SM EVM A131-10 advice

Tomasz Rola rtomek at
Tue Jan 2 14:08:39 CST 2018

On Sun, Dec 24, 2017 at 03:49:11PM -0500, william degnan via cctalk wrote:
> On Sun, Dec 24, 2017 at 10:58 AM, Greg Smith via cctalk <
> cctalk at> wrote:
> > Hi, I'm brand new to vintage computing and would love any advice. I'm
> > thinking of putting together a SM EVM A131-10 and would appreciate any
> > advice/knowledge on the unit.
> >
> Learn to read Russian?  That's a Soviet-era computer correct?  There are a
> few here that might be able to help.
> BIll


I can see that nobody gave longer answer, so I guess I may try. tl,dr
- I am not going to be helpfull beyond writing this email, because I
am way too newbie to consider engaging myself into this, and I am a
bit too loaded to learn new things in comfortable setting while a
sh*tload cries for my attention... So now when we all know what my
opinion is worth, here you are.

SM EVM (СМ ЭВМ) was name given to few lines of clones (or if you
prefer, hardware emulators) of some Western computers made by Soviet
Union (and later few more countries of Soviet block - like, Poland,
Hungary, Cuba, Bulgaria, East Germany/German Democratic Republic,
Czechoslovakia - I am not sure about Romania, but otherwise everybody
has been involved, apparently). There were three lines (or four),
which emulated the following families [1][2]:

 - HP 2000
 - PDP11 (beyond SM EVM, there were few other projects for cloning those)
 - VAX (11/730 etc)
 - Intel 8080 up to 80386

Yours belongs to the first line, and seems to be a part of bigger
system [3]. A complete system could look more like [4] (please note, a
programming-capable astronomer is not included in a package) or
[5]. On [1] they claim "были полностью выполнены на советской
элементной базе" which (AFAICT) means they were based on soviet-made
electronics, thus I would not count on them being able to get plugged
with western-made modules (like, disks, floppies, memory banks) and
work without problem. Likewise, while it is possible to do various
great projects with soviet hardware, say in this (smaller) case [6],
where a programmable calculator Elektronika MK-85 (Электроника МК-85)
is being retrofitted with bigger RAM and ROM, which are more or less
western and contemporary, but a CPU itself is soviet made and PDP-11
compatible. There is no close, drop-in replacement, however - as
claimed by [7] [8], one of the closest is said to be DEC T11 cpu - so
once this cpu goes, I guess the calculator is gone, too.

The hardware was being accompanied with software. I guess it was
possible to run western "binaries" (unclear - I had no time to dive
deeper, there are mentions of running things like FOCAL, without
details - and if so, how the software was being transferred onto
soviet computer, did they plugged a floppy/tapereader in? or
what). There were also clones of operating systems, like quite a few
made of RT11, with mods allowing to use cyrillic alongside latin
script [9].

So I think knowing Russian is a must for your type of project, like
William mentioned (I know it well enough to read without GTrnaslator,
but I have to make up unknown words from the context, which slows me
down quite much, but learning hurts, so I should rejoice). And knowing
electronics to the point of being adventurous is probably a must
too. In case the computer was manufactured in another country, I am
afraid manuals would be in a language of that country (i.e., Polish,
Spanish, Hungarian and so on), so that means another language. As of
parts, I think most manufacturing facilities went tits up. If there
are some still in business, and they keep servicing old HW (big if,
but it seems at least in Russia, some of those consoles are still
blinking), then I do not think they have intention to sell on civilian
market. This means (murky) adventure(s) and I have no info.

Without having abovementioned properties, I think the PITA is going to
kill you. I might also be wrong, see above, and more above.

Those computers, while not a secret, were almost totally unknown to
me, until I started hitting wikipedia, decades later. So finding
anything related is going to be hard. Just MHO. I recall reading about
soviet computer once, short article with small photo - in those days
of Amiga craze, such constructs were no sexy at all. And much more
expensive than anything I might be buying here in Poland - I think
they were made to sell for industry, mining, production lines,
sometimes military, thus a teenager had no business to know about such
things. Adults only market. Which is why I happen to know Atari 800xl
a bit better than Polish Odra 1300.


[2] (sptth)://www.(yabe).com/itm/USSR-Soviet-SM-EVM-A131-10-CPU-OPERATING-CONTROL-CONSOLE-PANEL-1970s-/232386327097

To get proper url, reverse words in parentheses.








Happy New Year, everybody.

Tomasz Rola

** A C programmer asked whether computer had Buddha's nature.      **
** As the answer, master did "rm -rif" on the programmer's home    **
** directory. And then the C programmer became enlightened...      **
**                                                                 **
** Tomasz Rola          mailto:tomasz_rola at             **

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