system are used to fix it.
And yes, average European and American (as much as that can be generalised) are quire different ideologically. For example, national ID and police having rights to ask for it is kinda a given in Europe. Nobody thinks that's wrong. Now try to tell that to Americans :) Or your attitude to various government-related things.
On top of that, even if it was purely corruption in US government, it'd be already different from USSR. Where it was ideologically motivated to put everything into military.
In USSR, citizens didn't have even theoretical power to have a say in allocating resources. Parties putting forward proposals and then trying to (not) follow through is infinitely different. Oh, and at least in Europe, they sometimes do follow through.
And the major difference is private sector existence. Soviets cared little if consumer goods are any good. A shirt is a shirt, if it has shitty fit or lame colors - it's a customer's problem. Meanwhile factory will keep making them for decades without any improvements. Scarcity of everyday goods? Meh, who needs toilet paper when we can build few more tanks. Meanwhile in capitalism system adjusts itself very quickly.
Actually, the problems you listed, just shows how government is always abusing whatever powers it got. Soviet system being extreme example of all-reaching government power. While different capitalist systems have more or less fixed that. Unfortunately 100% capitalist system is not viable either, since it needs checks to keep companies from abusing it.
Raptor and the BE-4 will probably close the gap.
Communists in general may have, but did the Soviets? I thought Stalin's stance was socialism in one country, leading (at least in part) to the breach with Trotsky. And he deliberately crushed the incipient workers' revolution in republican Spain during the civil war.
However, modifications to core ideologies are possible, and reform is possible. E.g., the USA started by defining its voting citizens as "property owning white male". Today we have altered that.
So I rather wonder what would have happened if the ideology had been dialectically altered to form a new synthesis of post-Marxism-Leninism with a non-aggressive goal. But that's a long-past alternate time, and what was, was.
Inequality will be stopped from growing indefinitively because somewhere must be a limit. What if the one percent owning ninety nine percent of global wealth is not enough for them? When will the rest of the world stop being sheeple and how will they change this? I hope in a peaceful way.
Communism is dead. It's a stillborn ideology. I experienced Communism during a trip to the German Democratic Republic 1986. I found it dodgy and full of internal inconsistency.
However the problems Communism tried to solve are real and as of today even more pressing than ever.
It's no longer a question of whether or not the US supported the Khmer Rouge. The question now is how much did the US support them. Some members of the state department at the time suggested that the US orchestrated the whole thing. While that seems unlikely to me, it's worth wondering about.
How are they more pressing than ever? Are communities in more dire situation than let's say after or during first world war?
To many here, it will may sound surprising, but Khrushev kept quite high opinion of the Western society, and looked up to it.
After Khrushev was kicked out of the politbureau, all things got stuck in that era till the moment USSR kicked the bucket.
These designs were 'contemporary' when done. They froze? sure, but thats a rational decision when you face cost side imperatives like 'how many can we make and for how long' rather than 'what can we do, to innovate, to capture more market share'
As design exemplars, in context, these are pretty good. The typography and design sensibility is world-class.
Being graduate of physics and technology department of university I still remember basics of course named "Technical design and ergonomics".
Also! They look cool.
Although the designs are more austere and less whimsical. (As, to be fair, were the vast majority of Soviet products too.)
Does anyone happen to know the meaning of "пояс" (belt) in the pricing scheme on the same box?
Belt 1: Moscow, Saint-Petersburg (named Leningrad at the time), republic capitals, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, closed cities (). Those had lower prices, and more products available at the stores.
Belt 3: Far North regions. Prices were higher, but so are the salaries.
Belt 2: the rest of the Soviet Union. The worst option out of three. The largest.
Another parallel tier was special shops for nomenklatura.
So the price included delivery cost taxes.
As of "at 13% humidity level":
Pasta is highly hygroscopic and being packaged in paper box can absorb a lot of moister increasing its weight significantly. Fair remark, isn't it?
For that matter: all devices sold in USSR were coming with principal schemas so anyone can repair and reproduce. Open Source at its best :)
Repairability was an absolute necessity for Soviet tech. There simply wasn't enough production capacity to adequately supply most households with even one of a certain item, not to mention replacement items for those that broke down. Appliance repair was an everyday necessity and it was seen as a somewhat lucrative career path. For example, Latvia was where the washing machines were made, and here everyone had one in their homes, wheres other soviet republics had queues 10 years long just to get a washing machine. Similarly, when my grandpa wanted to get a car, he would have to sign up for a 6-7 year queue, with no guarantee, and he'd still have to pay an exorbitant price for it (I think it was something like 5000 rubles when the monthly salary was 120 rubles.) In the end he somehow (probably bribery and underhanded dealings, like so many things happened then) bought two wrecked Moskvitches and made a single working car out of them.
Anyway, back to the repairability stuff - a common story heard everywhere was about women complaining about their lazy, good for nothing alcoholic husbands - that they'd get rid of them if it weren't for their "golden hands," meaning they could build or repair anything, if they got to it. Capability to repair something was more valued in a person than most other personality traits, and it mattered because if you couldn't get something built or repaired yourself, you'd never get it done. In that sense, in those matters that fell through the cracks, the Soviet Union was the ultimate libertarian society.
has nothing special with Soviets. It was the same at tsars times. The culture started by tsar Peter the Great who was quite good as a locksmith. He has several rooms in his palace with lathes and other tools.
I wasn't talking about hobbies, I was talking about necessities of ordinary people.
Of course, with centralized economy, most of these designs probably had to be approved by Moscow but it doesn't mean that it was the seat of all creativity and innovation.
Lithuania territory at either time was smaller than original GDL territory "some 200 years ago" before the expansions. It was core GDL territory since first internationally recognised state in that area was formed in 13th century and stayed so till the Partitions in late 18th century.
Also, there was that simple act of sending ultimatum to replace government to a specific one, holding staged elections and then having that government "ask to join" USSR. All under overwhelming USSR army presence. Pretty much textbook occupation if you ask me...