Sometimes Altshuller related one or another episode from his life in the camp but it is difficult to tell in which sequence they took place. He told that very soon over there he came to a conclusion that in order not to go mad he had to find some difficult problem to work on, which would keep his mind busy for many years. For some time he was toying with the problem of creating underwater reservoirs of oil. (Altshuller explained why in his opinion it was a difficult and an important problem but I do not remember the explanation because never was interested in such problems.)
This episode clearly indicates the degree of importance of TRIZ for him in those years. If TRIZ was the business of his entire life beginning in 1946, as some people portray it, then he would had not racked his brain over what a problem to work on in the camp. He would had worked on TRIZ. But he was about to choose working on underwater oil reservoirs !
Even in the 1950s Altshuller did not consider TRIZ as something very important to him. "In the 1950s I saw my future in science fiction," - he told me, - "I switched to TRIZ in the mid-sixties when publishing science fiction became next to impossible." The idea of the life time business was alien to Altshuller. "I never set the life time goals or chose the life time business," - he said in the same context.
I do not know what the problem he eventually chose to work on in the camp but he started to work on something. This made him the target of jokes from those engineers and professors that had already been in the camp for quite some time. "Everybody begins like this." - they said, - "It will pass with time."
But Altshuller was stubborn. He ordered some books. The list of books included a text on nuclear physics. When the camp officer went over the list, he crossed out this item. "Why do you need a text on nuclear physics ?"- he asked Altshuller - "Do you want to make an atomic bomb ?"
Altshuller also told that in the beginning he lived in a barrack with plain criminals. To get accepted by them, he used to tell them stories from Jules Verne at nights. Sometimes there were fights between various groups of criminals. Once during such a fight somebody was already going to kill him, but the gang leader intervened. "Do not touch him, he tells interesting stories," - the gang leader said, and Altshuller was spared.
Later on he lived already with more intelligent prisoners. He mentioned a funny episode with Zionists, for example. They tried to get him involved. Probably in order to instill in him the pride of being Jewish they started recounting to him the Jewish contribution to science. Having listened to them Altshuller replied that their stories reminded him the British course of geography for aboriginal peoples of colonies 1: "All countries in the world are subdivided into Britain, Australia which belongs to Britain, North America which belongs to Britain, New Zealand which belongs to Britain, India which belongs to Britain, etc. and the Moon which still belongs to no one but will undoubtedly belong to Britain !"
"You are anti-Semite !" - they replied. "Yes," - Altshuller said, - "to the same degree as I am anti-Russian, anti-German, anti-French and anti-British !"
Closer to the end, his life in the camp started already looking like almost normal. He was working on some inventions in the mine's office, applied for patents (or "certificates of authorship" of invention, more specifically), met mines inspectors from Moscow visiting the camp (and mainly mines) from time to time, and accompanied them on the tours of the mines.
Of his labor camp inventions he mentioned some improvements to electrically powered trains that transported coal from the depth of mine to the surface of earth.