VEB Erfurt SC-1
VEB Erfurt SC1  2  35 x 35
VEB Erfurt SC1  3  20 x 20 VEB Erfurt SC1  5  20 x 20

The VEB Mikroelektronik “Karl Marx” Erfurt SC-1 was distributed in mid 1981, following showing at the Leipziger Fair in March 1980. It is in all probability the earliest chess computer to have been manufactured behind the Iron Curtain. It was made in Erfurt, which is not far from Leipzig.

The photographs show the high quality of the chess computer and its accessories, including the leather case which was standard and original issue. A Wikipedia article on East German chess computers (see link) says that the   SC-1 was a starting point for demonstrating the ability of the microelectronic industry in East Germany. Having done so the aim was then to develop a chess computer for full commercial production. The article also says that only about a dozen SC-1s were made.

When this SC-1 arrived with me the only life it exhibited was a low hum and some warmth. I am very much indebted to Wilfried Bucke for bringing the SC-1 back to full working order. Also I would like to thank Steffen Scholz for his persistence in persuading me to send it to Wilfried, and also Christian Marquardt and Alwin Gruber for their part in me doing so.

The photos which show the SC-1 thinking about it’s move betray the origins of the chess program. The   00 oo   type sequence is a characteristic of several early Fidelity machines and so this is marked down as a Ron Nelson program, possibly the CC10C which went into the mass production SC-2 also?

VEB Erfurt SC1  4  35 x 35
VEB Erfurt SC1  14  20 x 20

You would have to say I am very fortunate to have a working SC-1.

The chess computer was acquired in an Ebay auction in July 2005. The seller made it clear that the machine was not working. Nevertheless there was plenty of bidding. After the auction the parcel duly arrived. In it was a VEB Chess Master in mint condition with all the accessories. Very nice but not what I had bought. The seller had been selling two chess computers and switched them before dispatch. Luckily she was able to retrieve the SC-1 from the other buyer and eventually the SC-1 arrived.

Looking inside to see what might be wrong revealed a strange set of components and a design like I had never seen before. I quickly gave up.

Now thanks to Wilfried Bucke this may be one of the few working
SC-1s remaining.

With the SC-1 were the documents shown below which give some insight into its history.

VEB Erfurt SC1  8  15 x 15 VEB Erfurt SC1  10  15 x 15 VEB Erfurt SC1  9  15 x 15
VEB Erfurt SC1  12  20 x 20
VEB Erfurt SC1  13  20 x 20
SC1 Scan 2 20 x 20
SC1 Scan 4 20 x 20
SC1 Scan 5 20 x 20
SC1 Scan 3 20 x 20

The three page document is a form of contract between VEB Funkwerk Erfurt and the testers of the SC-1.

It says that the manufacturers want to test a small initial series of SC-1s over a period of 1 year before going into the production of a bigger series of these machines. The contract’s main purpose is to specify to the testers how they have to test the machine.

Each time they played a test game they had to note date, operation time, environmental temperature, exact location (inside/ outside), whether the machine was exposed to direct sunlight, level settings, and of course moves and so on. The testers had to report 5 times, after 1,3,6,9 and 12 months of testing.

The SC-1 remained the property of VEB Funkwerk Erfurt during the 1 year testing period. After that the testers could buy the machine for a non specified price (maximum 50% of the initial value). There is also a receipt added for the SC-1 received (bottom right), and a form provided for the test reports (bottom left).

The document does not say how many SC-1s were made.

The invoice below is a record of the supply of the SC-1 you see to a General Gothe. Perhaps this is example of how the “elite” in some communist countries were provided with presents and some of the SC-1s may have been distributed in this way, as well as to testers.

My grateful thanks to Christian Marquardt for explaining the meaning of the documents to me.

SC1 Scan 1 20 x 20
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