In the previous parts of the cycle we spoke with you about the history of the development of industrial Soviet computers. This story is very rich in many details and events that took place during the production period. But today, let's digress a little and plunge into the lamp world of household computers, in the production of which the USSR was not so far behind other countries. And yes, most of these devices were analogs of American computers, and sometimes I will probably roughly call them copies. In fact, they are such, but in this case, this does not shame the engineers and designers who carried out the development with great enthusiasm.
After all, it is hardware and software to recreate a computer platform that you physically do not have, but in the USSR it was just that, just as difficult as developing something from scratch. Therefore, I have great respect for every person who is involved in the development of every computer that I mentioned in this article today and beyond.
Computer at work, with a tape recorder connected
The 1980s were the period when the first home personal computers appeared around the world, including in the USSR. The first representative of the class BK (home computers) was "Electronics BK-0010." The computer was built on the basis of a 16-bit chip - K1801VM1. By the way, this was a rarity even for Western computers.
"PDP – 11"
The processor supported the LSI-11/03 instruction system. This feature made him akin to the 16-bit PDP-11 Mini-Computer, but the CPU was not an architectural copy of it. The computer began to be produced since 1985, Alexander Polosin and Sergey Kosenkov were engaged in its design. Polosin was the chief designer from NIITT, and Kosenkov from the Eximton plant.
The amount of RAM built into the computer was 32 Kb, half of which was allocated for the programs and the system, while the other was allocated for graphic memory.
By the way, one of the main features of the computer was the support of the graphical display mode of the system. The letters for display on the monitor were converted to graphic bitmaps. There were two ways to output a picture to a computer - color and monochrome. The computer entered mass production and sale only in 1985.
Later, closer to the beginning of the 90s, improved models were released - “Electronics BK – 011” and “Electronics BK – 011M”. Computers have become incredibly popular, and enthusiasts have developed a lot of software, peripheral equipment, as well as operating systems. The cost of such devices could reach up to 600 rubles.
Micro-80 - the first amateur computer
A couple of years before the famous Electronics entered the sales shelves, in 1983, fans of computer equipment and radio equipment from MIEM, the Moscow Institute of Electronics and Mathematics, presented a microcomputer based on the K580IK80A microprocessor.
Work on the creation of a computer began completely spontaneously when, by mistake, a parcel arrived from the scientific and production association Crystal. The boxes were marked with the numbers 80, savvy with knowledge of world achievements in the computer development path, students and employees of the institute suggested that there was a certain analogue of the Intel 8080 processor in the package. Having convinced themselves of this, the gentlemen immediately started developing their own home computer.
The first working sample was already assembled by 1979. As the terminal, the well-known, in narrow circles, Videoton-34 was used. Instead of ROM, manual data input from punch cards was used, but this was in the first models, later, when the Intel 2708 chip arrived at MIEM, the team began work on creating a display module, and cassette recorders began to be used as devices for storing user data.
Enthusiasts actively shared their developments, published circuits and articles that described in detail the process of assembling such computers. Unfortunately, due to the small distribution of all the required components, the computer did not gain much fame, but the path for developing amateur computer systems was laid.
Radio 86RK is the unfulfilled dream of the creators of Micro 80
Computer board assembly
The most successful was Radio 86RK, which embodied what the Micro-80 developers could not do. The computer was a real hit among radio amateurs, as it was much easier to assemble, and the components required for it could be easily bought on any radio market. Full compatibility with Micro-80, made it a universal and interesting solution for those who worked with Micro-80. At first, the set of firmware was poor, but since the computer was gaining new users every minute, the software and peripherals, as in the case of Electronics, were created in large quantities by the users themselves for several years.
Over time, clones began to appear, which entered the serial sale. Not all of them were fully hardware compatible with the original device. One of these are the microcomputers Mikrosh, Partner 01.01 and Apogee BK-01. And all of them, unlike the original, did not have support for working in graphical mode, and image output was carried out only in monochrome space.
Computer centers of the USSR
Another small digression. In the process of developing household computers in the USSR, multiple computer classes (centers) began to appear, the purpose of which was to educate children through games, as well as a general increase in computer literacy. In addition, each of the visitors could use computers for complex calculations, as well as consolidate programming knowledge, in general, do whatever it takes. Unfortunately, basically such centers were opened mainly in Moscow, nevertheless, the government chose the right path to work in the development of society, but history decreed otherwise. Together with the end of the existence of the USSR, production, as well as computer centers, ceased their activities.
The first computer in the USSR, initially focused on mass production and distribution, was Agat. Officially, he belonged to the class of personal computers (personal electronic computers). The prototype for the development of "Agate" was Apple ll (2), known throughout the world. A computer had a cost of four thousand rubles and was used little as a home computer, but manufacturers found application for it in educational institutions. Therefore, in most schools, the computer was used as a means of teaching children programming and introducing them to the culture of information technology.
Since we are talking about direct Western counterparts, we cannot but mention 8-bit copies of the notorious ZX Spectrum. Computer production in accordance with the schemes was mastered quickly enough. In addition to serial models, amateurs in large quantities were developing their assemblies. As a result, many of them, in their capabilities and characteristics, even began to surpass the original.
And with the advent of cheaper programmable logic integrated systems - abbreviated FPGAs, cheaper Sprinter, Speecy2007 and Speecy 2010 computers based on ZX Spectrum became available to most consumers.
The 8-bit Atari and Commodore 64, which were popular abroad, were not popular at that time.
But our analogue of IBM PC / IXT, has become the most widespread household computer in the USSR. The development and production of computers was carried out by the research and production association Electronmash, which was then in Kiev. Initially, the computer was focused on educational institutions - schools and institutes.
Appearance of the KM1810VM88 chip
The KM1810VM88 chip with a 16-bit architecture was used as the central processor. The operating frequency of the processor is 5 MHz. The amount of RAM could be up to 512 KB. The set of firmware for models without a drive was democratic - a simple text editor, as well as a Basic language compiler.
Users of the drive model got the opportunity to work in the MS – DOS operating system with all its advantages. In the process of working on computers, the union released three official computer models, enthusiasts, as in the case with other models, collected many custom computer models, using and combining iron from other models.
Also, the developers have developed fourteen hardware modules that expand the capabilities of the computer. So, if desired, it was possible to buy additional blocks of RAM (up to 512 KB), all kinds of programmers, controllers, joysticks, network adapters, and more interestingly, blocks of a combined sound synthesizer.
Third-party manufacturers also did not stand aside and prudently took up the development of virtual hard disk modules, external video cards, COM-port cards, and much more. For those who do not know, virtual hard disk modules were delivered up to one megabyte in volume, and unlike ROMs (read-only memory devices), they were volatile, that is, when the power was turned off, all data written to such a module was lost.
Search supported direct connection of display modules as well as tape recorders. And with the help of some extension modules, it was possible to connect printers, as well as real external hard drives, up to 40 MB in size.
Mikrosha working on a modern monitor
Above, I mentioned such a computer as Mikrosha, let's talk about it in more detail. Mikrosha was a serial analogue of the Radio 86RK computer, with a built-in video output to the TV and, as a consequence, focus on both home and educational use.
A lot of games, programs, including text editors, as well as programming tools in Assembly language were developed for the computer. The price of the device was also available to consumers - 750 rubles. This is certainly not cheap, but if you wanted to save any worker to such a device without any problems.
That's all for today. Thank you for reading to the end. Talk about the many computers produced by the Union can be infinitely long, especially if you carefully scrupulously understand every feature they possessed. In future articles I will definitely tell you about computers such as Krista, Corvette, Orion, Lviv PC, as well as the very first portable computer in the USSR - Electronics MS 1504, which was the prototype of a Toshiba laptop - “T1100 PLUS”.
See you soon.