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Before the COVID thing I was travelling in Eastern Europe and after I had to give up and come home in lockdown I got into retrocomputing channels on YouTube and started doing some coding on disk and tape formats for old 8-bit computers, all of which led me to find out that there was a whole range of locally made computers from Russia and the Eastern Bloc in the '80s and '90s. Especially clones of the British Sinclair ZX Spectrum, my first computer.

Even though I went to lots of secondhand shops in the Baltic countries, it didn't occur to me to look for old local computers, which I came to regret once I was home and found out there were ones made in countries I'd just been in, including Romania, Poland, and Lithuania.

So when this whole COVID thing hopefully recedes a bit and we can travel again I'll be heading back to Eastern Europe. Are there some computing museums over there that include local 8-bit machines such as Spectrum clones, PDP-11 clones, etc?

Anywhere from Russia to Bulgaria to Albania to Armenia, basically any of the former communist countries.

Update to focus the original intent of the question

When writing this question I didn't stop to think that one interpretation of "retrocomputing" was simply "old computers". This was silly of me and I didn't expect such a flood of answers, some of which are now getting a bit wide of the mark. I didn't intend to make a list question on all technology museums in Europe.

By "retrocomputing" I meant computers and related such as electronic games, now obsolete, from around the start of the microcomputer boom, up to around about the era of ubiquitous Wintel beige box. So this would include the 8-bit and 16-bit eras, and especially now-defunct lines.

By "Eastern Bloc" and "local" I meant basically the stuff we didn't see in the west at that time because of the "iron curtain". That would include anything totally invented in that area, clones of western tech, but even localized versions of western tech before the time western versions supported other languages out of the box. So anything modified or hacked to work with Cyrillic or accented letters would still qualify.

So big lists of computer museums located in Germany or Eastern Europe but only having an old Mac, a few old 386's, and an NES shouldn't be added. At least one local clone of an NES or Apple II that runs in Cyrillic definitely qualifies.

Basically I want to see the stuff that existed when I was growing up but would never have heard of, or would never have seen or touched even if I've heard of it.

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    Note that the former "communist" countries are not limited to Eastern Europe, but also include East Germany, Poland, Czechia, Slovakia, Yugoslavia, Albania, and of course countries outside Europe. In fact, the majority of European "communist" countries were not in Eastern Europe. – gerrit Apr 23 at 14:35
  • @gerrit In fact, not only the number of countries but also the "communist" area with China and Siberia was an order of magnitude larger than the entirety of Europe. – Peter - Reinstate Monica Apr 23 at 17:14
  • @gerrit: That's why I tried to clarify it in various wordings. I don't think there's any local retrocomputing history in Vietnam, Cambodia, Burma, Mongolia, Central Asia. There is in Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea, but none of those were communist. But I was already thinking of rewording to define "retrocomputing" to a certain era/class of computers now that I realize all computer museums have "old computers" but not all are what I was looking for, and we might even have some questions on that broader topic. – hippietrail Apr 24 at 1:05
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    @gerrit, while not geographically in the east of Europe, those countries were and are at times still called Eastern Europe. Just like Greece much further east is/was called West. – Willeke Apr 24 at 4:28
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    Here is museum of old soviet arcades: 15kop.ru/en Old computers: yandex.ru/museum Rare soviet comuputers/calculators: leningrad.su/museum/main.php?lang=1 – user996142 Apr 24 at 17:16

14 Answers 14

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Since most (all?) computer museums can qualify as retrocomputing museums, you might find this list of computer museums useful: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_computer_museums

You could also look at science museums and see whether they have some computer section. E.g. the large Polytechnic Museum in Moscow, Russia has a nice computer section:

The collection of computing equipment is the most comprehensive display in Russia and includes rare copyrights devices, such as automated abacus by Viktor Bunyakovsky,[4] one of the first models of Odner's adding machine, the only surviving copy of the domestic computer "Ural", hydraulic integrator by Vladimir Lukyanov,[5] the world's only computer based on ternary logic, "Syetun" and many other rarities.


From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_computer_museums:

Croatia:

Czech Republic

Poland:

  • Muzeum Historii Komputerów i Informatyki, Katowice
  • Muzeum Gry i Komputery Minionej Ery (Muzeum Gier), Wrocław
  • Apple Muzeum Polska, Piaseczno

Russia

Slovakia:

Ukraine:

In case Germany counts:

Germany:

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    The Polytechnic Museum is currently closed for renovation. It was supposed to reopen in late 2020, but because of the pandemic they have since moved the date to 2021. – Quassnoi Apr 22 at 20:08
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    How stupid of me not to realize that any computer museum would of course be a computer museum! (-: I suppose I was thinking of "retrocomputing" as a term covering they computers of the era that those YouTube channels focus on. Thanks for the comprehensive answer. – hippietrail Apr 23 at 2:10
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    While the Polytechnic Museum is closed, it has a small exhibition called "Open Storage" available for tours. I can check if it has some retro computers, if you are wondering. – svavil Apr 23 at 11:58
  • If you're including Germany, you've missed the Digital Retro Park which may well be the most fun one. But I don't think including West Germany is within the spirit of the question. – gerrit Apr 23 at 14:37
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    Of those German museums, only the one in Berlin is actually in the Eastern Bloc. That museum has mostly have western exhibits, but they do have one (IIRC working) arcade automat from East Germany. – Jan Apr 23 at 15:23
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There is a computer museum in Halle, Germany, formerly in the GDR. They have a lot of old computers and other devices on display from that time and place : http://rechenwerk-halle.de/usr/digital-ag/projekte/andere/museum/ or http://rechenwerk-halle.de/usr/digital-ag/RECHENWERK/index.html

If you google "Robotron museum" or "computer museum DDR" you will get a few more hits, probably all in German, though.

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  • Dresden also has a Robotron Museum. – scai Apr 23 at 8:44
  • I've visited (pre-pandemic), and can confirm that it seems to be a good fit for OP. I had e-mailed in advance to set up a date, and then showed up for their weekly casual co-workshop/hangout. Staff is super friendly (and kooky ;) and they happily switched on lots of machines for me & share anecdotes (when they provided movie props!). Personal highlight: the last, most advanced, mechanical computer. What a sound! – kubi Apr 24 at 17:22
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Yandex Museum, in the headquarters of Yandex -- Moscow, Timura Frunze st., 11 str. 13.

Not a very large one, but has a dozen or so of old computers, from around the world, not only from Soviet block.

Website (in Russian): https://yandex.ru/museum/

They also have a branch in St. Petersburg: https://yandex.ru/museum/spb (apparently currently closed, but to reopen in May).


Disclaimer: I am an employee of Yandex.

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There is Apple musseum in Prague, Czech Republic. I have seen computers like 1984 year Macintosh 128k there so it should probably qualify.

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  • There is also a small display of various brands of old home computers at the Alza customer complaint department in Holesovice in Prague. – Edheldil Apr 23 at 6:36
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    That supposedly closed in Sept 2020, and all the exhibits are gone. – Dan Mašek Apr 23 at 7:43
  • @DanMašek - I think the few displayed directly in the CC room are still there - I have no idea what used to be elsewhere, unfortunately. So it might have qualified and is not anymore :). – Edheldil Apr 23 at 9:25
  • @Edheldil Oh, I don't mean the thing in Alza, i mean the museum mentioned in the answer. – Dan Mašek Apr 23 at 9:26
  • What a strange story! They had an incredibly comprehensive collection on display. I wonder if it will ever turn up. – Zach Lipton Apr 24 at 6:07
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There is a computer museum in Sigulda, Latvia.

It's a private project by a single enthusiast (known as MaiklsBlack on the net). He's been collecting devices for years and the museum has reportedly grown to 90 m^2 in size. He reports to have had over 380 old computers in 2018, about 80% of them working. His sites are only available in Latvian and Russian currently, you'll have to use a translation tool if you don't know the languages.

The sites include a catalogue of items. And it seems quite active, he has added an article just a few days ago.

The collection is not specific to local devices only, but he surely has some Soviet stuff: https://www.pchistory.lv/elektronika-mk-85-mikrokompyuter.html

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There is a small computer museum in Brno, Czech Republic: https://www.fit.vut.cz/units/museum/.en

It focuses primarily on machines manufactured in Czechoslovakia (and some imported ones).

Also in Brno, there is an exposition in Technical museum about old computers: https://www.tmbrno.cz/en/expozice/computer-technology/

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Hungary, Szeged.

https://ajovomultja.hu/?language=en

Some of the most interesting pieces include the first robotic animal ever constructed https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ladybird_of_Szeged and the originator of the once ubiquitous 3.5" floppy drive https://ajovomultja.hu/mcd-1-casette-floppy-marcell-janosi?language=en (the English translation is atrocious).

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Regarding Bulgaria you could visit the "National Polytechnic Museum" http://polytechnic-museum.com/. There are a mix of different technologies, a few years ago they had an explicit 'old pcs' exhibition.

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I can recommend the computer games museum in Berlin (https://www.computerspielemuseum.de/). It is in the former GDR part of Berlin, and because you are interested in retrocomputing I'm sure you will enjoy it.

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The Computerspielemuseum in East Berlin has already been mentioned, but there are also some old computers or reproductions (including a reproduction of one of Konrad Zuse's first computers) in the Technikmuseum in Berlin. The Technikmuseum is in the Western part of Berlin, but if you happen to be in town anyway, you should not miss it.

Dresden was the center of East German computer production, and they seem to have some examples at the Technische Sammlungen, at the Robotron museum (HT to @scai) and at the Technical University. The latter two can only be visited after making an appointment.

Hoyerswerda, where Konrad Zuse spent five years of his youth and which is reasonably close to Dresden, also has a computer museum.

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There is The Museum of Computing and Informatics in Riga, Latvia.

To inform the society about the history and development of the computing, the Institute of Mathematics and Computer Science, University of Latvia, since 1984 houses The Museum of Computing and Informatics. It's the only museum devoted to computer science in Baltic. Museum's permanent exhibition includes a great number of the first computing and data processing devices used in Latvia as well as an interesting collection of minicomputers and early personal computers.

If you are in Riga go to flea market "Latgale" (locally called "Latgalīte"). It is possible you will find some obsolete electronics there to see or even to buy.

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Half the answers seem to be from Bulgaria ¯_(ツ)_/¯

I think there was some kind of specialization between the countries and we had computing production. It didn't work well in the long term though.

Here is a video from museum in Kilifarevo for old tech, not only computers: https://bnt.bg/bg/a/retro-muzey-na-tekhnikata-v-kilifarevo

Update: I see that retro-museum in Varna also has some retro-computers https://www.facebook.com/RetroMuseumBg/posts/3282617475135933/

I watched also one guy on the television that made a museum for old computers and components. I have 2 packs of old components from the time of Pravetz or earlier that I wanted to donate him. My father worked in a computing center and had some parts leftover from there. If you are interested, write me a comment and I'll put some more effort to try to find him and give you information.

My first computer was a 16bit 8088 or 8086, probably a clone, from what I recall. But I think it is long gone for scrap.

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There's a museum in Bulgaria dedicated to Pravets, the oldest Bulgarian-made computer. https://kiosk.dartek.bg/clients/museums/380-kiosk-pravets-museum http://pravetz.info/

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In Romania, there is one in Arad. See:

To visit the museum, you need an appointment (set with at least a day before).

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