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en:soviet_computers

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Home and Educational Computers and Calculators from the Soviet Union

Eugene Bolshakoff

IMPORTANT INFORMATION: ISKRA-123 machine hangs sometimes during usage.
Whatever I want to show the machine, there will be a short demonstration on Sunday, see the timetable. ISKRA demonstrations are cancelled for now.

If I can figure out what is happening, I will show what I want on Sunday later, stay tuned.
But, I can show the machine itself and answer questions.

Home computing history in the Soviet Union was different than in the West.

In the West, there were many well-known home computers, people could buy them in a store, there were many programs, games and so on. They were very rare in Soviet Union, only people who could go abroad brought them.

Some technologies were forbidden for official export to the USSR (and other Communist countries) because of CoCom Embargo (for example, Motorola 68k CPUs were used somewhere in U.S. military technologies and was considered as a multilateral technology). When Afghan war started in 1979, U.S. forbade local companies selling any technologies to the USSR.

But in the whole world, personal computers became more popular at that time. First Soviet personal computers appeared in early 1980s, but they were professional computers made for institutions. DVK (Диалоговый вычислительный комплекс, Dialog Computing Complex) was one of the first Soviet personal computers, it was introduced in 1981. It was based on Soviet LSI-11 clone (PDP-11 compatible CPU).

Before BK-0010 (one of the first home Soviet computers) was introduced, people tried to make their own computers at home - they ordered microchips (it was not easy!), made circuit boards at home…

I speak only English and Russian, sorry. All demonstrations and Q&A sessions will be in English. In case you speak only German, you can ask your question in written form in BBB chat, I will use a translation service.

BK-0010-01 Home Computer

General Data

And, BK-0010 (БК, Бытовой Компьютер - Household computer) was introduced as a school and home computer in 1985. It was a "younger sister" of DVK, it was also based on LSI-11 clone, but it was designed as a home computer.

Developer Research and Production Association "Nauchny Center" (Scientific Center), Zelenograd, USSR
Manufacturer "Eksiton" factory, Pavlovsky Posad, USSR; "Elekon" Radio component factory, Kazan, USSR; "Nuklon" factory, Siauliai, Lithuanian SSR
Model Name BK-0010
Year of Introduction 1985
Country USSR
Price at the time of introduction 650 Soviet Roubles (~3 - 3.5 engineer's month salaries)

Technical Data

Architecture LSI-11, 16-bit - PDP-11 compatible
CPU К1801ВМ1, 3 MHz
RAM 32 Kb
ROM 32 Kb
Graphics RGB component connector to a household TV, 512x256 (2 colours, 64 symbols per line) or 256x256 (4 colours, 32 symbols per line)
Sound Internal beeper
Storage Audio tape, using a household audio tape recorder, 800K floppy disks later

Details

I will show BK-0010-01, the next version of BK-0010. BK-0010-01 has a real keyboard (instead of membrane keyboard in BK-0010) and BASIC in ROM instead of FOCAL.

BK-0010-01 with an original power supply and original black and white "Electronica" monitor (found in the internet). It shows ROM BASIC (Vilnius BASIC) prompt.

My own home setup of BK-0010. It includes an ATX power supply (original BK power supply was lost), a joystick, a floppy drive and a hard drive using SMK-512 controller. I use a generic VGA monitor and GBS-8200 converter from component RGB/black and white RCA to VGA.

As a home computer (among many other 8-bit home computers), BK-0010 and its successors (BK-0010-01 and BK-0011M) used a household TV as a monitor and a household tape recorder (which was designed for listening to music) to load and save programs. Programs were stored and distributed on audio tapes.

There was almost no official software for BK-0010-01. People usually created games and application software at home (or, who had access to DVK and/or other computers - at their work) and distributed it by post for free or for donations (software was not considered as an intellectual property in the USSR until late 1980s or even 1990).

When BK-0011M was released, it already had a controller to connect a floppy drive, and OS RT-11 (which was also used on DVK) was ported to it (with the name BK-11). It was possible to use some software developed for RT-11. With a floppy controller, a couple of other (unofficial, "self-made") operating systems were developed (ANDOS, MKDOS and other) and made BK-0011M usage easier - people didn't need to load programs from tapes. That controller was modified by enthusiasts to work on BK-0010(-01) too.

When Soviet Union was demolished, IBM PC-compatible computers appeared in former SU countries, but they were very expensive. BK was still in use until 1999 (or even more). A company named AltPro developed a hard drive controller for BK in 1997, it was possible to use hard drives.

In addition to home use, this computer was also used at schools. Using a special controller and ROM, computers were connected to a "network" (actually, it allows to load/save programs and games from teacher computer's tape or floppy drive). School setup was called "set of educational computer equipment" (комплект учебной вычислительной техники, КУВТ, KUVT).

DVK or BK-0011M could be used as a teacher computer with floppy drive, and BK-0010-01 as students' computers.
In 1987, UKNC (учебный компьютер научного центра, Educational computer of Scientific Center) was released for school use, it was also based on PDP-11-compatible CPU and used OS RT-11 clone.

(The picture at the right shows KUVT replication made in St.Petersburg museum by Stanislav Korovin as a competition work).

Interest in BK-0010/0011 does not fade away even now. There is a big community in Russia and CIS countries, people develop new games, demos and even hardware controllers.
For example, SMK-512 was developed by Nazim Musaev as a "successor" of AltPro controller in 2010-2012 (it's based on FPGA and has 512K RAM, FDD, HDD and CF controllers).

ISKRA-123 Calculating Machine

ISKRA-123 ("Iskra" is Russian for "spark") is the first Soviet electronic keyboard programmable calculating machine. It was produced from 1973 until 1979. It doesn't have CPU as a unit, it's built on MOS integrated circuits. It has memory on Magnetostrictive delay lines (delay lines memory was used in the earliest computers, like UNIVAC, but ISKRA uses magnetostrictive non-mercury delay lines). Gas-discharge lamps are used for indication.

The machine was used in organizations, mostly by engineers.

ISKRA-123 can perform four arithmetic operations, exponentiation and square root extraction. Also, it has 5 memory registers, supports brackets and can perform calculations according to a program. It doesn't have trigonometric and logarithmic functions, but using Maclaurin polynomials it's possible to calculate them.

ISKRA-123 with opened case. Boards with microchips and lamps are visible. Its power supply is on the left side.

Virtual Exhibition Desk

To the virtual exhibition desk

Just use a web browser and click on the link above to join me at my virtual desk. No software installation is required.

I will be available at the indicated times.
I can demonstrate BK-0010-01 usage cases, application software and games. Tape functionality will be shown using a real cassette recorder. Visitors can see how everything changed when a floppy controller had been released, operating systems and other application software used in 1985-1999 on BK-0010-01.
Because I don't have BK-0011M, it's possible to use an emulator to show BK-0011-specific stuff (for example, BK-11 OS isn't running on BK-0010-01).

In addition I will use a web camera to present my devices.

Here, you will find the times and days when the room is open to have a look at the exhibition, for questions, discussions and chit chat with the exhibitor.

Availability Times

Day Day
Saturday 12:30 - 16:00
Saturday 17:30 - 20:00
Sunday 12:30 - 16:00
Sunday 17:00 - 19:00

Demo Times

During my BK-0010-01 demonstration, I will shortly tell about computers' usage in SU in 1980s (at organizations, in schools and at home). I will show BK-0010-01 most common usage cases and some games, using a real cassette recorder. Then, I will demonstrate how everything changed when a floppy controller had been released, operating systems (and shortly describe their internals) and other application software used in 1985-1999 on BK-0010-01. I will also tell visitors about other controllers developed for these computers and usage cases in education.

During my ISKRA-123 demonstration, I will show different modes and programs which ISKRA supports (using brackets, memory registers, writing, running and debugging programs).

All demonstrations will be held in English.

Day Time Demo
Saturday 13:00 - 13:45 BK-0010-01 - Soviet 16-bit Home computer
Saturday 15:00 - 15:30 Pre-CPU Age: ISKRA-123 calculating machine cancelled for now
Sunday 13:00 - 13:45 BK-0010-01 - Soviet 16-bit Home Computer
Sunday 15:00 - 15:30 Pre-CPU Age: ISKRA-123 calculating machine - short demonstration

BK-0010/0011/0011M emulator (in Russian)

You can contact me by email: mercurius@elming.su or root@lizaurus.com

en/soviet_computers.1602345123.txt.gz · Last modified: 2020/10/10 17:52 by merclangrat