Hackaday on the MESM-6 project


Article on Hackaday on the MESM-6 project:

The MESM-6 project is focused on bringing the 1960s Soviet BESM-6 computer to the modern age of FPGAs and HDLs. At the moment the team behind this preservation effort consists out of [Evgeniy Khaluev], [Serge Vakulenko] and [Leo Broukhis], who are covering the efforts on the Russian-language project page.

The BESM-6 (in Russian: БЭСМ-6, ‘Bolshaya Elektronno-Schetnaya Mashina’ or ‘large electronic computing machine’) was a highly performing Soviet super computer that was first launched in 1968 and in production for the next 19 years. Its system clock ran at 9 MHz using an astounding number of discrete components, like 60,000 transistors and 170,000 diodes, capable of addressing 192 kB of memory in total. Of the 355 built, a few survive to this day, with one on display at the London Science Museum


Great machine and an interesting project! An unusual architecture: 48 bit data, but just 16 bit addressing, separate data and instruction spaces, instructions are 24 bits packed two to a word, and you can only branch to word boundaries.

As noted in the Hackaday comments, 9MHz is pretty fast for 1968: apparently delivering about 1 MIPS performance.

There’s a “fan page” mentioned in the comments, with lots of info about the BESM-6 including an in-browser emulator:

… with a number of demo programs including a Hello World;


Video of perhaps the last BESM-6 to run, running a test in a museum:

Passing the BESM-6 test (entry 2008).

Museum BESM-6 in action

Fragment of passing a comprehensive test of testing the operation of the main BESM-6 devices.

The fan page also links to the great story of London’s Science Museum’s purchase of a BESM-6. (Link was dead, so that’s an archive link.)

Nice photo in there too, by T.F.Sapozhnikova, JINR, Dubna.
A table-top BESM-6

This is a table-top reimplementation of BESM-6 as a project in the Joint Institute of Nuclear Research in Dubna, Russia.

At the console: I.A.Emelin, the head of the BESM-6 engineering group; a real BESM-6 is in the background.

The picture was taken in spring 1992; several days later the old BESM-6 had been turned off and dismantled.