October 11th, 2010 ~ by admin

Soviet Beauties: Processors from behind the Iron Curtain

The Soviet Union’s electronic programs were mainly focused on copying and cloning Western devices.  Either by simple theft, or painstaking reverse engineering.  They made clones of devices such as the Intel 8080, and the AMD 2901 as well as simple TTL.  The Soviets also made many single and multi-chip versions of the venerable DEC PDP-11 computer system.  Many of these have no Western analogs, they were pure creations of the Soviet industry.

Soviet Kvantor 580VM80 - Intel 8080 - Milspec

While Western chips rapidly transitioned into mostly black plastic by the 1980s the Soviets did not.  The 8080 above was made in 1991 though looks like something from the 70’s. Black plastic is cheap, and easy to make, but it isn’t great looking. The Soviets on the other hand made some of the best looking (if not always functioning) processors of the time.

Soviet J-11 Missing the chips

Here is just the substrate (its a non finished example) of a Soviet clone of the DEC J-11 CPU. Not often do you see a brilliant blue processor.

Soviet Angstrem K1801VM1

This is a nice pink ceramic Soviet PDP-11 5MHz CPU. Again this was made in 1991.  Its a form of surface mount package that was used extensively for industrial and military designs.  Just as the PDP-11 was used by the American military throughout the 70’s and 80’s. the Soviets used it (and now Russians) in todays times.

Soviet era CPUs are very interesting to collect.  Each state run factory had their own logo which was typically (but not always) put on the chip. Many part numbers were made by more then one factory. Most chips have a western analog, but not all.  Soviet chips also were ever so slightly different sized then Western ones. The Soviets used a pin spacing of 2.5mm where as the West used 0.1″ (2.54″), rather noticeable on a 40 pin DIP. Reading/translating some of the Cyrillic  based characters can be a chore but really when you get to see things like this…

Electronika J-11 - Image courtesy of iguana_kiev

Can you really complain?

4 Responses to Soviet Beauties: Processors from behind the Iron Curtain

  1. The CPU Shack Museum » Blog Archive » The History of the SMS300 and Signetics 8X300 Processors

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  2. Serge

    “While Western chips rapidly transitioned into mostly black plastic by the 1980s the Soviets did not.”
    Not quite correct. Soviets made plastic ICs just as much as western companies did. You can find pictures of KR580IK80A in plastic packages made in 1983. Also most of K155/K176 logic (74xx and CD4xxx) were made in plastic packages since ’70s.
    Military (and some industrial) ICs is a bit different story, and they almost always use ceramic packages. It is the same both for Soviet and western components.
    Also regarding reliability – back in 1990 I worked for a small company were we “repaired” a bunch of new ES1841 computers, and they mostly had mechanical problems – unreliable connectors, damage due to transportation to HDDs. I don’t remember a single case of a bad CPU or some another ASIC.

  3. admin

    Been away for a while, thanks for your comment (and additional info)

  4. nop

    Soviet chips were unreliable, but the milspec ones were very throughly tested. Some plastic ones could fail after a few hundreds or thousands hours. ROMs, RAM, i8255 clones could be very unreliable. Yields were low, costs were high, technology lag very significant. While there are some cool military designs produced in tiny numbers with huge effort, vast majority of mass-produced chips were direct clones of the western ones, but less reliable, more costly to produce and already outdated.

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