Red Agat-4 model
|Media||Cassette tapes, 5¼-inch floppy disks|
|CPU||UMC UM6502 |
|Memory||64 KB, 128 KB or 256 KB RAM, 32 KB ROM|
|Display||64×64 (16 colors), 128×128 (8 colors), 256×256 (black & white)|
|Power||Internal Power Supply (220 V, 60 W)|
|Dimensions||460 cm × 350 cm × 160 cm|
The Agat (Russian: Агат) was a series of 8-bit computers produced in the Soviet Union. A clone of the Apple II with some modifications, it was only partially compatible with Apple. Commissioned by the USSR Ministry of Radio, for many years it was a popular microcomputer in Soviet schools. First introduced at a Moscow trade fair in 1983, the Agat was primarily produced between 1984 and 1990, although a limited number of units may have been manufactured as late as 1993.
Architecture and Design
The Agat was based primarily on the design of the Apple II, but circumstances in the Soviet Union necessitated certain changes to the design. Primary among these were the lack of a reliable local source of the MOS Technology 6502 microprocessor. To compensate for this, a domestically produced "partitioned 588 series" CPU was used instead, which simulated the 6502 instruction set. While this permitted some degree of compatibility with the Apple, timing differences between the two CPUs rendered certain tasks (such as hard disk access and sound generation) impossible. Later models incorporated actual MOS 6502 CPUs which permitted a greater degree of interoperability between the two platforms.
Early editions of the Agat came with a cassette tape reader and a keyboard, although later editions replaced the tape reader with a 5¼ inch floppy disk drive. The keyboard utilised the standard Russian keyboard layout, and offered a choice between either Cyrillic or Latin symbols. Earlier models had very limited upgradeability, but later models incorporated additional upgrade and peripheral slots to allow expansion. Other available peripherals included a printer, mouse, and memory upgrades. The display was provided through a 30 cm Secam television, rather than a specialised computer monitor, that was connected to the rest of the machine through a 1 metre long cable.
Apart from the initial model, there were a number of different versions of the Agat produced:
- Agat-4: A small quantity of this model was released in 1983. While popular, it quickly became obsolete.
- Agat-7: The first mass-produced model, introduced in 1986, it featured more internal memory and disk capabilities than the Agat-4.
- Agat-8: An updated and enhanced version of the Agat-7.
- Agat-9: The final mass-produced model, with many improvements upon the Agat-7 and Agat-8, including additional video modes, improved memory management, and improved compatibility with the Apple II + 64K.
The initial run of Agat-4 machines were produced at the "Lianozovsky Electromechanical Plant" (LEMZ). Production was difficult, as the LEMZ facilities were more intended for the production of motor vehicles and radar equipment, rather than computers, and the administration of the plant was not closely associated with the designers of the Agat. Future production runs occurred at more appropriate facilities such as the "Volzhsky Plant of Computer Technology" (EWT) and the "Zagorski Electromechanical Plant" (ZEMZ).
Compared to other computers available in the Soviet Union at the time, the Agat was several times cheaper, which led to its widespread adoption in schools and other educational institutions across the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc. Despite this affordability, it was still out of reach of all but the most privileged of private individuals, with a single computer costing as much as twenty times the average monthly salary. This is reflected in the fact that most of the software available for the Agat is of an educational nature—including a BASIC interpreter, text editing programs, and the "Schkol'nitza" ("schoolgirl") package, designed to assist teachers in the classroom.
BYTE in November 1984 called Agat "a bad copy of the Apple". While stating "my overall impressions were favorable, considering the source", the reviewer found that "the operating system and ROM seemed to be a direct lift from the Apple", the internals were a "nightmarish wire maze", and that performance was noticeably slower than that of a real Apple. He reported that ELORG planned to sell the computer for $17,000, and that its officials were "shocked" when told how much computing power that amount of money would purchase in the United States; nonetheless, the reviewer concluded, "it wouldn't stand a chance in today's international market, even if they gave it away. It has neither the polish nor the sophistication to compete".
- "Soviet Digital Electronics Museum -- AGAT-9 -- АГАТ-9". Retrieved 6 July 2010.
- Rezun, Miron (1996). Science, technology, and ecopolitics in the USSR. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 71–72. ISBN 0-275-95383-1.
- "Old-Computers.com - LEMZ Agat". Retrieved 26 December 2009.
- Walgenbach, Stefan. "HCM: East European Home Computers". Retrieved 3 January 2010.
- "Personal computers ("Agat")" (in Russian). January 13, 2004. Archived from the original on March 8, 2008. Retrieved 26 December 2009.
- Dubova, Natalia. "The first Soviet computer". Computerworld Russia (in Russian) (№18). Retrieved 27 December 2009.
- Schellenberg, Kathyrn (1988). Computers in Society (2nd ed.). Dushkin. p. 169. ISBN 0-87967-727-9.
- Bores, Leo D. MD (November 1984). "Agat / A Soviet Apple II Computer". BYTE. p. 134. Retrieved 23 October 2013.