Who Knew? The Bulgarian Computer Industry

Astonishingly, Bulgaria, with a population of around six million people, was a leader in semiconductor and computer manufacturing in the Soviet bloc, manufacturing mainframes, minicomputers, and later the “Pravetz” personal computers with largely domestic content, including their semiconductors. When the Soviets established the “Unified System” architecture for computing, Bulgaria supplied all of the magnetic disc storage drives for the systems.

Bulgaria’s success was not limited to the Warsaw Pact. Its ELKA series of desktop calculators were among the first transistor and later integrated circuit calculators on the market and exported to the West, and its manufacturer introduced the first electronic cash register.

Bulgaria benefited from the protected domestic market created by the West’s embargo on high technology products to the Soviet bloc, and once markets opened after the Soviet Union began to crumble, the entry of mass market electronics from Asia with a global supply chain quickly drove more expensive domestic products out of the market.