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Discovering Eastern Europe PCs by Hacking Them … Today

Abstract : A rich array of personal computers was developed in Eastern Europe during the later years of the Cold War. Because computer science would not be the same without personal computers, these devices deserve greater attention in the history of computing. The story in the West, the so-called PC revolution, started in the late 1970s: it was rooted in hobbyist and do-it-yourself clubs and brought the discipline closer to many people. A revolution took place also on the other side of the Iron Curtain: it happened a few years later, yet in a comparable way. Faced with an embargo that limited the availability of the first western PCs, Eastern Europe companies and hobbyists innovated on their own, providing the users with a number of home and personal computers. Today, the scenario of personal computing has completely changed; however, the computers of the 1980s are still objects of fascination for a number of retrocomputing fans who still enjoy using, programming and hacking the old 8-bits. Yesterday’s hobbyists have become today’s retrocomputing enthusiasts: they provide an important window into these Eastern Europe PCs, which otherwise would have been forgotten.In this article we give an overview on about fifty Eastern Europe PCs from the late 1970s to the 1980s. A few were clones of Western PCs, others shared some hardware and were compatible, others used significant portions of the firmware. Besides the preservation of old hardware and software, the retrocomputing community is engaged in the development of emulators and cross-compilers. Such tools can be useful for historical investigation based on reverse engineering. For example, we used one of them to investigate the originality of the BASIC interpreters loaded in the ROMs of Eastern Europe PCs.
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Stefano Bodrato, Fabrizio Caruso, Giovanni Cignoni. Discovering Eastern Europe PCs by Hacking Them … Today. IFIP International Conference on the History of Computing (HC), Sep 2018, Poznan, Poland. pp.279-294, ⟨10.1007/978-3-030-29160-0_14⟩. ⟨hal-02386534⟩

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