Soviet-Era Computer Is Both A Mystery And A Disaster

There are plenty of bizarre computers around from the 70s through the 90s before the world somewhat standardized around various duopolies of hardware vendors and operating systems. Commodore, Atari, and even Apple had some bizarre machines from this era but for our money, the most unusual systems come out of the Eastern Bloc. We’ve featured plenty of these before, and the latest is a Robotron CM1910 which comes to us from [Chernobyl Family] via YouTube.

Built in East Germany behind the wall, the Robotron factories had easier access to Soviet than western parts, but the latter were also available when necessary. Hence it’s built on an Intel 8086 processor, which seems common enough for the era, but after opening the case some non-standard construction becomes apparent.

The first is a densely-packed array of circuit boards and wiring, far beyond what a western PC might have included in this time. This also partially explains its massive 25 kg weight. It does include a hard drive, two floppy disk drives, a large dedicated graphics card, and a modem which all contribute as well. The overall design philosophy of the machine was a headscratcher too, which would have involved near-complete dismantling of the machine to access or repair some of the parts, as well as some hidden peripheral and drive controllers in questionable locations.

From the looks of it, we doubt this computer will see any uptime anytime soon, although they did at least restore the keyboard. With all of the chips accessible on PCBs, it might be possible to get this machine up and running again although it would take a massive effort thanks to its non-standard design and construction, and might also require help from builds like this to replace or emulate some of the hardware.

Thanks to [Stephen] for the tip!

54 thoughts on “Soviet-Era Computer Is Both A Mystery And A Disaster

  1. So they mixed various components from different sources in a cluttered overweight mess that’s impossible to maintain. Not so different from modern software developement philosophy then.

    1. You should sort your cluttered mind before you try – unsuccessfully – to understand a product that most probably did a great job then, based on restricted part availability, so it had to be replaced by design intelligence .

          1. Umm, no, by very definition, no. I mean, you engineer a solution, but doing the planning, measuring, calculations, and so on. A kludge is jamming shit together and hoping for the best. Completely the opposite.

        1. The A7150 wasn’t as primitive as it looks.
          It had a “full” 8086 rather than an cut-down 8088, a software-controlled power supply (like ATX had a decade later), automatic detection of fixed-disk capacity (we’re talking about pre-IDE, folks), a “COL” (colour) graphics card capable of 640×480 in 16c out of 4096c (max., NEC µPD7220 equivalent) – before VGA was common on western PCs.

          For an XT-Class machine it was quite impressive, I think. Almost like a German counterpart to an 80s era Japanese PC-98 PC.

          1. Yeah. Robotron was innovating (out of need) and a lot of their computer designs are pretty cool.

            A few years back, “Computing behind the iron curtain” was the theme of a Vintage Computer Festival in Germany, and it was eye-opening.

            Plus, coolest possible company name.

    1. DCP and MUTOS, as well as SCP and BOS. I think. I’m merely a layman, since I’m more of a Wessie rather than an Ossie. Someone from ex-GDR who had actually worked with these systems could probably make a proper statement.


  2. One of the operating systems running on such PCs was DCP, the Disc Control Program.
    It was an MS-DOS 3.20/3.30 cop.., err, compatible operating system.
    The supplied utilities were adapted for some of the slightly non-IBM compatible aspects of those PCs.

  3. A search for its real name ‘Robotron A 7150’ would yield much more hits and details than its export designation.

    And by the way – East(ern) Germany – the areas of East Prussia and Silesia – are currently under administration of Poland according to UN regulations. At least until there is a real peace treaty. I always wonder why Poland is still and even more pressing for reparations recently – as the need to solve this issue would come up with this too…

    1. I thought I recognized VME bus connectors in there, having worked on VME based Sun 3 equipment back in the 1980s/1990s. It is kind of strange to use an 8086 as the processor because VME was kind of defined around the Motorola 68000 processor’s bus and signaling requirements.

      NuBus which used similar looked connectors was developed by MIT and Western Digital to be processor agnostic, and it was picked up by Apple for Macintosh II machines, ironically using 68K family CPUs.

  4. So this is effect a Komi-Dore 64 running RuskiDos ? 😂 Are there any files on the hard drive? Like invasion plans ? Does it want to play Thermonuclear War ?

  5. It was tough working at the Robotron factory. Workers were constantly crowding you, OSHA violations were everywhere, and you’d have to be careful not to get run over by push-carts. If you stayed late, they’d chase you out of the building by tossing charged capacitors at you. Often, it was bring-your-kid-to-work day, though the engineers were always trying to teach the kids mind tricks. It just seemed to make them more surly. I heard someone made a game about it.

  6. Both of them have zero common sense and knowledge about history of computers. They was both so young to understend this part of history.
    In this times, computers was not made that anybody can repair them. They was made for specific task and to last forever. Ribbon cables was normal thing in electronic, not “weird”. There was no uneducated self called IT masters. People sent computer to service. Who know how this hardware is assembled, he repaired it easy. He know how to dissasemble it fast. In video they was trying oposite way, maybe for show.
    There was strange constructions from all sides of world because there was no standard. Everybody made what he think is the best.
    There was no modules and specific parts to buy anywhere, impossible to fund and order on internet like now, it was hard to get parts you need.
    Now you have “PC masters” in service that don’t have to know how components on motherboard work. They in fact just change modules.
    Watching how they “don’t know how to take part of hardware out” was disgusting.

  7. cluttered overweight mess? I guess some seem to think, believe and expect that there should have been loose leaf thin TVs and touch screen tablets and voice activation in those eras too. FYI to anyone born after those eras, in 2008, I bought a 32″ Analog RCA TV from Best Buythat weighed more than me that was better than any TV you could buy today for gaming that made me top 3 world champ in XBOX 360 Gears of War 1. 😉

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