Welcome to the nostalgic
history of home and game computers
ROBOTRON Z1013 - computing in the GDR with
blood, sweat and tears
was a famous computer brand in the former communist countries in Eastern Europe.
The company in the German Democratic Republic (GDR) not only manufactured
computers for the GDR, but also for other countries in the Soviet bloc. Like
often in the GDR the consumer didn't come at the first place. Although it was
the intention that Robotron should manufacture computers for consumers too, the
companies ('Volkseigene Betriebe') were considered far more important, so that
hardly any computer was available for the consumer market.
An exception at this rule was the Robotron Z1013, which appeared in 1984,
five years before the fall of the Berlin Wall. This didn't necessarily mean that
the consumer was number one now; the first models of the Z1013 were simply not
suitable for use in companies. One of the reasons the Z1013 was only suitable
for use at home was that the computer was delivered as a construction kit. The
buyer only got a circuit board and a 'keyboard', a clumsy piece of plastic with
keys ranged not in the sequence of a typewriter, but just in ABC-order.
problem was that Robotron manufactured the first model (Z1013.01) with a certain
amount of chips rejected for industrial use, because of the chronic shortage
of quality chips. But because Robotron reduced the frequency of the CPU, the
computers functioned in spite of these shortages. In the beginning, one had to
wait about a year after ordering for this Robotron with bad chips, and then one
had to pick up the computer himself.
But it is very important not to forget that in spite of its strange looks,
the Robotron Z1013 was comparable with home computers in the capitalist West. It
contained a connection for a tape recorder, it had a TV-modulator and a bus
connection for extensions. There was a tiny Basic-version (2.7 KB), but one had
to enter it letter by letter from a hexadecimal list in the manual or (better)
to load it into the computer with the tape that was sometimes delivered.
owners replaced the plastic keyboard with more solid, self constructed keyboards
and they often built a case around their Z1013. That's why this Robotron
computer appeared in many shapes. It played an important role in the developing
computer scene in the GDR.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall the Z1013 quickly lost
its popularity. The 'Mikrorechnerbausatz' Z1013 lost the competition with the suddenly
easily available computers from the West. In GDR times it had sometimes
been possible to get a 'capitalistic' home computer, for instance through people
who had got them from relatives in West-Germany. But the prices were draconic:
in a newspaper ad in 1989 the asking price for an Atari 130 XE (okay, with
peripherals) was 14,900 GDR-mark.
Specifications of the Robotron Z1013
||VEB Robotron, Riesa, GDR
||1984 - 1990
||1 MHz, after adaptation with
some luck 2 MHz
||16 KB, expandable to 64 KB
x 32 ('semi graphical': 250 characters, among which chess-men)
||10 - 12 V AC / 1 A
cassette, system bus, PIO
Several versions were
manufactured, from the Z1013.01 (1 MHz, 16 KB RAM) till the Z1013.16 (2 MHz,
64 KB RAM, improved keyboard). The late versions were again mainly meant for
use in companies
||Approx. 1000 GDR-mark in 1984,
and 590 GDR-mark in 1989
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