[Plura-list] Galaksija: Yugoslavia's open source hardware, free software socialist computing platform.

Cory Doctorow doctorow at craphound.com
Sun Aug 2 10:38:27 EDT 2020

Today's links

* Galaksija: Yugoslavia's open source hardware, free software socialist
computing platform.

* This day in history: 2005, 2010, 2019

* Colophon: Recent publications, upcoming appearances, current writing
projects, current reading


〽️ Galaksija

In 1948, Yugoslavia was expelled from Cominform, the Soviet information
agency, in retaliation for its "non-aligned" status; deprived of
information-processing capacity, the country created its own IT industry
from scratch.

Yugoslavia's high tariffs and uneasy status on the world stage meant
that by the 1970s, members of the New Wave" - science and tech
enthusiasts who clustered around the sf/electronic mag Galaksija - could
only play with PCs by pooling their money to import western machines.

In the 1980s, "digital electronics enthusiast" Voja Antonić went on a
Montenegro holiday with a copy of RCA's manual for a new single-chip CPU
and had an inspiration for a kit-based PC that revolutionized
Yugoslavian computing: the Galaksija computer!


Antonić's insight: you could run 64x48 block graphics on the ubiquitous
Zilog Z80A chip, without a video controller. He produced a simple
schematic that hobbyists could follow, and it was a hit with Yugoslavian
subcultures: coders, gamers, DJs, musicians, sf fans.

The resulting computing revolution was grounded in (in the words of
Jacobin's Michael Eby) "collectivity, autodidacticism, and
technophilia." An early article about the design by Dejan Ristanović for
Galaksija led to an all-computing issue of the mag.

The normal 30,000 copy run of the mag sold out quickly and that issue
was reprinted *four times* before national demand was satisfied: 120,000
copies sold, and 8,000 subsequent letters from hobbyists who'd built
their own computers following the diagrams it contained.

Antonić found a name for his computer: the Galaksija. The limits of its
4K of memory forced many idiosyncratic design choices, like its error

* WHAT? (syntax error)

* HOW? (input error)

* SORRY (out of memory)

Every Galaksija looked different - hand-built by hobbyists who each had
to improvise their own cases, with fantastic designs inspired by the New
Wave's love of science fiction.

Antonić designed his system to be collaborative and open, rather than
proprietary, sabotaging any attempt at DRM for code: "Free play was
implicitly encouraged: the sharing, collaboration, manipulation, and
proliferation of software was built into Galaksija’s very operation."

These programs spread widely thanks in part to a radio show that
broadcast the computer code as audio, intended to be recorded to
cassette (the main storage mechanism for the system). Zoran Modli's
Ventilator 202 program broadcast hundreds of listener-supplied programs.

The listeners' programs were early multimedia magazines: audio, video,
concert listings, ed-tech, flight sims and other games. Other listeners
would record, run, and improve these and send them back to Ventilator
202 for retransmission.

There was a brief time where Galaksija computers were mass produced and
proliferated through Yugoslavian schools and universities but were
eclipsed by cheaper imports and the death of the New Wave scene during
the civil wars.

Today, Antonić lives just up the road from me in Pasadena, where he is
fielding new inquiries from computer historians seeking to preserve the
Galaksija and its story.


〽️ This day in history

#15yrsago Chevron being sued in US for hiring Nigerian death squads

#10yrsago Shades of Milk and Honey: Kowal's debut novel is a
drawing-room romance with magic and art

#1yrago Amazon's secret deals with local cops give them access to
realtime 911 data for use in scary alerts sent to Ring owners

#1yrago Paying for climate change: the question isn't "How?" but "Who?"

#1yrago Corruption is contagious: dirty cops make their partners dirty

#1yrago Elsevier sends copyright threat to site for linking to Sci-Hub

#1yrago We could fund the transition to green energy with 10-30% of the
world's fossil fuel subsidy

#1yrago Leaks reveal that disgraced, hacked surveillance company wrote
Republican Congressman's border security talking-points

#1yrago Cathay Pacific's new privacy policy: we are recording you with
seatback cameras, spying on you in airports, and buying data on your use
of competing loyalty programs


〽️ Colophon

Today's top sources:

Currently writing:

* My next novel, "The Lost Cause," a post-GND novel about truth and
reconciliation. Yesterday's progress: 517 words (41820 total).

Currently reading: The Deficit Myth, Stephanie Kelton

Latest podcast: Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town (part 11)

Upcoming appearances:

* Do Androids Dream of Electric Cars? Public Transit in the Age of
Google, Uber, and Elon Musk, Aug 4,

* Virtual event with Christopher Brown for his novel "Failed State," Aug

Latest book:

* "Little Brother/Homeland": A reissue omnibus edition with a new
introduction by Edward Snowden:
https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250774583; personalized/signed copies

* "Poesy the Monster Slayer" a picture book about monsters, bedtime,
gender, and kicking ass. Order here:
https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781626723627. Get a personalized, signed
copy here:

Upcoming books:

* "Attack Surface": The third Little Brother book, Oct 20, 2020.

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*When life gives you SARS, you make sarsaparilla* -Joey "Accordion Guy"

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