Not only gingerbread, samovars and weapons, but also one of the first universities in the Union, which at the end of the century gave a start in life to future IT specialists – this is about Tula. It was the Mekhmat of TulGU (then Tula Polytechnic University) who produced talented mathematicians who got acquainted with the world of development in those years when there was almost no Internet in the country, and textbooks on programming languages could occasionally be snatched from book-disc collapses of clothing markets. Faculty graduates were already successfully working in companies involved in the development, implementation and support of software, and someone created such a business from scratch. The history of Russian technologies is also written in the regions where talented guys still work, who for one reason or another did not move to other countries or storm the metropolitan offices of large companies. I would like to tell you about these guys who developed IT in the regions in such a way that it reached other continents, which is what we would like to do in a series of interviews. We decided to make these conversations in the format of mini-stories – nostalgic, ironic, inspiring.
The hero of the first article will be Aleksey Solomatin, not only a developer with 20 years of experience, but also a translator from Serbian and Croatian, a musician, blogger, traveler, connoisseur of Eastern European culture, a wonderful husband and father.
I can’t say that I got into programming quite by accident. In the 11th grade, I got to TulSU for the Open Doors Day. I thought about going to MISU, designing all sorts of flying things. But I walked past the booth of the Faculty of Cybernetics – and there they invited me to come in, look, talk with the dean, find out about the direction. I spent the next two hours there. And somehow I suddenly realized that I needed to go there. At the same time, it is important to understand that when I decided to go into programming, I didn’t even have a computer at home, and in computer science we were very rarely and casually shown maximum BASIC.
About retrotechnique and conscience
The situation was such that you remember – and how you went to the museum. The beginning of the 2000s, computers on 486 processors, which, apart from Pascal, did not work normally with anything, a black DOS screen. The mice were square! They have not been sold in stores for a hundred years. I still regret it: you go into the “Laba”, and in the far corner there are a bunch of keyboards, these old mice. I kept thinking I need one! But my conscience wouldn’t let me…
About the life of an intern
He joined the company as an intern. In my third year, I saw an advertisement and came. Moreover, he was mentally ready to suffer, re-learn, understand the unknown. But I didn’t have to suffer: the base of TulSU, the experience of previous work, came in handy. The internship went so well that I immediately began to deal with real tasks. Now how? The trainee is attached to a mentor who nurtures him in every possible way, gives him tasks that are very indirectly connected with reality. In fact, they continue to teach programming. And then they immediately said – “Sit down, do it.” I started writing in C++, and then we were developing software for devices based on the outdated Windows Mobile. There was no special training: “The source code is there, we are developing on that one. Then you open the manual, study.
There was life before Stackoverflow too
It cannot be said that in the era before the launch of Stackoverflow, everything is bad, or everyone was sitting with irrelevant books. There were forums, English-language sources. We actively used the Microsoft MSDN, the Russian forum RSDN. There were certain knowledge bases, various libraries. And everywhere it was more or less clear where to get information, what can be done with these resources, what cannot be done, how to achieve such and such a result. Basically, that was enough.
When I joined the company, I did not know English at all. This language is now the industry standard. I have been learning German all my life. Therefore, I started working like this: you look at the documentation, you peep into the dictionary. I remember – and I can not understand how I did it at all. But almost immediately I found an English teacher, I went to him after work for 3 months. Only after that I was able to read the documentation more or less normally.
Working correspondence was in ICQ. I recently sorted out old junk and found my very first computer, a 4 pentium. For some reason I didn’t throw it away. At the beginning of the 2000s, it was considered good, but not top-notch. So, surprisingly, it launched without any problems and preparations. Although everything was impossibly slow. And on the desktop there was an ICQ label – so it also worked! Online, of course, there was no one. By the way, I don’t remember the number by heart, but it’s written down somewhere, in old notebooks, and it seems in Google Keep.
Favorite operating system
I even managed to work in DOS – we passed “labs” at the university in it. Then I used Windows for a long time. Until (at that time) he hated her. I even remember how it happened. The laptop was running Vista. At first it worked smartly. Then the hardware became outdated, and the system accumulated a critical weight of files and programs. It became so bad that I spat and immediately installed Linux Mint, even without all these “try it first on a virtual machine”. In addition, in our environment, pirating software was already out of fashion, and early, convenient subscriptions began to appear. Besides, why pay for Windows when there is a free official Lunux? It had all the necessary software, and, frankly, playing was not as fun for me as it was to launch the development environment and write something, or read a book. And the last 5 years have shown that I don’t really need Windows anywhere. At some point, I fully switched to Linux at work. On Windows it was loaded once a year – to be updated, to launch a specific software. Now I’m on Ubuntu. It is interesting to try other distributions. But interest is interest, but things must be done.
There was one foreign company, we call it RG. They made a kind of “corporate Google” there. The idea is simple: in a large company, many people write documents, send mail, upload files to the corporate cloud. How do you know which documents are available and which are not? Who is responsible for what? Who uploaded the documents? Which ones should be kept and which ones should be discarded daily? This is where our project came in.
While there was no automation of the process on our part, the process could take several days – installing software, connecting multi-level employees to each other, transferring the data itself. After we developed the project, such a task could be done by one person who knew how and which script to run. Because the knowledge needed was no longer in the minds, but was formalized in the code, which means that it was carried out perfectly. In the end, they did automatic clustering of documents there. When there are several million texts, and you need to highlight thematic ones among them. It worked, conditionally, as in Google Photos, when you write “cats” in the search, and it finds cats for you. It was very interesting from a technical point of view: for about 10 large software products to work perfectly with each other.
About Balkan culture
It started with the fact that I began to learn to play the harmonica. Hooked up by a former colleague. And so, as always, I began to delve into this process – I sat on the Harmonika.ru forum, read articles and tutorials. I also listened to a podcast of two dudes, one from London, the other from Bremen. They discussed harmonica news, played themselves, showed how to play riffs, and put on interesting music. In one of the podcasts, they put on a klezmer, namely, the Amsterdam Klezmer Band, widely known in narrow circles. It became interesting to me – I think, fuck yourself, like clockwork pipes. In Russia, of those similar then, there were only Moldovans Zdob și Zdub. You will almost never hear such music from a TV set or on the radio. And so I started digging. There was no Spotify, there was no Shazam. But there were torrents. And I found a whole layer of near-Balkan music. And so began the passion for this European culture.
The tongue will bring to Gucci
On the same site, I saw an ad about a trumpet festival in Serbia in the city of Guca, “trumpeter’s chapel” in Serbian. And I almost immediately decided to go there. Immediately I went to make a foreigner, before that I didn’t have it at all. Began to prepare for the trip. I read on the Internet – it is not always possible to agree in English. Well, I decided to learn a few words in Serbian. And got carried away. The culmination was – it was necessary to find where I would live in Montenegro in Herceg Novi. I find some pages on the Internet, where the addresses of hotels and the names of the owners, and phone numbers. I call there and they don’t really speak English. And so I collected all my Serbian and booked accommodation! Was shocked! Booked a room for myself in Serbian! By the way, in the end, I learned Serbian at a fairly good level. He even took up amateur translations.
In my vacation plans, I like to read. For example, I recently discovered the writer Vladimir Korotkevich. I started reading King Stach’s Wild Hunt. It was so captivating that in the middle of the book I suddenly realized that it was so easy for me to read in Belarusian that I finished the remaining half at midnight. The brain is constantly working – I learn new languages, I read technical literature. I switch willingly to physical activity in nature – I come to the country with pleasure in the spring. That is, there is no such thing as turning off the “bad computer” at work, coming home and turning on the “good computer”.