How a pair of American spies created the Soviet Silicon Valley
Espionage, affairs and PCs: Ahh, Zelenograd
Radio Reg Few stories in computing history come close to matching the tale of Zelenograd – the Soviet Union's attempt at creating something along the lines of Silicon Valley.
Episode 15 of Semi-Coherent Computing recounts the tale of Zelenograd's founding along with the stories of the two US-born Russian spies behind the city. No one knows this history better than Steven Usdin, the author of Engineering Communism: How Two Americans Spied for Stalin and Founded the Soviet Silicon Valley, who was kind enough to appear on the show. (You'll find Usdin's web site here and can buy the book on Amazon or from Yale Press here.)
I first saw Usdin talk about Zelenograd at a Computer History Museum event and was beyond enthralled by the story. It involves two US communist engineers who worked on top secret projects for US military contractors during World War II and funneled their technology secrets over to the Soviets. Eventually, these lads made their way to the Soviet Union where they started work on, among other things, the first Soviet made PC and even a desktop fab for producing chips.
Along the way, the spies tear apart families and then reunite them. They enjoy Khrushchev's blessing and then struggle to deal with Brezhnev's fury. They make a mockery of the FBI and parts of the Soviet way of life.
This show is just the first part of my interview with Usdin. We'll be running the second part next week.
Sincere apologies to everyone for being so slack getting up a fresh program. I vow to be more consistent in the months ahead.
Thanks for your ears. ®
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