History of computer hardware in Yugoslavia

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The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY) was a socialist country that existed in the second half of the 20th century. Being communist meant that strict technology import rules and regulations shaped the development of computer history in the country, unlike in the Western world. However, since it was a non-aligned country, it had no ties to the Soviet Bloc either. One of the major ideas contributing to the development of any technology in SFRY was the apparent need to be independent of foreign suppliers for spare parts, fueling domestic computer development.

1960: CER-10
1964: CER-20
1966: CER-200
1967: CER-22
1971: CER-12

Development[edit]

Early computers[edit]

In former Yugoslavia, at the end of 1962 there were 30 installed electronic computers, in 1966, there were 56, and in 1968 there were 95.[1] Having received training in the European computer centres ( Paris 1954 and 1955, Darmstadt 1959, Wien 1960, Cambridge 1961 and London 1964), engineers from the BK.Institute-Vinca and the Mihailo Pupin Institute- Belgrade, led by Prof. dr Tihomir Aleksić, started a project of designing the first "domestic" digital computer at the end of the 1950s. This was to become a line of CER (Serbian Cifarski Elektronski Računar, Cyrillic ЦЕР - Цифарски Електронски Рачунар - Digital Electronic Computer), starting with the model CER-10 in 1960, a primarily vacuum tube and electronic relays-based computer.

By 1964, CER-20 computer was designed and completed as "electronic bookkeeping machine", as the manufacturer recognized increasing need in accounting market. This special-purpose trend continued with the release of CER-22 in 1967, which was intended for on-line "banking" applications.

There were more CER models, such as CER-11, CER-12, and CER-200, but there is currently little information here available on them.

In the late 1970s, "Ei-Niš Računarski Centar" from Niš, Serbia, started assembling Mainframe computers H6000 under Honeywell license, mainly for banking businesses. Computer initially had a great success that later led into local limited parts production. In addition, the company produced models such as H6 and H66 and was alive as late as early 2000s under name "Bull HN". Models H6 were installed in enterprises (e.g., telecom) for business applications and ran the GCOS operating system. Also, they were used in education. E.g., one of the built Honeywell H6 was installed in local electronics engineering and trade school "Nikola Tesla" in Niš and was used for training and educational purposes until late 80s and dawn of personal computers.

Imports[edit]

Eventually, the communist government of SFRY allowed foreign computers to be imported under strict conditions. This led to the increasing dominance of foreign mainframes and a continuous reduction of relative market share for domestic products.

Despite this, since the interest in computer technology grew overall, systems built by the Mihailo Pupin Institute (first CER, then TIM lines) and Iskra Delta (e.g. model 800, derivative of PDP-11/34 [1]) continued to evolve through the 1970s and even the 1980s.

Early 1980s: Home computer era[edit]

Many companies attempted to produce microcomputers similar to 1980s home computers, such as Ivo Lola Ribar Institute's Lola 8, M.Pupin Institute's TIM-001, EI's Pecom 32 and 64 [2], PEL Varaždin's Galeb (computer) and Orao, Ivel Ultra and Ivel Z3, etc. Jožef Stefan Institute in Ljubljana made first 16-bit microcomputer PMP-11 under the leadership of Marijan Miletic, former technical director of Iskra-Delta in 1984. It had 8 MHz DEC T-11 CPU, maximum of 64 kB RAM, 10 MB hard disk, 8 " diskette and two RS-232 ports for VT-100 video terminal and COM. Branko Jevtic modified RT-11 operating system so plenty of DEC-11 applications were available. Some 50 machines were made before IBM AT became widely available. Many factors caused them to fail or not even attempt to enter the home computer market:

  • they were prohibitively expensive for individuals (especially when compared to popular foreign ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, etc.)
  • lack of entertainment and other software meant they were not appealing to majority of contemporary computer enthusiasts
  • they were not available in stores

The end result was that domestic computers were predominantly used in government institutions that were prohibited from purchasing imported equipment. Those computers that could have been connected to existing mainframes and used as terminals were more successful in business environments, while others were used as educational tools in schools. Given that all medium and large enterprises in the country were government-owned, this was still a significant part of the domestic market which explains both the unnatural, relative success of domestic business computers, as well as why IBM PC/AT and compatibles had a low influx in the local business market.

However, while the government tried to proliferate domestic home computers by introducing the cost and memory size limitations for imports, many people imported them nevertheless either illegally or by dividing a single computer into pieces that separately fit within prescribed restrictions. Lack of proper legislation and such grey market activity only helped the demise of domestic home computer production. By the middle of the decade home computer market was, much like in the rest of the Europe, dominated by Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum as a runner up.

One domestic microcomputer model managed to stand out - Galaksija. Created by Voja Antonić, the entire do-it-yourself diagrams and instructions were published in the special issue of popular science magazine "Galaksija" called Računari u vašoj kući (Computers in your home) in January 1984. Although initially unavailable for purchase in assembled form, more than 1,000 enthusiasts built the microcomputer for games. Many were later produced for use in some schools.

Home computers were widely popular in SFRY - so much so that software (otherwise recorded on cassette tapes) was broadcast by radio stations (e.g. Ventilator 202, Radio Študent Ljubljana etc.). Due to lack of regulation software piracy was common and pirated software for sale was freely advertised in popular computer magazines of the time, such as Računari, Svet kompjutera, Moj Mikro and Revija za mikroračunala. Cheap (pirated) software lead to essentially every home computer owner having access to hundreds, if not thousands of software titles. This would later cause a mixture of both good and bad effects. Development tools were easy to obtain (inexpensive pirated software) generating many widely recognized computer experts but those same experts were unable to succeed in their own, domestic, market due to the same piracy that allowed them to learn their art so well.

Late 1980s: PC era[edit]

The second half of the 1980s saw the rise of popularity of IBM AT compatible among business users, and a slow movement towards 16-bits like Amiga and Atari ST computers in the enthusiast market, while mainstream home computing was still largely dominated by the ubiquitous C-64. Domestic computer hardware manufacturers produced a number of different IBM AT compatibles, such as TIM-microcomputers and Lira, and the first domestic Unix workstation (in one of the configurations, Iskra Delta's Triglav was shipped with Microsoft's Xenix) but their success was again limited to government-controlled companies that were required to purchase only domestic or legally imported technology.

Timeline[edit]

1960

1964

1966

1967

1971

1979

1980

1983

1984

1985

1986

1988

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Mesarić, Milan. Suvremena znanstveno tehnička revolucija, Ekonomski institut, Zagreb, 1971., p 58.

Literature and reference publications[edit]

(A) ( CER and TIM computers lines):
  • 1). Djordje Kovačević(Ed):"Monografija IMP", Institut Mihajlo Pupin, Belgrade, 1964 .
  • 2)."Računar CER-Vinča", Proc. of the Conf.ETAN-1960, (Rajko Tomović, A.Mandzić, T.Aleksić, P.Vrbavac, V.Masnikosa, D.Hristović, M.Marić ), pp. 305–330., Belgrade,November 18, 1960.
  • 3)."CER-22 computer", HPEEA journal, No10, pp 5–12, (Dušan Hristović), Belgrade October 1969;
  • 4)."MP struktura HRS-101 računara", Automatika, No3, pp. 173–179,(Dušan Hristović), Zagreb 1972;
  • 5)."Računari TIM", Drag. Milićević, Dušan Hristović (Ed.), Naučna knjiga, Beograd, 1990;
  • 6)."Prikaz i analiza računara CER", V.Paunović, D.Hristović, Proc.of the Conf.ETRAN-2000, vol.III, pp. 79–82, Sokobanja, June 6, 2000;
  • 7)."Гибриднаја вичисл.система ГВС-100" (Зборник статеи,ИПУ, Москва 1974), Г.Константинов,С.Оиданич, Д.Христович и др.(Цифроваја част ГВС-100, рр.14-19).
  • 8). Vladan Batanović, Jovan Kon(Ed): "IMP Riznica znanja", pp. 25–28, Inst.M.Pupin-PKS, Belgrade 2006.
  • 9). Dušan Hristović: "Razvoj računarstva u Srbiji" (Development of the Computing Technology in Serbia), PHLOGISTON journal, No 18/19, pp. 89–105, Museum MNT-SANU, Belgrade 2010/2011.
  • 10).D.Bečejski-Vujaklija, N.Marković(Ed): "50 GODINA RAČUNARSTVA U SRBIJI (Hronika digitalnih decenija)", zbornik-knjiga, DIS,IMP and PC-Press, Belgrade 2011. In Serbian.

(B) Hybrid Computing System HRS-100 *(Hardware and Design Principles),pp. 5–52,Ed.B.J.Kogan,IPU AN.USSR,Moscow 1974.

(Sci.principal investigators* are:prof.B.Kogan-IPU,Moscow and P.Vrbavac,G.Konstantinov-IMP,Belgrade). Chief designers* of the HRS-100 were: (a). Digital part- S.Ojdanić, D.Hristović (SFRY), A.Volkov, V.Lisikov (USSR); (b). Analogue part- N.Mihaylov(USSR), S.Marjanović, P.Pejović (SFRY); (c). Link- M.Hruška, Č.Milenković(SFRY), A.Spiro(USSR); (d). Software- E.Trahtengerc, V.Arlazarov (USSR), N.Parezanović (SFRY).|

* Additional References:
  • 1) "GVS-100", Ed.prof.Boris Kogan, IPU Moscow 1974.(the book in Russian).||
  • 2) "Proc.of Intern.Congress AICA-1973", pp. 305–324, Prague, August 27–31.1973.||
  • 3) "Analog Computing in the Soviet Union", D.Abramovitch, IEEE Control Systems Magazine, pp. 52–62, June 2005.