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The Memotech MTX Series

  The Russian Schools Bid 

.... and the Winner Was . . .


As I described on the MTX About page, prior to being put into Administration, Memotech was competing for the contract to place computers in some 64,000 Russian schools. Unfortunately for Memotech, they did not win the contract and lost out to an MSX computer - to quote Wikipedia, "the Soviets decided .... to acquire MSX computers from a company in South Korea".

[Subsequent to my writing of this article, Wikipedia has been updated to the remove the reference to South Korea and identify the chosen company as Yamaha - maybe they found the information here :-)   ]

I originally took the Wikipedia statement to mean that the computers were manufactured by a South Korean company, guessing that it might have been Samsung or Daewoo.  I now know that my initial reading of the Wikipedia article was wrong, while the deal may indeed have been brokered by a South Korean company, perhaps with steel and oil interests (Hyundai maybe?), the MSX computers that were supplied were initially the export version of the Yamaha YIS503IIR (MSX-1). Each computer was fitted with a side-slot, serial network adapter, that allowed the computers to be networked. A number of Student computers would be networked with one computer in "Teacher" mode.

Once I established this independently of Wikipedia, I then found confirmation in this Wikipedia article, which specifically mentions the Russian MSX. The "КУВТ" logo that you can see on the YIS503IIR in the photo stands for "Class of Teaching Computing Equipment".

A later class of "КУВТ" machines was used, called "КУВТ-2", which used the Yamaha YIS503IIIR (MSX-2). At that stage, a typical classroom setup would consist of a Yamaha YIS805/128R (MSX2) "Teacher's Computer" and 9 to 15 student terminals, YIS503IIIR (MSX2) without disk drives. The "КУВТ-2" class system was supplied with network-enabled MSX-DOS and CP/M.

The Russian MSX Wikipedia page provides more detail of the use of MSX computers in schools, a small section is quoted below - courtesy of Google Translate with a little bit of grammatical editing  :-

"First it was the export version of the Japanese company Yamaha's computers - Model YIS-503 and 805, specifically designed to supply the Soviet Union (it had a keyboard with Russian characters). Classes on the basis of these computers are called Yamaha KUVT. Later in the 80's, for the same purposes, the Korean company Daewoo supplied computers - models CPC-300E and CPC-400. They had Russian characters on the keyboard and a normal one, not export, models. Toshiba also supplied MSX-compatible computers in the USSR. In addition, there were also Russian versions of the Japanese PC Sony HB-F9P and Sanyo MPC-2300 but it is not known whether they were used in schools or delivered for other purposes. Another model of the company Sony, HB-G900P, used aboard the Mir space station."

So, although a Korean company did supply MSX computers to Russia, they were not the first to do so.

There is a very interesting page by a Russian MSX school computer user here.

Additional pictures of the Yamaha YIS503IIR

Pictures downloaded from

You can see that Yamaha's Cyrillic keyboard had English lettering on the brown coloured keys.

Computer base, showing the Yamaha manufacturing label

Yamaha's "Russification" of the computer apparently did not extend to the embossed safety notice on the bottom of the case!

The detail confirms that the computers made for Russia were manufactured by Yamaha in Japan
View of the left hand side, showing the power switch, serial I/O connectors and "Teacher / Student" mode switch (used in the classroom environment, where a number of machines could be connected together in a simple network using the serial ports).
View of the right hand side, showing the reset switch, connectors for printer, cassette, RGB and Composite Video monitors


Specification Comparison

  Yamaha YIS503IIR MTX512 (UK)
Processor Zilog Z80A Zilog Z80A
Clock Speed 3.58 MHz 4 MHz
ROMs 32K Total
  • 16 KB BIOS
  • 16 KB MSX BASIC V1.0
24K Total (16K at any one time)
  • 16KB OS and BASIC
  • 8KB Minimum 32/64 KB Typical
  • 64KB (Russian version)
  • 128KB Maximum
  • 32K (MTX500)
  • 64K (MTX512)
  • 512KB Maximum
Video RAM 16KB Dedicated Video RAM 16KB Dedicated Video RAM
Video Processor Texas Instruments 9918 Family Texas Instruments 9918 Family

 16 Colours

 24 lines of 40 characters of text per line

 24 lines of 32 characters of text with graphics per line

 256 x 192 pixel resolution

 32 independently controlled user defined "sprites"

 16 Colours

 24 lines of 40 characters of text per line

 24 lines of 32 characters of text with graphics per line

 256 x 192 pixel resolution

 32 independently controlled user defined "sprites"

Sound Processor General Instrument AY-3-8910 Texas Instruments SN76489AN
Data Storage
  • Cassette Tape
  • Optional disk drives
  • Cassette Tape
  • Optional disk drives
Networking Yes - additional network card required

A number of YIS503IIR Student machines could be linked to a Teacher machine for centralised file storage using floppy disks

Yes - additional "Node" ROM required

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Page last modified 27/04/2015