Brief history of the department

Compiled up to the beginning of the ac. year 1985/86
Jan Blatný

The first design of a self-driving computer in Czechoslovakia was created as early as 1947 (Research Institute of Mathematics of the Czech Academy of Sciences and Arts), but the use, implementation and production of computers did not get out of the academic environment (later VÚMS) until the late 1950s.

The first lectures on programming were started in 1958 at the MFF UK in Prague. In Brno, the FS was renewed in 1958 and the FE in 1959, but already in 1959 a group of teachers dealing with programming was formed at the mathematics department of the FS (headed by prof. Brejcha) (M. Fendrych, V. Kudláček, Miklíček, Frant. Fiala and Ivo Rosenberg, Josef Nedoma and Jar. Vlach), and in the school year 59/60 students of measurement and control technology at FE were introduced to the basics of digital and analogue computers (J. Blatný, ext.).

We gained practical experience on Soviet URAL 1 computers in Prague. And in order to get practice with design and construction, we designed an optimized version of the ALJ and controller at VA AZ, which we implemented and used for several years in teaching at FE. A number of our students also participated in its implementation, mainly in the holiday production practices.

In 1961, with the support of industrial companies, the LGP 30 computer was purchased for the school (the same computer was also acquired by the MFF UK in Prague at the same time - the first two computers in the Czechoslovak Education Department) - so that programming exercises and demonstration exercises in construction and technical maintenance could already be carried out on the computer. Teaching of programming, mathematical logic and theory of automata was provided at FE by a group of staff at the Department of Mathematics. The professional focus of this group was strongly influenced by RNDr. Václav Kudláček, CSc., who also contributed significantly to the preparation of study programmes and the content of many courses of the SAPO focus.

Thanks to the support of the then director of VÚMS in Prague, Vratislav Gregor, we gradually acquired functional samples of the ZETA E1b relay computer (1963), the NISA E1a and the MNP 10 ferro-diode computer developed at VÚMS, suitable power sources and measuring equipment for laboratory teaching.

On 1 October 1964, an independent department of SAPO was established. In addition to Prof. Kalendovský as Dean of the Faculty and the then Rector Prof. Meduna, the establishment of the Department was due to the generous attitude of Assoc. Ludvík Frank, the head of the mathematics department at the FE, who had a group of staff focused on programming transferred to the computer department. A certain minimum number of teachers was a prerequisite for the establishment of the department.

The first members of the department were:

  • Ing. J. Blatný, CSc.
  • Ing. J. Haška
  • M. Blatná, formerly Čehovská
  • J. Kolenička

The teachers transferred from the Department of Mathematics:

  • Ing. JUDr. Jiří Nedoma
  • J. Zapletal
  • H. Onderlíčková
  • F. Fiala
  • Procházka

And the following were hired after the founding of the department:

  • J. Liškařová
  • Z. Rábová
  • T. Aujeský
  • V. Krejčí
  • P. Svoboda
  • Vl. Melkes

Our secretariat remained joint with KAMT and the secretary for both departments was A. Poidingerová, the head of the department of SAPO and KAMT until 31 January 1965 was doc. Blatný.

In the following years the staff of the department gradually changed. I. Rukovanský came to practice in the last year of his studies at the VA AZ and was accepted to the department after graduation. M. Linhart, Zd. Zeman, H. Klíma. In 1966 E. Štrucerová - now Kapplerová, H. Vášová, Vl. Květoň, M. Svobodová - now Drábková. From September 1966 I obtained a study stay in Canada at the Department of Computer Engineering at the University of Winnipeg. There, I had the opportunity to get acquainted with the latest IBM 360 series computers and the problems of modelling their operation during design.

Assoc. V. Kudláček, on whose initiative the Department of Theoretical Cybernetics was established (effective from 1 December 1966). However, at the end of the year Kudláček left for a 1/2 year study stay in Italy, and the management of the Department of SAPO was taken over by doc. Haška.

The department grew, we built laboratories - of digital components and systems, we produced laboratory sets and power and special pulse sources for measuring ferrite cores, ferro-diode circuits, electron and diode logic circuits:

  • We got the E 1b computer, which was in use at the department until 1966, then the CELLATRON, converted from the LSP LGP 30 (1967) and in March 1968 the MSP 2a,
  • the teaching of analogue computers started, which was initially assisted by VA AZ (doc. Bobek) and after his arrival at the department was taken over by Ing. Haška,
  • help by ARITMA Prague.

Since other departments were being built and there was not enough space in the building on Antonínská Street, Rector Meduna obtained a cadet house from the army, into which, after renovation, KAMT moved in 1967 and the SAPO department in 1968.

The computers MSP 2a and LGP 30 were not technical marvels, but they were extremely important for the department - not only by providing us with a base for practical teaching, but also by providing 27 new jobs for their maintenance (which was the responsibility of the department) and operation. This was a quantitative turning point for the department (which was mainly due to Assoc. Dlabal, Josef Kopecký from the MŠ, Rector Meduna and Bursar Kratochvíl), which gradually brought qualitative changes as well.

In 1968, 18 new employees were recruited to the Department, of whom I mention those who have contributed to its further development and have great merit in the results achieved in teaching and in cooperation with industry and in scientific research. They are:

  • M. Hanzl, J. Honzík, P. Hrubý, J. Schwarz, J. Zachoval, M. Eysselt, M. Mrázková-Hanzálková, J. Staudek, F.Zbořil, J. Rumlerová-Kreslíková, J. Vašta, J. Remsová, J. Julínek.

In the new premises at the cadet school, the department could develop in every way. We worked together:

  • with the Research Institute of System Engineering at the VA AZ and the Administration of Airports of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic on the automation of air traffic control, specifically on the design of the computer system and its operating system. At the same time, we established cooperation with TESLA on the modification of the TESLA 200 computer, design and implementation of the contact unit with JSEP equipment (Ing. Bukáček, I. Mrázek).
  • with VÚMS Praha on alphanumeric display with functional (sensor) keyboard - memo type and issues considering remote data transfer.
  • we helped in the creation of the Brno branch of the VÚMS (which was created by separating the group responsible for the production of computers in Zbrojovka) by providing them with a detached workplace where the first Czechoslovak electronic calculator was created (P. Svoboda, J. Bureš).
  • with TESLA ÚVT the cooperation of the department on the development of software for the computer RPP-16 was started and the department was involved in the solution of research tasks of the state plan of basic research in the field of computer systems, coordinated by ÚTK SAV in Bratislava.

Another important milestone was the cooperation agreement between DG ZPA (later ZAVT) and BUT - in 1972 - under which close cooperation with VÚMS in Prague on computer software began:

  • ADT 7000 (6.74)
  • ADT 4316 (11.76), ADT 4500 (10.78)
  • and EC 1021 (4.77)
  • EC 1027 (5.80).

The Department thus practically acquired the most modern Czechoslovak technical equipment and the possibility of direct cooperation in the development of Czechoslovak computer technology. In this context, it is necessary to mention the director general of ZPA s. Vyorálek, director of the Czech Computer Society s. Vyorálek, director of the Czech Computer Society s. VÚMS Vraný and especially Ing. M. Kepka. At the department, s. Zbořil and Kunovský with the gold medal of the Leipzig Fair in 1975 (for the technical and software equipment of the hybrid system), and especially Assoc. prof. Staudek, closely connected with the software for ADT 4316, ADT 4500, 2 gold medals MVB 1980 and 1982 and telephone and computer network software (with EC 1025, ADT and IT). The implementation of C SOL, CSS, PL/1, SFDL/SCL languages C SOL, CSS, PL/1, SFDL/SCL is mainly due to the group of Zd. Rábová, and microdiagnostic programs of the 1025 system mainly by the staff of the system laboratory. However, these are already things you are mostly familiar with.

In terms of teaching, one of the most significant events was the establishment of independent study fields oriented to computer technology at the VŠE, universities and the electrical engineering faculties of the VŠT in 1973. I remember it because of how this event was arranged. Director of the Department of Technical Universities Assoc. Cervenka had the individual schools prepare drafts of graduate profiles and study programmes at the SUS, SUS; he requested surveys from other institutions on the expected needs of various groups of computer technology workers and then called everyone together in Štiřín, where within a week the basic concept of studies at the various types of schools was worked out. The responsible departments throughout the country then worked closely together on the detailed elaboration. All the teachers in our department took an active part in this work; they prepared their own scripts for most subjects, many of which were also used in other departments.

Since 1980, the department has also provided teaching in the field of ASR; this area is taken care of by Assoc. A. Fuchs.

On the basis of our proposal, which was also supported by other departments of universities and departments of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences, an independent scientific field 26-17-9 "Computer Technology" was established as of 1 January 1985.

In 1968 the department moved to a renovated cadet building, but it was practically only a rough structure. If we wanted the allocated space to serve the needs of the department, and in the shortest possible time, we undertook the necessary modifications ourselves.

  • First, we demolished an old baking oven in the workshop, which took up almost 10 m2.
  • We lined the laboratory for MSP 2a with aculite on our own, which was very laborious due to the uneven walls, many protrusions and rebounds.
  • As we had no meeting room anywhere, we set about renovating the cellar, almost half of which was covered in rubble and rum. After the clear out, another problem arose. The floor and the entire small cellar were under water due to the original sewer system, which had been damaged and not repaired during the renovation. This problem was solved in 1973 by Ing. Novák - see documentation.
  • Another, even more extensive action was related to the general reconstruction of the entire system laboratory for the 1021 computer (in 1976), which was again largely solved by brigades - from excavation and demolition to the design and actual installation of the computer. In addition to the laboratory staff and all other members of the department, J. Sedlak demonstrated his organizational skills here.
  • By building 9 rooms into the attic space we created more suitable working conditions in 1979. I. Rukovanský had the greatest merit in the quick completion of this project by obtaining Military Constructions, which provided most of the work.
  • One of the most recent actions is the construction of the current 1st floor of the Learning Centre in 1986, originally equipped with two ADT-4500 minicomputers.

Much of the work was done after working hours, even on Saturdays, and with real enthusiasm and interest, while most of our co-workers already had their families and children and we had time for them and for fun.

The work activity of the department has been awarded with a number of honorary mentions at the level of the faculty, school and three times at the level of the government and the IRO.

The actions and results achieved in teaching, scientific research activities, cooperation with factories and research institutes and in building the department are of course much more. You can read about many of them in Volume 2 of the History of Brno University of Technology and in the proceedings of the Brno University of Technology published on the 10th and 20th anniversaries of the founding of the Department.

Here I wanted to remind those who have come to the Department in recent years of the conditions and circumstances in which what we have today was created. And although we are often dissatisfied with things and would like more and more modern instruments, more laboratories, more technicians, more teachers and more money, I am convinced that we cannot help ourselves by unconstructive criticism, by painful complaining or resignation.

It is necessary to give proper reasons and suggestions for solving problems and, as far as possible, to solve them ourselves, because this way, often with less effort, we will achieve what we want.

This year, we are expecting final reports and oppositions of the research tasks of the 7th Five-Year Plan, refinement of the plans for the 8th Five-Year Plan, proposals for changes to the EP study programmes, their proper justification, modernisation of the content of courses and the methodology of exercises, which will lead to activation and greater independence of students, organisational preparation of a joint workplace with VÚMS, KS and eventually Tesla.

I wish you all to be healthy, have a good family background and good friendly relations with other employees, because all this contributes to our success and enjoyment of work and life.

In conclusion, I thank you all for everything you have contributed to the building and good results of the SAPO Department and in remembrance of this I will present you with commemorative and thank you letters.

The higher awards we have proposed will be presented at other ceremonial occasions organized by the faculty.

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