Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Vintage Computer -Computer workshops in old Soviet Union

My wife and I have had many great travel experiences during the past 40 years and perhaps a few first. Our first trip to the Soviet Union in 1990 was justified to the Soviets as a visit to teach about using microcomputers for automated data collection. This workshop was in Lviv Ukraine in October. We had about 20 engineers and scientist participants in the class. They were very enthusiastic & this information was only available to a very restricted group. Most of the participants did not speak English and  I could not lecture in Russian. Victor Goncharsky UR5WE did the translation for me.  We have made 15 or so visits to the Former Soviet Countries and I have learned speak Russian.

Click on photo to enlarge 
teaching microcomputers 1990
Teaching in Ukraine 1990
Here we are in Lviv, Ukraine October 1990 teaching our first Soviet Instrumentation Workshop. Great experience. I had brought several suitcases full of  hardware to interface the computers with external devices -  The folks that organized the workshop had made arrangements to have 10 IBM compatible PC computers in the class. They worked just fine and the DOS software worked good also.  - the computers were good Soviet pirated IBM clones.  We did about 10 workshops during the early 90's in the Soviet Union and later known as the independent countries of the Former Soviet Union. Here is the full story about this visit "CLICK" A bonus from these visits are some home built Soviet computers in our museum.

This was exciting for us and the Continuing Education group at Virginia Tech (VT)  made available 'Continuing Education Units' (CEU's) . This  may be the first ever (CEU's) issued in the Soviet Union. I was a faculty member at VT from 1967 to 1998 teaching Instrumentation and Automation in the Chemistry Department. Some of the university administrators including the Dr. Jim McCommas the University president were very supportive of our work in the Soviet Union.  I was recognized for this kind of International work just before retiring from VT.  

                    Here is the CEU certificate for our Workshop participants in the Soviet Union.

CEU in Soviet Union
CEU certificate issued in Soviet Union
Click on document to enlarge 

We had been teaching these kind of workshops for many years before the Soviet Union visit in 1990.
Computer automation workshop
Typical Automation Workshop by me and colleagues 

Here is a poster from my regular classes at Virginia Tech.
Electronics for Scientist at Virginia Tech
Electronics for Scientist at Virginia Tech

David & Gaynell Larsen
David & Gaynell Larsen
My wife Gaynell and I have had some really great adventures in foreign travel  teaching and doing amateur radio work.  On many visits we took addition people to assist these adventures. In 1992 I had some funds to take a professional film producer - here is some of his work " FAIRS in the former Soviet Union"   .  We have made dozens - maybe even more than 100 trips- during the past 40 years.  A few years  we did 4 international  workshops and mission visits -- We still do at least one a year. Our last was just one month ago - here is info about this fun mission visit to Dominica. We still have a some travel energy but it does seem we are getting older another 25 years or so will be just right.


  1. Dave, so many pioneers in the early days of digital technology made a fortune and a name for themselves not to mention a world company. Those like yourself, in education, shared their wealth of knowledge with the world, go mostly unknown but their contributions were as outstanding as the "well knowns".

    1. Hi Curtis - Thank you for the nice comment. These visits and workshops were a real exciting and fun experience for us and it is great looking back at the photos and videos. Gaynell my wife was great about making a photo album about each one so now we can look back and talk about the good old days. Of course we are still generating memories for the good old days just not all those extended trips. Our last foreign mission was just this year to Dominica. The visits to the the Former Soviet Union were all at least 3 weeks and a few were 4 weeks. I would not want to do these long projects anymore. Our last visit to the former Soviet union was in 2005. That was a visit to the Ukraine. We would like to visit our old friends in Russia and Ukraine but have made a decision that with all the activities in these areas we will just have them visit us. The last visitor was our Ukrainian friend Helen UR5WA. That was in 2012 and was a visit sponsored and paid for by our radio foundation - "The Foundation for Amateur International Radio Service" (FAIRS) - Dave KK4WW at N4USA


I look forward to your comments and will respond.