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MESM (МЭСМ, Малая Электронно-Счетная Машина, Small Electronic Calculating Machine) was the first universally programmable electronic computer in the Soviet Union. By some authors it was also depicted as the first one in continental Europe, even though the Zuse Z4 and the Swedish BARK preceding it.[1]

It was created by a team of scientists under the direction of Sergei Alekseyevich Lebedev from the Kiev Institute of Electrotechnology in the Soviet Union, at Feofaniya (near Kiev).[1]

Initially, MESM was conceived as a layout or model of a Large Electronic Calculating Machine and letter "M" in the title meant "model" (prototype).

Work on the machine was research in nature, in order to experimentally test the principles of constructing universal digital computers. After the first successes and in order to meet the extensive governmental needs of computer technology, it was decided to complete the layout of a full-fledged machine capable of "solving real problems".[2] MESM became operational in 1950.[3][4] It had about 6,000 vacuum tubes and consumed 25 kW of power. It could perform approximately 3,000 operations per minute.[5] It was 8 to 10 metres (26 to 33 ft) long and about 2 metres (7 ft) tall.[6]

Creation and operation history
  • Principal computer architecture scheme was ready by the end of 1949. As well as a few schematic diagrams of an individual blocks.
  • In 1950 the computer was mounted in a two-story building of the former hostel of a convent in Feofania, where a psychiatric hospital was located before the world war two.
  • November 6, 1950 - team performed the first test launch. Test task is:
  • January 4, 1951. First useful calculations performed. Calculate the factorial of a number, raise number in a power. Computer was shown to special commission of the USSR State Academy of Sciences. Team was led by Mstislav Keldysh
  • December 25, 1951. Official government testing passed successfully. USSR Academy of Sciences and Mstislav Keldysh began regular operation of the MESM.
  • It was operated until 1957, and then transferred to Kyiv Polytechnic Institute for training purposes
  • 1959, MESM dismantled.

“Computer was split into pieces, which were used to build  series of stands, after all all of them was thrown away.” recalled Boris Malinovsky.

Many of the electron tubes and other components left from MESM are stored in the Foundation for the History and Development of Computer Science and Technology in the Kiev House of Scientists of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine.

System specification
  • Arithmetic Logic Unit
  • Number representation
    • binary
    • fixed points 16-n bits per number plus with one sign bit
  • Instructions
    • 20 binary bits per command
      • The first 4 bits - operation code
      • The next 5 bits - first operand address another 5 it the second operand address
      • The last 6 bits - operation result address
      • Following instruction types supported
        • addition
        • add with carry
        • subtraction
        • multiplication
        • division
        • binary shifts
        • comparison taking into account mark
        • absolute value comparison
        • transfer of control
        • magnetic drum read
        • stop
  • RAM
    • Flip-flop based
    • Data and code separated
      • 31 mashie words for data
      • 63 mashie words for code
  • ROM
    • 31 mashie words for data
    • 63 mashie words for code
  • Clock rate
    • 5 kHz
  • Performance
    • About 3000 operations per minute (total time of one cycle is 17.6 ms; division operation takes from 17.6 to 20.8 ms)

Computer was built using 6000 vacuum tubes where about 3500 of triodes and 2500 of diodes. System occupies 60 m² (646 square foots) of space and uses about 25 kW of power.

Data was read from punched cards or typed using a plug switch. In addition, computer can use a magnetic drum that stores up to 5000 codes of numbers or commands.

An electromechanical printer or photo device was used for output.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Harbour, Michael Gonzalez (1999). Reliable Software Technologies - Ada-Europe '99. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 181. ISBN 9783540660934. Archived from the original on 2017-10-24.
  2. ^ MESM Soviet computer project marks 60 years. Engadget. 26 December 2011. Retrieved 30 October 2017.
  3. ^ Graham, Loren R. (1993). Science in Russia and the Soviet Union: A Short History. Cambridge University Press. p. 256. ISBN 978-0521287890. Archived from the original on 2017-10-24.
  4. ^ Mercier-Laurent, Eunika; Boulanger, Danielle (2014-05-23). Artificial Intelligence for Knowledge Management: First IFIP WG 12.6 International Workshop, AI4KM 2012, Montpellier, France, August 28, 2012, Revised Selected Papers. Springer. p. 2. ISBN 9783642548970.
  5. ^ Crowe, Gregory D.; Goodman, Seymour E. (1994), "S.A. Lebedev and the Birth of Soviet Computing", Annals of the History of Computing, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, 16: 4–24, doi:10.1109/85.251852
  6. ^ Hally, Mike (2005). Electronic brains: Stories from the dawn of the computer age. Washington, D.C.: Joseph Henry Press. ISBN 978-0-309-09630-0.