Galaksija, Cult Yugoslav DIY Computer from the 1980s Lives On

  • 2016-04-15
  • Balkanist

“Alternate History” aficionados (who usually spend their time pondering questions like “what would have happened if the Aztecs had resisted Spanish colonization?”) have devoted significant time to speculating about an alternate reality in which the Galaksija computer exceeded Western models in popularity during the 1980s, saved Yugoslavia from dissolution and made inexpensive microcomputer kits available to the Third World. On the technical side of things, hackers, engineers and artificial intelligence experts continue to write dissertations and emulators in homage to the machine.

Though the computer used audio tape as its main storage system, had about as much memory as a single e-mail, and produced only three error messages (“WHAT?”, “HOW?” and “SORRY”), back in 1983, every curious tech enthusiast in Yugoslavia wanted a Galaksija to call their own.

“We can only achieve the Computing Revolution if we have a domestic computer,” read an editorial in the country’s first publication devoted to personal computing. Back then, imports on items exceeding a value of 1500 dinars (about 70 euros today) were forbidden by law. Though some early devotees claim that foreign computers were available on the black market, they were still prohibitively expensive for the average Yugoslav citizen.