Build a replica of an obscure Romanian computer

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We’ve all seen Apple II and Commodore 64 emulations out there. Few of us have heard of the Romanian ZX Spectrum clone known as Cobra, let alone the efforts to replicate one. However, [Thomas Sowell] achieved this, and shared the story with us online.

The Cobra was named for its origins in the city of Brasov – hence, COcomputer BRasov. The replica project was created for a simple reason. Since sourcing an original Romanian Cobra would be difficult, [Thomas] realized he could build his own instead, just like many Romanians did in the 1980s. He set about studying the best online Cobra resourcesand got to work.

Construction began with map images from Cobrasov.comand these were used to make a PCB. [Thomas] also decided to use only vintage ICs sourced from the Eastern Bloc for authenticity reasons. Most were from the former USSR, although some parts were of East German, Romanian or Czechoslovakian manufacture. The project took place before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, so there were no problems shipping across borders.

With everything hooked up and the EEPROMs given a real Cobra ROM image, the computer came to life. There were a few hiccups, with an overheating video IC and some memory issues. However, with a few nifty tweaks and replacements, the computer was fine. Other work involved adding a custom keyboard and modifying the 3.5-inch floppy disk drives to work with the system.

Overall, the build is a faithful homage to what was an impressive piece of engineering behind the Iron Curtain. [Thomas]The work of also embodies the DIY philosophy behind many homebrew Cobra computers built at the time.

If all of this talk has made you curious about the full story of the Cobra and Romania underground computer movement, we have everything you’re looking for here!

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