Free Range Technology

Soviet Saturday


I have no idea how you would say GIMP in Russian, but back in the days of the glorious Soviet Republic, they were getting digital with photo retouching. Hit the jump to see a circa 1987 video of just such digital action!

Loose translation, from YouTube:

Turn on the red light.

There’s a paper, there’s pincers.

In the depths of empty sheet, a clumsy and slightly heavy

Reappears the old photo apparatus.

0:24 Some time ago, this photo was taken by it. The time has left it’s tracks on it. The scratches and the cracks. But what if to try to remove them?

0:40 Such a device is a part of a computer. It turns our photo into electrical signals and writes them on a magnetic tape.

0:57 But on the computer’s screen, the signals once again become the image. Each signal is a small square, and the whole image is being composed from them, like a mosaic. The real photo is not needed for machine anymore – it has remembered the photo well. But the man, the operator, helps the computer to detect the damaged places. The machine has to solve a difficult task: it has to calculate, what dark and light squares are missing, and to restore them on the screen. Another command…

1:48 This image hasn’t used to look like this for tens of years. Now it can be transferred back to the photo paper.

2:12 This is the very way, how Vladimir Mayakovsky’s portrait has come back to us

2:22 and the rare picture of Nadezhda Konstantinovna Krupskaya

2:27 and the obscure picture of the North Pole’s explorer Otto Yurievich Schmidt.

2:37 But the electronic restorer is ready to make new miracles. Because it’s work has just begun.

Via the Green Box.

  • So meta. A digitize tape of a video about how photographs are digitized. Even the pixels have pixels.

    After Perestroika there was a small flood of Soviet Era goods in the US. I bought a Raketa watch and a Vladimir Mayakovsky tee shirt at a local odd lots store (Building 19-1/2, Burlington, MA; best place ever.) The watch didn't survive very long and no one would fix it, but that tee shirt is indestructible. I've been wearing and laundering it for over 20 years and it just won't die.

    • sawer-massey

      Mother Russia still lives on in that shirt. I read the autobiography of Peter Kropotkin who lived from 1842-1921. He has some really fascinating tales of being involved with not only the Czar's military, but also with the lead up and triumph of the Communist revolution of 1917. If your shirt is even a fraction of how badass the Russians were through that period then it should last another century or two.

      • Mother Russia will be living on for several centuries in their small arms. There are MILLIONS of Mosin-Nagant rifles, a fair portion of them built under the Tsar that show no signs of stopping any time soon. That isn't even counting the MILLIONS of comrade Kolisnikov's rifles still fighting in the world today.

        • Wow, it just occurred to me… if I can find that old watch (pretty sure I kept it) I could wear both the watch and the T-shirt while firing my Mosin-Nagant. Call me Comrade Batshitbox, da?