Museum DataArt: industrial computers of known and unknown destination

Such specific machines in the DataArt collection still make up a small section. They were created to work in harsh conditions or areas requiring increased reliability, they also include computers, sharpened to solve one, but extremely important task. Tracing the origin and history of industrial computers can be especially difficult. In some cases, we rely on the help of readers of our blog, who may have once encountered such machines.

Automation of civilian production in the USSR gradually began only in the 1960s. Before that, the post-war conversion was very slow, all possible resources were allocated for the creation of new types of weapons and an increase in the production of military equipment. Therefore, during the 1950s, almost all developments in the field of electronics and automation remained secret and were used, first of all, in nuclear and space programs.

But already as a result of the Eighth “golden” five-year plan of 1966-1970, 2700 automatic control systems were introduced and 2600 computer centers were opened. It was then that a tendency to the introduction of ACS was formed, moreover, for directors of many enterprises, engineers and developers, this became almost an obsession. The result was not always successful. Soviet technology was already noticeably lagging behind, difficulties arose not only due to insufficient equipment, but also due to its low quality. The disunity of the economy also affected: countless computers of different architectures were constructed that were weakly compatible with each other. To create ACS, including many sensors, peripherals and other elements, this turned out to be an insoluble problem.

It is believed that as a separate direction in the development of computer technology, the creation of industrial computers took shape in the 1980s. IBM then released the Model 5531, an intermediate version between a desktop PC and a minicomputer. Most of the devices in our collection were made in the early 1990s in Western Europe, but there are also samples of Soviet electronics in the DataArt Museum.

1. "Electronics MS 2702", universal programmable controller, USSR

We were lucky with this device – Gleb Nitzman managed to purchase a complete set, including the module of the controller itself, a 16-key input panel with a 12-bit display and official documentation. The factory index of the controller "K1-20", it is part of the family of micro-computers Electronics K1. The main application of all devices of the family is debugging systems for the designed equipment, which use the same set of LSIs. In our case, the 580 series.

"Electronics K1-20" is intended for use in control systems of production, testing and instrumentation, which is connected via two connectors: XC2 and XC3. The software – “Monitor KPU” – a program of dialogue interaction with the user comes with the controller.

This controller is recalled by a former employee of the AvtoVAZ chief designer’s department, Yu. Mironov, in the second part of the book “High Thoughts of Flame” in the context of interaction between the ministry of the automotive industry and other ministries (energy, radio industry, etc.). True, he indicates not quite the LSI series on which the device is assembled, since there was no microprocessor in the K537 series of chips:

“Integral, by virtue of its ambitions, didn’t“ follow the lead of MAP ”(the ministry of the automotive industry) and decided to develop a controller based on a microprocessor kit of the K537 series of its own design. The result was a very complex and very expensive controller ("Electronics MS 2702"), the reliability of which was extremely low. Despite this, Integral nevertheless manufactured an experimental batch of controllers (200 pcs.) And put them on the VAZ and ZIL.

Thus, the ministerial order for the development of the plant was fulfilled.
Subsequently, Integral did its best to coordinate the use of this controller for VAZ and ZIL vehicles. But the cost of the controller of the experimental batch "Electronics MS 2702" was more than 1000 rubles, and the cost of the serial controller was in the range of 600-700 rubles. Naturally, the WHA didn’t do that. ”

2. Industrial computer Bernecker & Rainer, Austria

This complex rack-mountable modular computer was transferred to the museum’s collection by one of our former DataArt colleagues, product manager Nikolai Gorbunov. Now we are trying to establish where this computer was installed and what tasks it performed.

Bernecker & Reiner, founded in Austria in 1979, was mainly involved in the automation of complex production lines. In 1983, she launched the B&R Multicontrol series of modular computers. The modules were built around the 8-bit Motorola 6809 microprocessor, in our case analogues were used – Hitachi's HD63B09EP.

Such microprocessors are known primarily as the basis of gaming computers Commodore SuperPET and TRS-80 Color Computer. But they were also used in very serious systems for which Microware Corporation specially developed the OS-9 real-time operating system.

Multicontrol modules were assembled and installed in a rack. Our system instance consists of:

  • NT40 power module 24 volts, 50 watts;
  • CPU module CP80 on a microprocessor architecture Motorola 6809:

    This module is equipped with a very specific security system – physical access keys. Depending on the role of an engineer who had access to a computer, the key itself changed. For example, the administrator key is the longest of the bunch, they can rotate the selector in all positions.

  • set of coprocessor modules MAESTRO: control module on a microprocessor of Motorola 6809 architecture, memory expansion module MM2M, graphics controller module MGC2, network controller module for connecting to Ethernet networks MENC, hard disk module MDISC 40R;
  • two modules of peripheral processors PP40 with a static ROM of 16 Kb and an electrically erasable ROM of 16 Kb – again on a microprocessor of architecture Motorola 6809;
  • Module for 16 digital inputs E161;
  • module for 16 transistor outputs A115;
  • module for 16 digital relay outputs A161.

Despite the fact that most of these modules have already been discontinued, the equipment is still used in some European plants.

3. Platform for the development of industrial computers from Gesytech, Germany

The platform is built on x86 architecture. The device includes a shockproof case, and the software for it is also developed by Gesytech.


The exhibit in the DataArt collection was also transferred by Nikolai Gorbunov

In our case, we used an AMD Elan SC410 microprocessor, a unit with reduced energy consumption and an integrated Am486 core – an analog of Intel i80486.

Gesytech was created by graduate students at Aachen University. Since 1992, the company has been developing and automating production; in the late 1990s, it created its own series of debugging devices. Our platform is built on one board with two 16 MB DIMM-based memory modules. This is put in the name – the whole board is called DIMM PC. In the 2000s, Gesytech released a series of similar single-board, energy-efficient computers, changing the processor and increasing the amount of memory.

A single-board computer connects to the I / O port interface board: RS 232, COM2 port for connecting a printer, RJ45 port with the ability to connect other peripheral devices. An additional board allows you to increase the number of connected elements.

The machine runs under the Windows CE operating system, for development it used Windows CE Platformbuilder 2.11.

4. The mysterious computer Bull (France)


The device for the museum was acquired by its mastermind – Gleb Nitzman

Of the identification marks, this industrial computer has only a tattered sticker with the name of the distribution center for computers of the French company Bull in Cologne and the date is 1993. We were convinced that the device was really made by Bull, having disassembled the all-in-one and checking the brands on the printed circuit boards.


Brands: Bull MTS and Bull S. A. (Société anonyme – joint-stock company)

Unfortunately, the documentation for this device is not at our disposal. The i80186 processor, Intel c8208 memory controller and a set of other LSIs indicate that they probably produced it no earlier than 1988. Placed pairs of ports for connecting peripherals and graphic outputs indicate that the device was intended for specific tasks.


Connectors also look unusual – in particular, a variation of the RJ type connector

So far, it has not been possible to accurately establish the model and purpose of the device. With the help of our Italian colleagues at Museo del Computer, we contacted former Bull engineers. But offhand they recognized the unit and took a break to study the issue. Perhaps you have your own options? Looking forward to hearing your suggestions!

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