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Graphics Censorship Technology Hardware

Soviet Image Editing Tool From 1987 146

Posted by timothy
from the airbrushing-is-so-stalinist-1940s dept.
nacturation writes "Three years before Photoshop 1.0 was released, computer engineers in the USSR were already retouching photographs using some surprisingly advanced technology. A video shows how the Soviets went about restoring damaged images with the help of rotary scanners, magnetic tape, and trackballs. No word on whether this technology was used to fake moon landings or put missiles in Cuba." Photo manipulation in the USSR (and elsewhere) had a pretty good jump on computers, though.
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Soviet Image Editing Tool From 1987

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  • BT, DT (Score:4, Interesting)

    by blair1q (305137) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @02:35PM (#34127668) Journal

    I'm pretty sure I was cutting and pasting and cropping and rotating images on uVAXen a couple of years before this.

    • by Suki I (1546431)

      I'm pretty sure I was cutting and pasting and cropping and rotating images on uVAXen a couple of years before this.

      So you are outing yourself as part of the conspiracy?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Deluxe Paint preceded Photoshop 1.0 by 5 years...

    • by Elixon (832904) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @03:32PM (#34128436) Homepage Journal

      One of the Russian comments points out that the software is in fact French PERICOLOR-1000 translated to Russian.

      • by mwvdlee (775178) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @04:01PM (#34128802) Homepage

        Didn't the Russians pretty much steal everything computer-related from the Western countries at that time?

        The most famous software product from Russia, Tetris, was originally developed on a russian-made DEC PDP-11 clone.

        I also remember reading that pretty much all their mainframes were IBM OS-3xx clones.

        I'm sure they had sufficient skilled engineers in Russia to do it themselves, but why pay somebody to invent it, if you don't have to respect copyrights and patents and can just steal it?

        • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 04, 2010 @05:04PM (#34129730)
          It went both ways. I know a guy who worked on spy satellites for the Americans during that era. In one project, the contractor required a metal plate to be drilled with zillions (technical term) of microscopic holes. For what usage, I don't know and he won't say. What he will say is that the technology to drill the holes wasn't available in the United States. So they shipped the plate to a Russian firm who had a laser driller with the required capability, of course shunting it through dozens of shell corporations, third world countries, and who knows what else. The Russian took the plate and drilled it, then sent it back through the same convoluted path to the Americans, who then took it, installed it in their satellite and proceeded to use it to spy on the Russians. Good times.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by tehcyder (746570)
            That is impossible, as everyone on slashdot knows that the USSR was incapable of matching up to the West in any area whatsoever, except vodka consumption.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Cyberax (705495)

          It was more complex.

          Russia had its own pretty advanced computer technology till 70-s. BESM ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BESM [wikipedia.org] ) computers were on par with Western Bloc models and there were original developments like Setun' computer with ternary arithmetic ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Setun [wikipedia.org] ).

          Then came a 'bright' idea to partner with IBM. USSR actually paid for licenses for IBM hardware (IBM software was probably free at that time) so it was not pure piracy.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          Up to mid-60s there was some quite good domestic computers in the USSR, but almost all of the developing teams (spare some military projects) were switched to, well, copying of the three unified systems from the West, mainly because Politburo's dumbfucks were educated not enough to effectively direct and support R&D. You know, command economy has no natural feedback and very skewed competition.
          • by tehcyder (746570)

            You know, command economy has no natural feedback and very skewed competition.

            Which is why they were so technologially backward, and why the US was the first country to get a man into space. Wait...

            • by sznupi (719324)

              Perhaps they could be first on the Moon without all the infighting, though... (a lot of people in "the West" don't realize how bitter the competition could be in the USSR, and how far taken - one lead designer simply refused to supply the engines needed by N1 to be successful; or - how many people heard about TKS spacecraft? You know, their other manned program, concurrent with Soyuz...)

        • Didn't the Russians pretty much steal everything computer-related from the Western countries at that time?

          Well we stole Tetris and made billions on it, so it all worked out in the end.

        • by tehcyder (746570)

          I'm sure they had sufficient skilled engineers in Russia to do it themselves, but why pay somebody to invent it, if you don't have to respect copyrights and patents and can just steal it?

          So in slashdot terms, the USSR was in fact a pioneer in overthrowing the old-fashioned concept of intellectual property?

        • by sznupi (719324)

          Not quite (your post comes out slightly ironic with the mention of Tetris, especially considering how it was copied without licensing; and don't forget the USSR was generally embargoed in the first place).

          Their mainframes of that time (not all / there were earlier lines) were compatible with IBM ones, yes (apparently the planners wanted "the standard"). But, as was done also by Hitachi or Siemens, they were reverse engineered, with quite original hardware; and later versions of OS also heavily modified. Dur

    • by SETIGuy (33768)

      I was doing astronomical image analysis on photographic negatives in 1985. Images were scanned using a (monochrome) photodensitometer attached to a PDP 11 and manipulated on a VAX 11-750 with a Grinnell display (512x512x8, IIRC). Nothing would have prevented you from doing most basic Photoshop type manipulations, and developing your own routines to do image manipulation was far easier than doing so for Photoshop is right now.

      By 1987, megapixel 8-bit displays would have been common in astronomy. By 198

  • And I'm not even joking. Aren't autocratic regimes the obvious clients for such techniques?
    • by Nidi62 (1525137) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @02:38PM (#34127710)
      So THAT is how Kim Jong Il was able to be the doctor doing the delivery at his own birth!
    • by sznupi (719324)

      Well, OTOH full-blooded autocracy might not even really need such methods all that much, vs. places where the "voice of people" supposedly matters.

      (really, it might have been almost a sport; coming from a place formerly behind the Iron Curtain, I'm pretty sure people were treating anything coming from the Party with a grain of salt anyway)

    • by MrEricSir (398214) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @03:15PM (#34128220) Homepage

      The Chinese have the lead in a lot of things. And cadmium as well.

    • You'd be written in and out of the "history" books.

      Zinoviev died, and was written out.

      Trotski was murdered in Mexico, and was written out.

      Hundreds and thousands were written out of existence, their tombstones chiseled clean.

      That was one of the points in 1984.

      Control the books and you control the history of a people. Winston Smith job was working as a "redactor", part of the problem, even as he sought, and failed, to find a solution.

      People who could recite the history of the lottery numbers chosen at what da

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by AhabTheArab (798575)

        You'd be written in and out of the "history" books.

        Zinoviev died, and was written out.

        Trotski was murdered in Mexico, and was written out.

        Hundreds and thousands were written out of existence, their tombstones chiseled clean.

        [citation needed]

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by toddles666 (814422)
          "The Commissar Vanishes" is a great book that documents the methods used by the Soviets to modify photos as various people fell out of favor with Stalin:

          http://www.amazon.com/Commissar-Vanishes-Falsification-Photographs-Stalins/dp/B00007D037/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1288900689&sr=8-1 [amazon.com]

          The methods used by the Soviets to manipulate and control the information consumed by the populace is pretty widely understood, and I'm sure that need to maintain control drove the use of this relatively so

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by aekafan (1690920)
          The Gulag Archipelago [amazon.com] by Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn. Can't think of of a better citation than this. Or search for the NKVD. Their specialty was airbrushing history. Oh, and shooting political enemies of the state in the head.

          Authoritarian tyrants are much the same whether their guise is communism, national socialism, or democracy. The best way to make people forget about enemies of the state is to not talk about them.
          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by trurl7 (663880)

            It's actually quite easy to think of a better citation. The Gulag Archipelago is a work of fiction; Solzhenitsyn has in later life admitted that, especially in regards to the overall numbers, he had made things up. This is not denying reality of what the Soviet regime was up to in those years - simply that you don't want to use the Gulag Archipelago as your primary historical citation.

          • by tehcyder (746570)
            Solzhenitsyn was a religious fanatic and writer of fiction, not a neutral historian.
      • A fine tradition dating back all the way to the pharaohs and probably before even them. Still goes on too, albeit in a more restricted form. Eg. Texas removing Thomas Jefferson [aolnews.com] from textbooks. History is malleable and, more often than not, written by the powerful.

    • And I'm not even joking. Aren't monochromatic regimes the obvious clients for such techniques?

      there. Fixed that for you.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 04, 2010 @02:36PM (#34127692)

    But they were doing this stuff with deluxe paint on an Amiga in 1985.

    • by mikael (484)

      There were also 24-bit/32-bit color paint systems like the Quantel paintbox, and Tempra as well.

  • Its nice to see that someone besides the super geek was using image editing back then!

    • by arivanov (12034)

      Everybody was using it. With or without computers

      If you open a 70-80-es soviet book on photography there is always a BIG chapter on touching up pictures. There is a reason for it - if you see the zombies in charge (Brezhnev, Suslov, etc) faces without retouching you would probably lose sleep for the next few days from recurring nightmares.

  • ...Photo's edit you!!!
    • I clicked on the comments for this specifically to see how far I had to scroll to find the Yakov. (further than I thought)
      • by LSD-OBS (183415)

        Same here, about half a page further than I thought. I guess we must not be new here :)

  • by CdrGlork (1096607) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @02:39PM (#34127740)
    Now the rest of you can concentrate on real, intelligent responses. Don't say I never took one for the team.
  • Er... yeah... and ? (Score:4, Informative)

    by MouseR (3264) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @02:42PM (#34127810) Homepage

    Earlier in the late 70s and early 80s, people around the globe used Crossfield and Hell drum scanners to retouch photos. Yeahs before computers were able to do it.

    I had pieces of a Hell drum scanner in my office in 1988 when I was building an image correction software to control it. By then, ImagePro had already been doing this for a couple of years, on computers.

    • by youngone (975102)
      That's not quite right. I was a Photolithographer all through the 80's (and most of the 90's too), and as a "Colour Stripper" (cue jokes now), I took the seperated film from the scanner and did the actual retouching on a light bench with a paint brush and a retouching paste, (can't even remember what it was called now). It took a long time, as required a fair bit of skill, which is why we were paid quite well to do it. When Macs became fast enough, and Photoshop mature enough to do the job, we did it using
  • "Damaged" images. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Geoffrey.landis (926948) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @02:43PM (#34127832) Homepage

    And they used it for "restoring damaged images". Yeah. Sure.

    Images that were "damaged," for example, by having Trotsky [wikipedia.org] in them.

  • All this is is just the very basics of restoration tech. No conspiracy. Not even news.
  • by Suki I (1546431) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @02:44PM (#34127844) Homepage Journal
    The world's biggest killer, dihydrogen monoxide, is known in ultra-secret circles as a key ingredient in doctoring images.
  • ...rotary scanners, magnetic tape, and trackballs Photoshop you!

    Wait a minute, at 1:11 is that Kip from Napoleon Dynamite??? [lollibrary.com]
  • ... video shopped. Are you sure it is real?
  • There were grayscale image editing programs for Macintosh at that time, and color image editing software for mini computers even earlier.

    • by McNihil (612243)

      I am pretty sure I used color imaging software in 87... even in 86 (DeluxPaint/ImageFX/AdPro) and I definitely saw 24 bit editing on a preproduction/very early version of Mac II in late 1985... yes that steak was VERY juicy on that highres monitor.

  • Yeah, well, I'll bet they didn't have an Uncrop [youtube.com] function!
  • OK, so the Soviets could by western hardware (Pericolor drum scanner and an Apple ///). Big deal.

    • by Sulphur (1548251)

      OK, so the Soviets could by western hardware (Pericolor drum scanner and an Apple ///). Big deal.

      That's Yabloka Tre, you insensitive clodski.

  • from comments there (Score:5, Informative)

    by JustFisher (1123293) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @03:02PM (#34128080) Journal
    It's not Soviet , it's French ! It's a PERICOLOR-1000 system with a software translated to Russian. They used to buy hardware and software in the West and change it a bit(translate) and present it as one developed internally in some scientific institute. Here is the discussion in Russian: http://habrahabr.ru/blogs/history/107465/ [habrahabr.ru]
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Exactly. This is why I can speak Russian, in French. Stay thirsty my friends...

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by NJRoadfan (1254248)
      The computer they are using to control it to the right is an Apple /// with what appears to be a standard Roman layout keyboard. The floppy sleeve is covering the logo, heavens forbid they show they are using Western technology! I don't think the Russians would have bothered to clone that machine (which arguably was about as reliable as anything the Soviets made), they did clone the Apple II series though.
      • by smitty97 (995791)

        It was reliable, you just had to drop it to reseat the chips [lowendmac.com] every now and then

        • Its a shame the machine remains a rare footnote in history. They is no complete working emulator even to preserve it and technical documentation is scarce. At least parts of its advanced OS lived on to become ProDOS and GS/OS.
  • Granted, the equipment depicted looks to be a combo of imported (drum scanner), cloned (Apple II), Soviet (tape drive), and in-house (track ball) equipment.

    However, I'm going to make a wild-ass guess that the Cyrillic interface photo-editing software was home grown, and that's the significant value-add to the system.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 04, 2010 @03:18PM (#34128250)

    There were image manipulation before Photoshop?
    LIES!
    That the verb for doing image manipulation is 'to photoshop' should be proof enough! I mean OMGz LOL If teh wordz is to photoshop, how could you photoshop, before photoshop 1.0? with the beta release???!!!111oenenoene

    Seriously, kids, the shift of the millenium was not celebrated as the end of the stone age!

  • Unless the soviets helped the US fake the landing, I doubt that this software was used to fake one.
  • SGI and the X Windows system both existed in 1987.
    And the editing tools included 3D modeling.

    This is not state of the art in the day.

    Although I can see how important Censorship of images in the Soviet Union would be in the day... Its all about the propaganda.

  • Photoshop didnt invented photo retouching as most in the western world seem to believe.
    • I don't think anybody claims Photoshop invented photo editing, but nobody can deny that they invented the standard still used to this day for photo editing. Besides, the Russian one shown is just a French program that has been translated, so they didn't "invent" anything either.
  • by UnknowingFool (672806) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @03:55PM (#34128734)
    The family of Greedo was relieved to hear about this old technology especially about claims that the Soviet Union may have used this technology to frame their patriarch. When asked a spokesthing for the family remarked "For years we have said that George Lucas with the help of foreign powers altered footage to make it look like Greedo shot first. We've always believed that no good [beep] [beep] scoundrel Han Solo shot our Greedo in cold blood." The spokesthing continued "Well, in a way it's a good thing it has taken this long, because now that Han is married to Leia, we're talking about Intergalactic Princess money now." When asked if that meant the family intended to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit against Han Solo, the spokesthing only responded "CHA-CHING!"
  • I've often thought how much more Winston Smith could have got done (in his day job) in an on-line world. Maybe he would have been more content, and they could have saved making him rebel so he could be tortured for a later date.
  • Wouldn't it have been cheaper just to rent the same studio that NASA used?

  • by tibit (1762298) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @04:59PM (#34129662)

    While the image repainting was slow simply due to memory bandwidths back then, one can't but be amazed at the instantaneous response from the right-hand menu system. It seems like it took one or two vsyncs for the new menu to appear in response to a keystroke. This is something that you still can't get on modern OSes simply because there's always the VM subsystem in the way. On OS X, working normally with few running applications and plenty of memory, I can get 100+ms lag when switching between menus. Sure, the median may be pretty good, but the worst case is annoying. It interferes with the workflow. Never mind the everpresent lag on the workspace of most applications, be it photo editing, spreadsheet, CAD, etc.

    I think that VM paging-induced lags are something that can't be overcome as long as we keep programming like we do -- with the assumption of infinite memory, more or less. I would really like to see a gradual shift towards realtime scheduling and applications where at least the core code and data is permanently wired. In the days of CP/M, WordStar was dealing quite well with slow links between the CPU and the terminal: you could type while it was trying to refresh the menus and the workspace. In the worst case, if you typed really fast, it'd only paint the characters you typed and nothing else. The timing was done such that it took into account the terminal baudrate, so things suitably improved when you'd switch the baudrate to something faster (38400 was a big deal back then, many systems only supported 19200 and defaulted to 4800 or 9600bps).

    These days there are plenty of applications where everything is unresponsive due to paging just a tiny part of the UI. You'd think that the hot path would be resident and responsive, and that the GUI systems would cope with multiple application threads all doing GUI operations. Alas, neither X11 nor winapi got that right, and I don't know offhand whether multithreaded UI operations are allowed by OS X. Heck, you'd think that message-based interthread/interprocess communications would enable one to queue messages in face of stalled threads (say disk I/O stalls), and let the core user experience stay on par with expectations circa 1980.

    Paging is the sole killer of user experience in modern applications, and it's not easy to work around it in environments where only one thread in a process can paint on the screen.

    • by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Thursday November 04, 2010 @06:13PM (#34130522) Homepage Journal

      While the image repainting was slow simply due to memory bandwidths back then, one can't but be amazed at the instantaneous response from the right-hand menu system. It seems like it took one or two vsyncs for the new menu to appear in response to a keystroke. This is something that you still can't get on modern OSes simply because there's always the VM subsystem in the way.

      That's all very true, except that you're completely wrong. Seriously, what? I get those lags even on systems where I've temporarily disabled swap. I wholeheartedly agree that most X GUIs are painfully laggy - I hate that my 7MHz Amiga 1000 was much more responsive than my dual-core 3GHz desktop - but that has everything to do with the interactions between toolkits, X, and the apps using those toolkits and nothing at all to do with paging. And while you're at it, quit saying "VM" when you mean "paging". While you commonly see them together, they're nowhere near the same.

      • by tibit (1762298)

        Disabling swap doesn't disable paging. I don't know of any way of disabling page eviction to disk, not on Linux, not on Windows, not on OS X. That's what VM is about. You can have a process binary running, and only parts of its image will be in memory -- others are on disk, and the VM system will bring it in. The problem is that the VM is very bad at knowing what's the critical path and what are the priorities when it comes to page eviction. Any sort of hints given by the application are advisory, in the ma

        • Disabling swap doesn't disable paging. I don't know of any way of disabling page eviction to disk, not on Linux, not on Windows, not on OS X. That's what VM is about.

          That's not what VM is about, and I think you know it. Paging and swapping are things made possible by VM, but are not the same as VM.

          But beyond that, there's an experiment you can run on many modern desktops: boot the whole system into a RAM disk and run exclusively off the motherboard DIMMs. No spinning rust, no SSDs, nothing but DRAM. Know what? You'll still see those latencies when clicking menus and other widgets.

          I mentioned the Amiga deliberately in my last post. It had a wholly different GUI concept w

          • by tibit (1762298)

            I have been seen tests with DDR2-based ramdisks and running systems that don't use anything else: guess what -- CPU utilization bursts always reach 95%, and there's no latency to speak of.

            An acquaintance has a Mac Pro with 6G of ram, that he runs off a 64 GB DDR2 ramdisk dedicated to the OS and Applications, data files are stored on a separate RAID. The machine feels unreal. Running a purpose-made memory hogging process, that would cause it to swap for 1-2 hours until OOM handler kicks in when run off a spi

    • I've got an i7 running at 4100 mhz, an SSD holding the apps and data, and 12 gigs of ram. I'm trying to replicate the delays of your post but having trouble. What programs, exactly, have a noticable latency on a machine like mine? I'm guessing that the extremely high memory bandwidth and clock on this machine is able to do all that overhead you are complaining about before my slow brain can notice a delay. (I noticed the machine did get snappier once I increased the ram from 4 gigs in dual channel to 12
      • by tibit (1762298)

        There is zero reason for this not to work like it should on a 2.5 year old MacBook with 4G of DDR2. You shouldn't need to have an SSD to have a modern paging VM system react 'instantaneously' to a human. We the people are slow. The fact that you can observe any sort of a UI latency at any point in time when running a modern OS is an abomination, and a statement of how lousy the widely used programming practices are. And I'm dead serious. Something is very, very wrong when a 100+ MHz CPU running a modern OS

        • The reason for this is because with the latest OSes they have added many, many layers of abstraction. I've heard that Vista has at least 50 distinct layers. They also write most of this code in higher level languages.

          What all this accomplishes is that it allows one to have a system that has orders of magnitude more complexity than those old OSes you remember and to be MORE stable with fewer noticeable bugs than the software of the old days. I remember both Mac OS and Win 3.1 would system crash all the ti

          • by tibit (1762298)

            It's not like the layers of abstraction change over time. The latency one experiences is random: it depends on what pages are in memory at the instant you try to do something, and perhaps to some extent on the locks held by code currently paged out due to memory pressure (if there's such a thing).

            Basically, whatever is due to abstraction is the best case. If you can see that menus switch in 10ms, that's the best case, and to improve that you need to make the code more CPU-efficient. Everything else implies

            • Actually when they rewrote Windows for Vista they added dozens more intermediate layers in the code.

              An SSD and a ton of RAM mean that nothing is paged out to a mechanical hard drive.

  • It's not called image editing, it's called "correcting the truth". These images are here for the Premier's aid, to help him remember things. If he doesn't need to remember a troublesome commissar, why keep him in there?!
  • Could someone who knows Russian kindly translate the voice over in the video?

  • In Soviet Russia, the photos enhance you.
  • No wonder they had advanced tools for retouching pictures. The Soviets were masters at removing officials from pictures (after they'd been thrown out of the party and/or sent to the gulags) almost from the beginning of their rule.

    Examples here:

    http://www.tc.umn.edu/~hick0088/classes/csci_2101/false.html [umn.edu]

    Heh... Function follows need I guess.

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