This Russian Museum Still Relies on 30-Year-Old Apple II Computers

Apple IIGS Museum Russia Credit: YURI LITVINENKO / Wikimedia
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The Apple II computer may be ancient technology by today’s standards, but there’s at least one place in the world that still uses them in its day-to-day operations.

That place is the Lenin Museum, which is located about 20 miles south of Moscow, Russia in the community of Gorki Leninskiye. And while you’d expect to see vintage computers on display at a museum, the Lenin Museum actually still uses them to power certain audiovisual presentations.

Those aforementioned presentations are actually cubes that contain life-sized reenactments of scenes from Lenin’s life, according to Atlas Obscura. Massive mirrors and projector technology helps to bring those presentations to life.

For some context, the Apple IIGS, released in 1986, shipped with 8MB of RAM. Its big feature was the ability to display colors on its user interface.

Lenin Museum 1

The Lenin Museum itself was first opened in 1987. And more than three decades later, they’re still controlled and powered by the same Apple II computers that were there are the start.

Apple IIGS

How Apple Imported Them

The fact that decades-old Apple technology is still actively being used is interesting enough. But how the Soviets actually got the Apple II computers into the country in the first place is fascinating, too.

The audiovisual systems used in the Lenin Museum are a complex mix of lights, motors and reel-to-reel players that had to be synced and controlled.

To do so, the Lenin Museum sought out existing systems made by a British firm called Electrosonic — who incorporated the platform into Apple II computers. The only problem is that, at the time, Soviet regulations barred trade with foreign countries.

The Lenin Museum had to sign the deal with specialized economic bodies and work with a complicated network of entities to import the computers into the country. Even after all of that, Russian-based company Cascade took credit for the audiovisual systems.

Of course, it was only a few years later that the Soviet Union collapsed. But although a British firm had supplied the computers, it was up to Soviet engineers to keep them running. More than thirty years later, the Apple II computers are still used at the Lenin Museum.

Apple in Russia

The use of Apple technology at the Lenin Museum is actually one of the only examples of the Cupertino tech giant making any sort of progress with the Russian government.

While Apple continued to push its computers to be sold in Russia, it largely failed to get them adopted widely by Russian government agencies or institutions.

Part of that is pressure from the Russian government itself. Even fairly recently, Russia has urged government workers to avoid using iOS or iPhones. Instead, the government encourages use of a Russian-developed mobile OS.

Because of that, the Lenin Museum is not only a “technological time capsule,” but it’s also a “national outlier,” Atlas Obscura points out.

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