As you might be interested in how Hungarian computers were
manufactured and sold, here is a little story which might
give you a glance about Hungarian technology level in the
eighties, and also some explanation for why we had so many
models in production. In the Communist age, the cold war,
one of Hungary's strategic tasks was to produce military
electronic systems for the Warsaw Pact armies and industry.
After 1920, the Trianon Peace Pact, when Hungary lost 70%
of its original land mass, all raw material resources were
also lost. For this reason the Hungarian government found
interest in precise mechanics and electronics instead of
heavy industry. Hungary soon became a great power on the
field of optical devices, radio electronics, and naturally
also sophisticated military equipment, like targeting
devices, telescopes, etc. These were widely used in the
second world war. Hence a great amount of precise mechanics
and electronics engineers appeared, of which many managed
to keep the quality of such products after the war, even
despite the forced buildup of heavy industry.
The Hungarian electronic industry returned to its normal
life in the beginning of the sixties. During the fifties,
the Russians always claimed that cybernetics and
electronics are "just a new toy of the imperialists", and
denied the usefulness of intelligent devices, even military
equipment. When Stalin and Khruschev were both gone, the
Russians changed their mind and pumped a lot of money into
the rebuilding of Hungarian electronic industry. This
became rather successful, within years Hungarian companies
were manufacturing a lot of consumer electronic goods, and
of course, also non-consumer ones. One of the great
advancements was the Ural computer series in the sixties.
These machines were big, ugly bastards, with ferrite ring
memories and such oldschool stuff. One of these, an Ural-II
was operating at the university of Miskolc, I don't know
where did they use the rest, but many had been exported to
the USSR, and they might be still working somewhere.
When the personal computer age arrived, Hungarians were
quickly adopting new Western technologies, as you probably
know, it resulted in the HT and Robotron machines.
Robotrons were actually not real computers, but word
processors, and they also manufactured terminals. Another
company manufacturing computers was the so-called SZKI,
Számítástechnikai Kutató Intézet, Institute of Computer
Research. They had a very successful series of x86
compatible PCs in the early 80's, called Proper computers.
I still have a copper "Proper 16A" label on my PC.
Videoton, located in the city of
Székesfehérvár (some of their buildings is being used by
IBM now) was not only manufacturing the TVC models, but
they also sold x86 PCs.
Hungarian computer education was very high in that time.
Kids were learning about computers and BASIC in the school,
and there were numerous computer clubs, both for children
and adults. There were no stupid laws banning
software "piracy", it was all about scientific fun, and no
one claimed any lame "copyrights" for themselves. There
were numerous Hungarian inventions, of which unfortunately
many were lost in the labyrinth of Communist bureaucracy.
One of these examples was the theory of the switched
processor. You know, a computer that has two different
CPUs, let's say, a Z80 and a MOS 6510, and you can run a
proram which uses both processors' commands. Perhaps you
know, the first switched processor machine was introduced
by Apple. But there were two Hungarian inventors, engineers
of HT, who actually finished a working model of a switched
processor computer, many years before Apple, and requested
patent for it. The Hungarian patent office rejected,
claiming that "it's impossible to build such a machine, it
will never work." They tried four times, always receiving
the same answer, and when for the fifth time they also
included a printed advertisement of the meanwhile
introduced Apple machine, and the office still said "it's
impossible to build such computer, and this advertisement
is most probably an Imperialist hoax to confuse the
scientists of the Communist camp, and drive them into
pointless research projects."
The Primo, as you already know, was a Sinclair Z80 clone,
which was actually never sold in Hungary. They wanted to
break into the Western markets with it, which was a
ridiculous idea in 1984, two years after the introduction
of the Commodore 64. So, the Primo failed, and not much had
been seen around here in Hungary.
But you probably don't know that some Eastern computers
using Zilog Z80 processors were actually not using Zilogs.
The Russians cloned the very successful chip. First there
was a smaller espionage action to acquire one, because they
thought it would be "too dangerous" to simply buy one in a
shop and take it to Moscow. Instead of buying, a KGB agent
stole a Z80 from a Paris shop. Then he hide it in the
toilet of an international express train that headed to
Berlin, where another KGB agent removed it, and then it
travelled to Moscow by a diplomatic courier.
Now came the hard part, since the Russkis had no idea how
to look inside the chip. Finally they found it. They
started to polish the processor very smoothly, taking a
photograph at every 0.1 mm. Finally they were able to build
a 3D model of the processor, and started to manufacture it.
Do you know that there are Z80 driven computers still being
sold in the ex-USSR even nowadays? They're called the
Pentagon and Scorpion, both are upgraded versions of ZX
Back to Hungary: computer industry was flourishing here
around 1988, Videoton even built a state of the art, fully
robotized manufacturing plant. First they built modern
televisions, the so-called Precision 2000 models, of which
I have two, still being used. Unfortunately, when the
Russians left Hungary, KGB was ordered to destroy the
Hungarian microelectronic factories, so in 1990, just two
years after it opened gates, the Videoton factory had been
blown up by KGB agents and burned to the grounds. (This is
not a speculation, but a known fact.)