I met Altshuller in 1955. He was released from GULAG a year earlier. I recalled seeing him with the most beautiful girl in Baku. That was about six years earlier, in 1949. Since then, his intellectual face stayed in my memory.
We've been introduced to each other by a friend of mine since college, with whom Altshuller spent time in Vorkuta. We became friends and met up and contacted regularly since then until 1979, when I left USSR. From talking and listening to him and to other common friends of his and mine, I got a certain idea of Altshuller's biography.
He was born in Baku in 1926. His father, a journalist, introduced him to a literature from early childhood, and Altshuller was a member of a "children literary society" in the city's "pioneer's club". He developed a special interest in science fiction and tried writing himself in this genre.
When the war started, in 1941, he went to learn in naval special school in Baku. After the ninth grade, they were re-directed into a military medical school. Altshuller refused to this change and was sent first to a flight school and then to chemical weaponry. When he became a sergeant, Altshuller got a chance to graduate from high school on a "fast-track" and to start "after-work" studies in a college of industrial engineering.
According to the friends, he didn't like meaningless parties with drinking, dancing and singing. He organized his own parties, with presentations and discussions on various topics. Rather often, the discussions became political. In such cases Altshuller appeared to be a strong critic against the existing regime. He expressed his opinions openly and fearlessly... Later, KGB called in the participants of these parties to gather evidences against Altshuller.
Three young intellectuals were the core of these meetings. They were Genrich Altshuller, Rafik Shapiro and the third one whom I'd call Aba, to protect his relatives from what follows.
Rafik Shapiro was a student in the college of industrial engineering too, plus studied "after-work" in a law school. He had common interests with Altshuller in science fiction and inventing. They published articles together in such magazine sections as "A window to the future", and together developed their first inventions. Before their arests, they were awarded almost a dozen of invention certificates, participated and won prizes in various technical contests.
Aba was a very talented young man. He studied in the college of education and, "after-work", in a law school. He spoke English, French and German languages and started to work on his doctor thesis.
When Altshuller and Shapiro received rejections to their first invention applications, they started to regularly study in a library the invention descriptions, which were successfully certtified. This helped a lot with preparing new applications. They also learned what was already invented and looked for ways to change it to get a better result. During this time a concept of "ideal final result", IFR, appeared, and the idea of using this concept for making new inventions was born.