The book about the "Paragraph" on Habré. The chapter about hrenyatiny, recognition and disembarkation in America

    I continue to share with you the heads of the book about Paragraph - the first startup from Russia that has conquered the world.

    After the previous publication on “Habré”, a fair amount of time has passed - almost two months. Here I must apologize. As an excuse, I will say that the main thing for me is the work on the book. Publication - so far secondary. I post it only when there is time after work on the manuscript.

    During these two months, I wrote a couple more chapters, increasing the draft to 230 thousand characters (out of the target 400 thousand). In addition, during this time, another important event occurred: the book had the final title: “Pioneers of Silicon Valley” .

    But - to the point.

    Today I want to share a chapter, which, I hope, should be of particular interest to readers of "Habra". After all, it tells about the principle of the handwriting recognizer, created by the "Paragraph".

    Well, there is an action - our heroes come to America for the first time, and FBI agents appear on the foreground.


    Finally, I remind you that you can get all 11 ready-made chapters of the book, simply by subscribing to the newsletter . Links to download will come in a welcome letter.

    Waiting for feedback and comments. Constructive criticism will help make the book better.


    Eight hrenyatin

    “Tell me, where can I get political asylum?” - first asked Pachikov when the plane landed in the USA.

    The question was asked in Russian and addressed to the representative of the Soviet airline, who stood at the hatch and escorted the passengers leaving the plane.

    Once, for such a joke to the official of a citizen of the USSR, there would be great trouble.

    Most likely, he would have fallen under the cap of the KGB, and they would have tried to get him back quickly, where the joker could well have been convicted of the attempt on treason. The desire to live in some other country was considered a betrayal of the motherland.

    In less bloody times, a wit, at least forever, would have deprived of the opportunity to travel abroad.

    During Perestroika, however, a lot has changed. Now you could say anything, and by and large it no longer interested anyone. Hearing the provocative question, the airline employee only grinned: "They'll show you there."

    Stepan Pachikov had every reason to step on American soil in high spirits and joke with flight attendants. Things in the "Paragraph" went the best way.

    The international status, the new technology, the currency from the American partner Scott Clososki, along with the support of the Academy of Sciences and the indefatigable energy of the company’s founder - all this made it possible to attract new developers to cooperation.

    What did not sell this only in the USSR software "espe". And a utility for gluing scanned images to a full-fledged office suite. And a program that predicted the outcome of the American elections. And a chess database. And a system of psychological introspection. And a program for learning Russian as a foreign language. And a few computer games of his own. And an electronic computer magazine ...

    Some developments were born into the world without the participation of Pachikov - espe just took them for sale. But as the business grew, more and more programs were refined under the roof of the Paragraph. Some solutions in particular in “Paragraph” passed the way from the bare idea to the finished product.

    However, most of these developments did not bring in any special money, although it allowed the advanced programmers and scientists to be dragged into the paragraph networks.

    The company's financial well-being rested on only three products - the Chizhov Russifier, Veselov's office suite, and a set of Russian fonts developed in Paragraph under the direction of Andrey Skaldin (later he will separate and create Paratype - one of the most famous font bureaus).

    The new status helped Paragraph to establish more or less regular sales of programs to various government agencies. In addition, the team comprehended the basics of product marketing, combining a set of disparate solutions into software packages.

    Even more reason for optimism gave Pachikov idea with handwriting recognition.
    Without knowing it, the Paragraph participants took on one of the most difficult tasks in the field of artificial intelligence. At that time, no one in the world even attempted to recognize a single handwritten text. The ambitions of other teams working in this field did not go beyond recognizing typed letters - or letters written by hand, but separately.

    No one in Paragraph knew whether the calculations of the scientist Sheli Huberman, who formulated the principles of recognition in a theoretical article published in the seventies, would be justified. However, it took his students Leonid Kuznetsov and Grigory Dzyube only a couple of months to make a working prototype of the recognizer.

    The program divided each letter into separate elements - circles, sticks, loops. Between themselves, for simplicity and in the absence of a more appropriate term, these elements in the Paragraph began to be called hrenyatin (in mathematical language, they were called XR-elements).

    The prototype used eight crap, with which the authors managed to describe all thirty-three letters of the Russian alphabet.

    The algorithm calculated the degree of similarity of each element to one or another crap, taking into account their sequence. The result was a few of the most likely sets of hrenyatin.

    Then the program compared each of these sequences with its base of ideal letters described in sets of “reference” crap. As a result, the most similar option was chosen, after which the recognizer passed to the next letter - and the next set of crap.

    To the great surprise of the developers themselves, the program sometimes quite tolerably recognized individual words - though only if the authors of the program wrote them. As soon as the recognizer came across a word written by a stranger, he betrayed abracadabra.

    Ilya Losev, who worked at the Institute for Information Transmission Problems of the Academy of Sciences, where he was engaged in basic scientific research related to computer intelligence, joined the improvement of the program.

    Losev proposed to refine the algorithm by teaching him to compare sets of crap of different lengths - after all, the best set of three crap can turn out to be “worse” than the best set of five (that is, less similar to the standard). In addition, with italics, some elements of the letter may look almost unreadable, which means that the recognizer must be able to “guess” about the presence of unwritten crap.

    In practice, this was achieved with the help of “passes” for which the algorithm paid “fines”. However, sometimes a set of five crap even with a penalty for a pass scored more "points" than a set of four accurately identified crap.

    Another important step was to connect the dictionary. In order to increase recognition accuracy, the algorithm began to check which letters could follow the ones already identified — this significantly reduced the number of variants.

    Of course, with this approach, much depended on the accuracy of the identification of the first letter — therefore, for it, the algorithm went through several variants and their branches.

    Finally, as the program worked, it became obvious that eight crap is not enough - they began to add new ones. Soon the score went to dozens ...

    With each step, the algorithm became more and more complicated. To translate it in code, a young but gifted programmer Alexander Pashintsev was connected to the project, who met with the founders of the company at the time of the children's computer club.

    This formed the backbone of the team that worked on the discriminator: Huberman, Kuznetsov, Dziuba, Losev, Pashintsev ...

    All their achievements would probably have been in vain if the company had followed its original idea and tried to create an educational children's program. However, Pachikov rather quickly realized that this idea was divorced from reality and would not burn out.

    Fortunately, at the same time, he found out that the recognition technology itself has a good commercial potential.

    In due time, thanks to the “Computer” club, Pachikov met Esther Dyson, an American journalist, author of the technology newsletter Release 1.0 and organizer of popular conferences for developers.

    Esther closely followed the changes in the computer industry that were occurring in Eastern Europe as a result of tectonic shifts in politics. She even personally came to Moscow to see everything with her own eyes.

    Of course, Dyson could not avoid visiting the only children's computer club in the Soviet capital, which opened Pachikov. An acquaintance ensued, and when the director of the club established his own software company, Esther invited him to speak at the conference of The East-West High-Tech Forum in Budapest.

    Pachikov followed trends, reading Western computer magazines, but only at this conference he realized that he had lost sight of the most, perhaps the main one.

    Everyone on the stage and on the sidelines said nothing about a new era, which was about to come due to the advent of pen computers - computers with an electronic pen instead of a keyboard.

    Enthusiasts believed that they would revolutionize the market, making computers more similar to ordinary notebooks, and therefore more understandable to the common man.

    Before the invention of the touchscreen and iPhone, there were still more than fifteen years. At that time, it was believed that the ideal laptop computer required an input interface that would combine the advantages of two types of data - analog and digital.

    In analog users, it would be more convenient to enter information — that is, to write by hand, as in a regular notebook — but a full-fledged computer should have been able to store and process the entered information in digital form.

    The catch was that there was still no solution that would allow to recognize human scribbles and translate them into symbols understandable by the computer.
    It was precisely this solution that the unknown Soviet company Paragraph worked for.

    That is, based on completely erroneous assumptions, Stepan Pachikov and the team unknowingly set about creating a technology that could be the key to a new multi-billion dollar industry.

    In the modern atlas of success, luck remains a disputed territory. Some people completely deny luck and love to quote one of the founding fathers of the United States, Thomas Jefferson: "The more I work, the luckier I become."

    Others, more modest thinkers, give their due to luck - as well as to all who plowed all their lives, but never became a millionaire. “It’s very difficult to recognize success - it often looks exactly like what you deserve,” said US Congressman Frank Clark.

    Stepan Pachikov could consider himself lucky, if only for the fact that he was able to do business in the USSR - the Paragraph joint venture came into being due not only to his energy, but also to the whim of fate. And fortune, it seems, was not going to leave her new favorite.

    In March 1990, the Paragraph delegation - Pachikov, Chizhov, Losev, Skaldin - went to Hannover to the major industry exhibition Tsebit to declare itself and show the entire extensive line of its software products, including the recognizer prototype.

    The Soviet startup team began to conquer the Western world as soon as the opportunity appeared. But it turned out that she found herself abroad at the most suitable time that one could choose.

    For five years Mikhail Gorbachev was in power, the USSR’s foreign policy made a turn of one hundred and eighty degrees.

    The Cold War with the West was officially over. Soviet troops were withdrawn from Afghanistan. The Berlin Wall is destroyed. The Warsaw bloc was dissolved, and the countries of Eastern Europe gained the right to choose their own way without looking back at Moscow.

    Of course, the transformation of the USSR from a dangerous and sinister enemy into a magnanimous, albeit exotic and somewhat naive friend, the Western world took with a bang. All Soviet caused curiosity. Many people in the West were surprised to find that people live in the country of the Communists too - and some of them are quite normal.

    The Paragraph team has shamelessly exploited this interest. On the stand they stood mumbled either in prisoners, or in soldiers of a construction battalion - in quilted jackets, belted by Soviet army belts with a star on a badge.

    Later, Pachikov would say that he was ashamed of the way they behaved - and, he would have been smarter, he would not allow himself such tricks. But it seems that at that time Soviet ambassadors in the civilized world were ready to forgive another and not such a circus.

    After working at the exhibition, the Paragraph team rented a minivan and went on a journey through Germany in order to see with their own eyes an unfamiliar, free, world.

    Upon reaching Berlin, we went to collect stones from the destroyed wall. Going to the western part, they skipped there all night — along with the crowds of local residents, who still remained euphoric and celebrated the inevitable impending reunification of Germany.

    As the fun grew ever more unrestrained, there was a mountain of garbage under our feet — pieces of paper, bottles, cigarette butts ... Early in the morning, cleaning machines appeared on the Berlin sidewalks, which quickly eliminated all the consequences of night strolls.

    Such a combination of freedom, on the one hand, and order, on the other, made a strong impression on Soviet citizens. Residents of the USSR are accustomed to believe this: in life there is either one or the other.

    For the first time to show yourself in Europe - it was already a lot. But it was clear that for a real breakthrough, the Paragraph had to go to America, where the largest computer companies worked.

    And now, a couple of months later, in June 1990, the Paragraph delegation landed in the United States to show the beta version of the recognizer at the largest international computer exhibition Comdex.

    In the States, the euphoria about the end of the Cold War was no less than in Europe. Just shortly before Comdex, Mikhail Gorbachev made his first visit to the United States. The Soviet president was at the peak of his world popularity - and half a step from receiving the Nobel Prize.

    American business, meanwhile, was taking its first steps in mastering a new, unknown, but intriguing market - the first McDonald's had already opened in Moscow by that time.
    For big burks and french fries lined up long queues of Soviet citizens who wanted to try out the outlandish dishes invented in the country of a former potential adversary.

    However, despite the formal end of the Cold War, those to whom it was supposed to remain vigilant: while the Paragraph team in Moscow was setting up sales of software and messing around with their bullshit, the American co-founder of the company Scott Clososki had to deal with the FBI in Oklahoma.

    One day, two agents came to the office of an entrepreneur and asked to drive with them. They took him to a motel, brought him to his room and sat him down at the table. One of the agents laid a pistol on the table - either to make it more comfortable to sit, or to make the interlocutor understand the seriousness of his position.

    After that, they began to interrogate him about the circumstances of the trip to the USSR and further cooperation with the Communists.

    Despite the threatening mise en scene, Scott was not very scared - he was sure that he hadn’t done anything illegal and therefore didn’t even think about a lawyer. Moreover, he has not been accused of anything yet.

    Rather, the opposite is true: FBI agents said they wanted to protect him. Part of the conversation was devoted to educational program: how to behave with the Russian, so as not to get into trouble.

    First of all, relations with Russian women should be avoided - no matter how unbearably difficult such inhuman prohibition seemed. It was through them, agents warned, that the KGB would try to reach him.

    Scott himself understood that in the USSR one had to be extremely careful, therefore he thanked for the advice.

    After leaving the room after many hours of interrogation - not the last during the cooperation with the Communists - Scott not only emerged from the dusk of a cheap motel in the light of God, he returned from a world of suspicion and hostility to a new, albeit illusory, but so charming world of international cooperation.

    In the wake of the “Gorbania”, the first Soviet computer company that found itself on Comdex was doomed to success.

    The Paragraph team felt the support of the Americans as soon as they arrived at the exhibition. All equipment for the stand was sent to the delivery service, and she lost it. As a result, the equipment for the stand was collected by the whole world - many Americans wanted to help the Soviet company.
    Fortunately, the programs themselves, which are necessary for the demonstration, were brought by the company employees in personal luggage on diskettes.

    Many asked if their Paragraph recognition technology could be used for text entered with a pen. Pachikov answered that in theory - yes, but in practice - not yet.

    Because they do not have an electronic pen to do this direction. The digital pen was a toy not only very expensive, but also scarce. All that the Paragraph had in Moscow was a hand-held scanner donated by one of the guests of the computer club - a representative of the Logitech company.

    Without demanding anything in return, the Soviet programmers were now presented with a pen. The value of this gift was difficult to overestimate: thanks to such a gift, the Paragraph could now take up the adaptation of its technology to a new promising market.

    Unlike the scanner, the pen operated not with a static, but with a dynamic image. It contained information about the movement of the hand in time - and thus made it possible to more accurately identify the crap.

    Journalists were constantly circling around the Paragraph stand - the first Soviet-American joint venture in the history of Comdex was an event for the exhibition. About the interview asked even the CNN news channel.

    This, however, led to the first differences between the partners of the joint venture.
    Scott arranged everything so that the film crew appeared at the booth when Stepan was not there. Perhaps it was pure coincidence, but Pachikov suggested that his companion was afraid of a bad English partner.

    It was impossible to exclude that they were also motivated by the completely understandable desire to be in the foreground and to use this chance for personal advancement.

    When Pachikov returned to the Paragraph stand, the film crew was already packing equipment.
    “It’s a pity we’ve already finished,” the politician told the reporter, continuing to pack. “Yes, sorry, I just wanted to tell you how computers destroyed communism,” said Stepan.

    The reporter immediately gave his colleagues a signal to unpack. They again put the camera, the light and recorded an interview with Pachikov. Stepan gave his favorite speech that authoritarianism is impossible without control over information, and the spread of personal computers deprived the power of the USSR of such control.

    The founder of Paragraph promoted this idea from the very beginning of Perestroika. In 1986, he even wrote an article-appeal to American President Ronald Reagan, in which he called for the lifting of restrictions on the supply of equipment to the USSR.

    Pachikov even tried to publish an article in the West, having transferred it abroad through a familiar American who often came to Moscow. The American, however, along with the letter took seven hundred dollars to open an account in the United States in the name of one of Stepan’s acquaintances.

    Soviet citizens had little idea how the western banking system was organized, and therefore they thought that there would be no difficulties with such an operation. The fate of both money and letters remained unknown to Pachikov. He did not see this American again.

    Speech about Reagan, personal computers and information control fit well into the current news agenda - during his visit to the US, Gorbachev managed to get Reagan to ease the restrictions imposed on technology exports to the USSR.

    In general, CNN did not just mention the “Paragraph” in the report about the exhibition or issued one or two quotes - the TV channel released a ten-minute story about the American-Soviet company.

    After that, Pachikov thought that Scott was still too young. He should have guessed that in this situation it was not worth hiding the Soviet partner from journalists.

    Klososki himself paid tribute to the marketing resourcefulness of the partner - he, for example, thought up stamping on the Soviet banknotes contact details of the company and handing out rubles as business cards. Given the situation, the move went spectacular and attracted attention.

    Scott's fears for English Stepan also had their own reasons. Having listened to how Klososki gives interviews, Pachikov asked with an insult: "Scott, why do you always call our developments samovar ones?" ...

    The American did not even understand at first what was going on. “Well, you always say: samovar-technology, samovar-technology ...” - explained Stepan. In fact, Scott was saying some of our technologies - "some of our technologies."

    Despite problems with communications, both Scott and Stepan were satisfied with each other, knowing full well that their meeting was a great success for both entrepreneurs.

    Press attention, interviews on major TV channels, first contacts with influential computer companies, and America itself with its stores full of colorful packaging, fast highways and people of completely different nationalities - all these new impressions, of course, agitated the imagination of not too sophisticated Soviet scientists.

    However, what to do next and how to move from talking to real contracts - how to build a business here to develop and sell a highly intelligent product?

    Neither Scott Clososki, a simple Oklahoma merchant, nor even Stepan Pachikov, yesterday's senior researcher at the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, knew this. All this the Paragraph team had yet to figure out.

    Silicon Valley pioneers. All finished chapters:

    Chapter 1. “Wait a minute,” said Mzhavanadze
    Chapter 2. Scientist-janitor
    Chapter 3. Computer people
    Chapter 4. Beta
    Chapter 5. “We can solve any problem”
    Chapter 6. Wild East
    → Chapter 7. Eight hrenyatin
    Chapter 8. I am a walrus
    Chapter 9. Armature into caterpillars
    Chapter 10. American
    Chapter 11. Language D

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