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The Official Soviet Computer Thread

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We all know and love our retro computers - the A2, A8, C64, Amiga, ST, Spectrum, and all those other machines we knew in the West. But what about the Eastern Bloc? What a weird world of different machines!


While there are clones of the Spectrum and others, what about the in-house options? Primarily educational machines and used in universities, the USSR had its small share of homemade computers. Do you have one? What's it like? What do you use it for?


Are you from a former Eastern Bloc nation? Have any cool memories of these bizarre beasts?

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5 hours ago, ClausB said:



This guy from Hungary has some interesting eastern bloc programmable calculators.


A lot of Elektronika - were they the predominant internal Soviet "brand" for both calculators and computers? I know they made a variety of computers.

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Yes. "Branding" was a concept the Soviet Union hardly understood.

Identical products made in different factories may be called differently despite being carbon copies (especially true for vehicles), and on the other hand, as with Elektronika, various products manufactured in different factories in different part of the USSR were sold under the same blanket "brand".

And yet not all electronic devices were sold under the Elektronika brand. But I have no idea why.


And add to that export products that were either sold "blank" (no branding) or under the name of two exporting entities, the older MashPriborIntorg and the newer TechnoIntorg, abbreviated as Tento. (mostly for consumer products. you can add many others like AvtoExport for vehicles, StankoExport for industrial machinery...)

Edited by CatPix
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For computers, I own a certain share, in various way of workingness and useability.

One big issue with them is to source accessories, as basically nothing was made outside of the machine itself. RAM expansions, floppy drive adapters, etc... were all made by enthusiasts.

Thankfully modern solutions are made, tho they are usually hard to source unless you know Russian and/or someone to help (which is kinda did but well contact with Russia or Ukraine those days isn't too easy 😕 )

I own an Elektronika BK (which worked until recently... I hope it's only a dead RAM chip...), a Lvov PC-01, a Vector 06C (boots but require a tape to load a ROM which I couldn't find in sound format) a Poisk that doesn't work, and an Orel BK08.

The Orel BK-08 is a ZX spectrum clone, with better everything, except for compatibility, as the ROM was expanded to include cyrillic, some games will crash (due to memory adresses being different or something).






The Poisk is a XT clone from the late 80's. Unfortunately, RAM has issues (garbled display) and I do not own the floppy expansion, meaning that even if it worked I'be be stuck loading BASIC programs for the IBM XT. Of which there are none but the IBM tape test.

Interestingly, the text on the bottom corner seems to say "Computer for education and video games". Yes. Not entertainment, not amusement, but "video games". And the date on the back being 1991, it is a Soviet-era product.




Yes, this is a ZX Spectrum clone, with a true (and good, no less) keyboard, a RGB video output, separate output and inputs for tape recorder, and even two extra ports (that i couldn't find how to wire and what standard they may use... But they are here)


Fully translated BASIC. Nothing too fancy, the text just says "Basic - System Ver. 2.0" I guess you can notice there is no factory mention nor any copyright.



The Vector 06C machine is probably the most powerful 8 bits machine made in the Soviet Union. It is roughly as powerful as a MSX1; and it does feature MSX1 conversions.

Unlike every other Soviet computer, it is the only one know to feature a decent sound chip with 3 channels, making it able to play MSX or CPC-like chiptunes.


I also own a Soviet non-Soviet machine, that is, a Yamaha MSX2 YIS503IIIR КУВТ .

КУВТ (KUVT) stand for Complex of Educational Computer Equipment) and were a series of computers specially designed for schools. They were diverse, including a batch of MSX1 and 2 computers from Yamaha.

This one is the easiest to use. Save for a few issues, mostly tied to the Cyrillic keyboard and extra ROM, it is a perfectly standard MSX2 computer, albeit barebone.



(I love the fact that a bored child in school "painted" the MSX2 logo in blue pen ink. I could clean that but... Nah, it's too cute)




Edited by CatPix
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How were type-in programs distributed, if at all? I can understand the "serious" software being circulated in manuals etc., or amongst universities, but if a home user made, say, a BASIC game or program of some sort, were they limited to personal distribution? Were there magazines, books, other printed materials where programs people made could be circulated, similar to the West?


It seems like that would be much more difficult given the non-standardization of hardware. You couldn't just pop down to the local shop and pick up the SU equivalent of ANTIC, for example (or maybe you could in limited circles)?

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The Poisk had a selection of mass produced cassettes: system (with basic), 10 with games, and another 1 or 2 with programming languages. The other cassette PC compatible (MS-1502) had several cassettes with games and applications but I don't know if those were off a duplicating machine. The two systems had slightly different formats for storing executables on cassette so it is impossible to simply run the wrong cassette. The third PC compatible with cassette port hasn't had any cassettes saved but did have a number of cartridges available. It used a variation on the MSX cassette format so it can't use any cassettes for the IBM PC or the other Soviet clones. 


The non-standardization of systems resulted in the DDR devoting considerable effort to BASICODE. The BASICODE instructional text came with all the code on a 45 RPM record. Somewhere, I saw a list of East German production of software with something like 5 thousand units of WordPro (cassette word processor) and 200,000 copies of the special issue of computer magazine* covering BASICODE. 


* I think it was called REM but I can't find the source web page with a quick search. 

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5 minutes ago, Krebizfan said:

The non-standardization of systems resulted in the DDR devoting considerable effort to BASICODE. The BASICODE instructional text came with all the code on a 45 RPM record.

That's crazy! So was BASICODE essentially standardized across all hardware then, or were there stragglers? I suspect it was much less than in the US, for example, where just about every system had its own BASIC that wasn't fully interchangeable.


When you say the code was on a 45 RPM, do you mean there was some sort of interface to use it, or was it just narration or something? My brain for some reason can't wrap around the idea of it being on vinyl!

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13 minutes ago, Cebus Capucinis said:

That's crazy! So was BASICODE essentially standardized across all hardware then, or were there stragglers? I suspect it was much less than in the US, for example, where just about every system had its own BASIC that wasn't fully interchangeable.


When you say the code was on a 45 RPM, do you mean there was some sort of interface to use it, or was it just narration or something? My brain for some reason can't wrap around the idea of it being on vinyl!

East German computers had many hardware differences even among the ones using Z-80 clone chips. The BASICs also differed. This made a nationwide programming course difficult. BASICODE had a common cassette format that was used by the radio broadcasts of course work. In turn, that allowed disparate systems to exchange cassettes. 


The second part of BASICODE was a set of BASIC routines that made the various BASICs run the same code in the same way. BASICODE's routines were a bit large. The IBM PC version needed 8K to cover the full range of functions including color graphics. The Z-80 versions were smaller but that was still pushing the limits of what could be done with line number BASICs. BASICODE graphic routines were also slow; the one program I converted needed 3 times as long to draw the same graphic. 


The record was a standard 45 RPM record with the same audio that would be on a cassette. Hook the player to the cassette input on the computer and load the software. There were cassette import/export routines for about a dozen systems plus the adaption library for each system's BASIC. 

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14 minutes ago, Cebus Capucinis said:

Cool! Thanks! That was my next question, whether there was a custom interface or whether it just used the cassette input!

Just to the audio cassette interface for East German machines. The Dutch version of BASICODE used for their radio broadcasts was offered similarly with code that reprogrammed the cassette port but also had special adapters to permit cassette input on machines without cassette ports. The IBM PC compatible version hooked up to the parallel port* with other adapters for the Sinclair QL and Atari ST. There was even a version for the Amiga which was worked on in 2015 IIRC. Yes, almost 20 years after the last BASICODE broadcast.


 is Rob Hageman's overview of BASICODE in East Germany. 


* There was a similar parallel port to cassette interface available in the former Soviet Union permitting recovery of old computer cassettes using what were modern PCs with 486 processors. 

Edited by Krebizfan
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I do know that in Warsaw Pact countries (technically not part of the Soviet Union but yeah) there was a more active programming and computing scene. But maybe that's because I never found someone interested in collecting Soviet programming and computer magazines?

Yugoslavia was famous for their computing magazine, Računari (computer) which featured (for the era and place) rather raunchy covers... And interestingly, alot of Western computers and software.

Yugoslavian Computer Magazine Cover Girls of the 1980s-90s - FlashbakYugoslavian Računari Computer Magazine Covers : Flashbak : Free Download,  Borrow, and Streaming : Internet ArchiveComputers in your homeYugoslavian Računari Computer Magazine Covers : Flashbak : Free Download,  Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive


(not even the most raunchy covers... Look it for yourself 😛 )


For the active scene, you can think about the example of Novotrade (later Appaloosa Interactive) : a Hungarian software company founded in 1983, which became world famous for being the origins of the appearance of Tetris in Europe in 1986 (in the form of a Spectrum port, first) and even more famous for being the programmers of Ecco the Dolphin games.


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I do not know if these issues are available online (I compiled this list in the library many years ago), but Byte magazine ran a few articles on Soviet computers in the 1980s:


April '84      p. 351 Soviet computer hardware (chip specs)

November '84   p. 134 AGAT Soviet Apple II Clone


November '86   p. 137 Soviet MicroElectronics


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There were a lot of websites providing information on various computers manufactured in the former Comecon nations. Most of those were siloed exploring only the systems manufactured in a single country and written in that country's primary language. Overviews with more than just a few pictures are not common especially with text in English. 


I am much more interested in the designs that diverged from Western concepts. A Spectrum clone may have been more useful but so boring. 

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5 hours ago, Krebizfan said:

I am much more interested in the designs that diverged from Western concepts

I agree. While the clones are somewhat interesting in their own right, they're only slightly unique. The "Beige Borscht Boxes" are so much cooler! Or is it "Beige Boxes, Blin!"?

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AFAIK no "divergent design" was produced in a "small computer" format in the USSR.

Different architectures were experimented with mainframes (and quite alot over the years), from the beginning, but for "mass production" in the 70's and 80's, the Soviet decided on copying Western designs (which was mostly decided on who was the most influent and which solution saved ressources rather than something carefully studied, as you can expect from such a bureautratic dictatorship).


The chosen design was the PDP-11, from 1970, produced as mainframe, mini-computers, then desktop machines and even down to programmable pocket calculators.

Thus while the design is similar, they developed their own solution hardware-wise, and their own BASIC (Vilnius-BASIC, based on the MSX Basic).



(the very machine that was the creation of Tetris)

DVK computer :

ПЭВМ ДВК-2 (он мне дорог тем, что я с него начинал знакомство с ВТ, около  1988 г.). | Дискеты, Программное обеспечение, Компьютер


Wanna carry a PDP-11 in your pocket? Well, you can :



OFC due to different uses, manufacture dates and price, not all of those machines can run the same program, either because of them running different systems or lacking ressources (there is less RAM in an Elektronika BK than in the DVK for example, CPU speed is slower in the Elektronika MK-90 and there is even less RAM obviously).

Different system could be clones of the original PDP/11 OS, but also clone of FOCAL (BASIC-like language for PDP-11, used in early Elektronika BK) Vilnius-Basic (later models) and even Unix clones like DEMOS.


For different architectures, you had the Setun "computer" (mainframe?) developed in the 1960's and updated up to the fall of the Soviet Union, which used Ternary logic instead of binary logic (-1, 0, 1 instead of 0 and 1).


Another architecture developed in the Soviet Union and that continued until now (you may have even heard of it due to the recent events) is the Elbrus architecture that use Very Long Instruction Words

Elbrus is still updated and worked on, but mostly for the Russian Government. Russia had announced sales to the public... in 2020. Bad timing.

If you heard the news that Taiwan now stopped exporting processors to Russia, it wasn't (only?) about regular x86 and ARM CPU but also specifically TSMC stopping the manufacture and delivery of Elbrus processors.


In the "oddities" a few computers were made to be multi-systems, but they all used Western-designed CPU, like the Istra 4816 :


Containing a 8080 and a 8086 CPU.

Or the Iskra Triglav :

Iskra Dela Triglav 2007.jpg

Which could be equipped with up to 3 CPU at the same time : PDP/11 compatible CPU, a 80286 and a Motorola 68000. However from what I could read, it couldn't use all the CPU at the same time, just run OS using the specific CPU architecture.


(note : you'll find lot of "brands" in Iskra/Istra for Eastern products, as it simply mean "spark" but if they aren't made in the same country, they are unrelated products and factories)

Edited by CatPix
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Even with what appeared to be fairly standard technology, the approaches were sometimes radically different.


The BRG MCD-1 disk from Bulgaria looks like a typical floppy in a hard shell but a closer examination shows some oddities. Most normal floppy drives have the read/write heads squeeze down on both surfaces of the disk. The MCD-1 only opens a shutter for the lower surface with a piece of curved metal inside the disk to press down on the upper surface. 


The KC-85/4 seems like a normal late era Z-80 machine with 2 cartridge slots in a sort of pizza box case. The 64K of video memory is bit unusual. However, it is designed to stack. A layer with an extra 4 cartridge slots could be added then another layer with 2 cartridge slots and a floppy controller plus up to 4 layers more each with a single floppy drive could top the assemblage. The topmost floppy drive would be challenging to reach. The operating system choices were either the built-in CAOS* which is cassette first with disks as secondary storage or CP/M (MikroDOS) which was run on the 64K of RAM in the floppy controller element with the system memory used as a RAM disk. 


* CAOS stood for Cassette Aided Operating System. Yes, in English. Homegrown software was made to look stolen. 

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OFC in less exotic things, we can look at a few machines that had odd graphic output. We won't mention sound : There were never any sound chip copied in the USSR. Aftermarket AY chips and Covox were the most common add-ons/mods for many computers.


One exception (that I know of) is the Vector 06C which used an Intel timer clone (VI-53) as a sound chip. I'm sure you're familiar with the PC-Speaker? Well now imagine it, but with 3 output, and you get a really decent sound chip for 8 bits machines.

The Original Eletronika BK uses 3 colours : Red, Blue, and Green. In fact, the BK is internally using 4 shades of grey, and the "colour" output in RGB is really just the 3 shades of gray outputting on the Red, Blue and Green channel.

However several programmers made clever use of dithering to bring a few more colours to their games :


Do you really see yellow and purple?

image.png.6f48983818219279ad43ccbc2b1dbe10.png Or is that just all Red, Green and Blue all along?


People familair with Spectrum or CPC computers will certainly appreciate this port of Exolon :


The Vector 06C, as I mentionned before, while having it's own graphical chip organized in some odd way that I don't understand, is able to receive MSX ports :

MSX original :

(Vector 06C port)


To appreciate the music and sound, have a demo :



And this homebrew in progress :

Edited by CatPix
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  • 5 months later...

To be clear, there were dozens, and dozens, and dozens (maybe hundreds, and hundreds) of types of ZX Spectrum clones in ex-Soviet-Union (Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, etc) and in ex-Eastern-Bloc (Poland, Czech, Slovakia, etc) in late 1980's and 1990's. Heard about there were some types of ZX Spectrum clones in India, Uruguay, Brazil and some of Arabian Countries. A separate thread "Spectrum Clones Worldwide" is needed.

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The Eastern Bloc was consisted of very different countries with different manufacture cultures and different electronics.


Computers in Soviet Union... There were few types.

For Example...


PK-01 Lvov or PK-01 Lviv ("ПК-01 Львов" in Russian or "ПК-01 Львів" in Ukrainian) was developed in Lviv in 1986-1987 (Ukraine in those years was part of the Soviet Union). Computer was based on Soviet clone of i8080 CPU.


Soyuz-Neon PK-11/16 computer was developed in Moscow region in late 1980's, and released in 1992 (in early Russian Federation, after the collapse of the USSR in 1991). Computer was based on Soviet clone of PDP-11-compatible 16 bit CPU.


PK-01 Lvov / PK-01 Lviv and Soyuz-Neon PK-11/16 were not clones of any Western or Eastern computers, although they were based on cloned CPU's. And these computers are the ones I remember at the moment. There were some other Soviet computers too.

Edited by Sinyavin
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  • 8 months later...

Robotron was a brand name for various incompatible computers, rather than "one computer" (the concept of "brand" was a bit fuzzy in Communist regimes).

The most famous (and easily available) Robotron computers were the KC (KleinComputer, AKA Small computer) 85 and 87


To my understanding, it was mostly distributed to companies and institutions, but it mean that after the reunification, they were replaced and several found their way in hobbyists homes.



Of note is the KC Compact :


Unlike the other KC, it was an all-in-one unit (KC 85 and 87 were usable out of the box but it was almost always expected to have RAM and drive attachement added) and more importantly, so to say, it was an Amstrad CPC clone, the only CPC clone (that we know of).

Released in 1989, very few were sold and it's today an extremely rare machine that had zero impact whatsoever.

Edited by CatPix
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