• Sun. Sep 24th, 2023

The Computer That Controlled Chernobyl

The Computer That Controlled Chernobyl

When you think of Chernobyl (or Chornobyl, now), you think of the nuclear accident, of course. But have you ever considered that where there is a nuclear reactor, there is a computer control system? What computers were in control of the infamous reactor? [Chornobyl Family] has the answer in a fascinating video documentary you can see below.

The video shows a bit of the history of Soviet-era control computers. The reactor’s V-30M computer descended from some of these earlier computers. With 20K of core memory, we won’t be impressed today, but that was respectable for the day. The SKALA system will look familiar if you are used to looking at 1970s-era computers.

Interestingly, the video shows some old newsletters from the reactor’s engineering staff detailing the trials of engineers installing the computer. As you might expect, the computer was made to be highly reliable and monitored several safety systems and special isolated software.

There are plenty of Soviet teletypes, magnetic tape drives, and paper tape punches in view. While the user interface looks daunting with cryptic codes. However, this is typical of the time to work around the limited hardware. The Apollo vehicles were not terribly different, for example.

SKALA got an upgraded helper in 1991 which looks a little more modern. Still nothing like we have today. If you are jaded at looking at old hardware from DEC and IBM, these Soviet computers will scratch your itch for novelty.

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