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Soviet Image Editing Tool from 1987 (petapixel.com)
195 points by Maakuth on Nov 4, 2010 | hide | past | favorite | 57 comments

It's not Soviet , it's French ! It's a PERICOLOR-1000 system with a software translated to Russian. They used to buy hardware and software in the West and change it a bit(translate) and present it as one developed internally in some scientific institute.

Here is the discussion in Russian: http://habrahabr.ru/blogs/history/107465/

I love the fact that the blog post is titled "Олдскульный Фотошоп", which transliterates to English as "Old-school Photoshop"

It actually transliterates to something closer "old-schoolnyi photoshop". I love it, too.

Actually, I'm not seeing anything about presenting this system as their own work. The book chapter linked off the top post on Habr talks about testing new image processing algorithms on the PERICOLOR hardware. The translation of the UI was most likely a simple hex-edit, and was done for usability.

If I missed it, let me know :)

Hehe, some countries still do this today ;p Not naming anyone because I don't want to start a flame war. It happens in "developed" countries too.

Honestly, it's more annoying for you to specifically not name anything.

Here's an example: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bharat_Operating_System_Solutio...

From the article: "the most meaningful product to come out of the Indian software industry"

They could have done worse. E.g. implement their own operating system.

Or, to make it even worse, make it Windows-like instead of Unix-like.

It would be so funny if one of the examples were: Herse's Trotsky with Lenin. Wow now he's gone!

edit: like here: http://www.dutchcowboys.nl/images/upload/trotski.jpg

I thought the same thing, but then realized that, by 1987, retconning the early days of Bolshevism was a low priority.

For a good book on this, take a look at the commissar vanishes. It is a pictography of soviet photo editing to remove the undesirables.

Those pictures are from either different photos or different frames in a video. Do you have a link to the webpage discussing them? I realise it may not be possible to present the same frame with Lenin and without, but knowing whether they were taken several minutes or seconds apart would be useful in understanding the power of the tools the were using.

There's a museum exhibit of Stalin's own B3ta.com from back in the day, called The Commissar Vanishes: http://www.newseum.org/berlinwall/commissar_vanishes/

I was using a Scitex imaging workstation before Photoshop 1.0 was released. There were others available too, like Barco and Paintbox.

The big advantage of Photoshop is that it could run on cheap hardware (Mac IIcx and IIfx) with decent performance.

If anyone knows where I can find resources about the history of such machines, such as early reviews, screenshots or manuals – either of academic research prototypes or of commercial products – I’d really appreciate it.

I intend to sometime in the not-impossibly-distant future write detailed descriptions (beyond the level of any of the PS books or online resources I’ve seen) of all the tools in Photoshop, and some critiques/suggestions for improvement. A lot of the ideas seem traceable to 70s/80s research at PARC, NYIT, Stanford, etc., or to these early workstations like those made by Scitex, Tektronix, etc., but there’s not much material online about all of that history, so my knowledge of it is pretty sketchy.

[My email is in my profile, for anyone who has advice.]

One very early system was the Symbolics S-Graphics suite, which came out sometime in 1984. Its main strength was 3d graphics (actually either it or Wavefront was the first commercially sold 3d graphics system), but the Lisp Machine versions also came with 2d paint. When Symbolics went out of business the code was acquired by a Japanese company (Nichimen) and ported to Allegro Common Lisp on Irix and Windows NT (and later Linux) and sold branded as "Mirai" as a 3d graphics application (although the 2d paint part was still there in the form of an integrated texture painting tool).

Here's some scans of an early S-Graphics sales brochure: http://www.lemonodor.com/archives/000256.html

Unfortunately the company basically folded sometime in 2003-2004ish timeframe - the last work done on Mirai as far as I know was on contract for Weta for Lord of the Rings (Mirai was used to animate Gollum's face; there's an interesting article about it on AWN: http://www.awn.com/articles/technology/two-towers-face-face-...). You can still buy a copy, but it's not under active development: http://www.izware.com/mirai/ (the texture painting tool is pretty cool: http://www.izware.com/mirai/paint.htm). When I have a spare million I'd like to buy the rights and release it as Free Software.

You could try to look for information on this guy: http://www.worth1000.com/artists/deralt

He started doing photo retouching in the 1950s. After he retired he went on to make some of the best photoshops I've ever seen. He was then in his 70s if I remember correctly. He made some posts about how they did it back then, so if there's a way to search deeply in worth1000s forum history it will be there. These posts were made in 2004-2005 I'd think.

> I was using a Scitex imaging workstation before Photoshop 1.0

Oh wow. That takes me back... It's probably been 18 years or so since I've heard that term.

I reckon I'll be wondering around in nostalgia for the rest of the day now. Remembering the good ol' days of my IIci with it's Radius Rocket.

Some of those "retouchings" near the end don't seem like they would be possible, even with today's technology. The bearded guy with with the cool hat goes from being very blurry to very sharp, with a lot of extra detail seemingly added out of nowhere (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t2PsiJXswiM&t=02m27s).

Note: I have a hard time using MS Paint, let alone a modern image editing suite, so it's entirely likely that this magic is indeed possible, I'm just unaware of it.

As sister comment suggested, it's increasing the contrast. Normally, it would not make things look 'less blurry', but due to the way the image is being captured, the screen likely has higher dot pitch than recording medium their using, so low contrast areas blur together. As you increase the contrast, then they start to appear 'discrete'.

looks like unsharp mask http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unsharp_masking IMHO too excessive at this picture

Looks like it was very low contrast rather than blurry.

I love how they call it "restoring damaged images". I suspect the primary goal was "blot out enemies of the state".


You are off by several decades with your suspicion.

The linked examples are. The practice itself probably didn't go away.

> The practice itself probably didn't go away.

So you are saying that the practice of editing out "enemies of the state" still exists in former Soviet Union countries? How exactly do you envision this happening?

Not entirely unrelated, but during Milosevic's dictatorship here in Serbia, one of government-owned daily newspapers used PS to "slightly increase" number of supporters on a pro-government rally.


I know, not '80s, but '90s and not ex-SSSR, but close enough.

The linked video takes place before the fall of the Soviet Union.

The practice is almost as old as life itself. In Ancient Egypt, after their death, unpopular Pharoh's names were chiseled out of the hieroglyphs.

No, it was further developed by FOX News

So three years before a consumer grade tool existed, a research grade tool existed?

Name one area of technology where this was NOT the case!

That doesn't make it any less nifty to see.

One of the comments reminded me how great Deluxe Paint was (I used the PC version):


I know of one industry that is STILL using Dpaint to create graphics and animations for a certain type of dot-matrix display. It's crude, but nothing works as well. Also, they have a bunch of tools to read the LBM format and nobody is available to upgrade to newer stuff.

What industry is this?

I wouldn't be surprised if people working on 2D games for gameboys etc still used it.

After more than 20 years, I still have rotary scanner envy.

In 1988, I spent several weeks trying to cobble together a prototype for capturing USGS topographic maps in color using a NewTek Digiview and an Amiga 2000.


More interested in seeing the Soviet Synthesizer that's providing the background music!

That's a music by a pioneer of Soviet electronic music - Eduard Artemyev. P.S. Personal opinion he is one of the greatest 20th century composers.

Thanks, I wanted to know that! I thought I recognised the tune from a piece of dance music—I think it's the tune in Resurrection by PPK, who covered it according to wikipedia.

Here again it was a British device - SYNHI-100 :)

Did their 23-year old mechanical scanner just scan the photo faster than any scanner I have ever used? I think it did.

We have come so far.

(Yes, I know, I know. It's just funny)

Most copy machines these days are actually scanners, and can do an 11x17 page at 600dpi in about a second.

I wonder what's the Apple III doing...

I wondered the same thing. Can anyone tell if that really was an Apple III or a clone or a coincidence? (I tried pausing in various places but it's inconclusive.)

It sure does look like an Apple III. It's not the US model because it has a >< key (in the modern Backspace location) where the US had a \| key. Actually probably German because it has the M key to the right of L. I'm pretty sure I see an Apple logo on the key to the left of the space bar at 1:38.

It's too close to the original to be a clone. I grew up with Apple clones (computers couldn't be imported to Brazil until my college years) and they all looked as different from Apple IIs they could while using the same parts.

Sadly, nobody here made an Apple III clone.

What's that piece of music at 2:30? I've heard it before in some cheesy techno dance track I think.

Yes, I was about to comment on that and saw you'd spotted this too. Bonus points to you!

So the techno dance track is "PPK - Resurrection". One of my favorites tracks of all time until now.

I'm guessing that what we heard in the film is either a a traditional Russian song or a song from the late 80's -- either way it means that PPK ripped it off and didn't write that catchy hook themselves. I'm very sad to learn that.

anyone reading this who has no idea what we are talking about, listen here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ipE9QFiWhzQ

It's from a very good movie called Sibiriada. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tBkdlnsKVYU (around 5:00 min)


It's Eduard Artemyev, by many considered "the Russian Vangelis". His work has been truly defining for a handful of Russian sci-fi masterpieces.

Impressive... Looks like many american movies, too :)

Come on, nobody? Ok I'll do it... "In Soviet Russia, image edits you!"

This is not Reddit.

Thank you captain obvious (and condescending).

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