Kronos (computer)

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DeveloperAcademy of Sciences of the Soviet Union, Siberian branch, Novosibirsk Computing Center, Modular Asynchronous Developable Systems (MARS) project, Kronos Research Group (KRG)
SeriesWirth Lilith
Release date1988; 34 years ago (1988)
Operating systemExcelsior
Displaymonochrome bitmapped
Marketing targetResearch

Kronos is a series of 32-bit processor equipped printed circuit board systems,[1] and the workstations based thereon,[1] of a proprietary hardware architecture developed in the mid-1980s in Akademgorodok, a research city in Siberia, by the Academy of Sciences of the Soviet Union, Siberian branch, Novosibirsk Computing Center, Modular Asynchronous Developable Systems (MARS) project, Kronos Research Group (KRG).[1][2][3]


In 1984, the Kronos Research Group (KRG) was founded by four students of the Novosibirsk State University, two from the mathematics department (Dmitry "Leo" Kuznetsov, Alex Nedoria) and two from the physics department (Eugene Tarasov, Vladimir Vasekin). At that time, the main objective was to build home computers for the KRG members.[citation needed]

In 1985, the group joined the Russian fifth generation computer project START, in which Kronos became a platform for developing multiprocessor reconfigurable Modular Asynchronous Developable Systems (MARS),[4] and played a lead role in developing the first Russian full 32-bit workstation and its software.[citation needed]

During 7 years (1984–1991) the group designed and implemented:[citation needed]

  • Kronos 2.1 and 2.2 – 32-bit processor boards for DEC LSI-11
  • Kronos 2.5 – 32-bit processor board for Labtam computers
  • Kronos 2.6 – 32-bit workstation

The project START was finished in 1988. During the post-START years (1988–1991), several Russian industrial organizations expressed interest in continuing the Kronos development and some had been involved in facilitating the construction of Kronos and MARS prototypes, including the design of a Kronos-on-chip. However, changing funding levels and the chaotic economic situation during perestroika kept those plans from being realized.[citation needed]


The Kronos instruction set architecture was based on Niklaus Wirth's Modula-2 workstation Lilith, developed at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) of Zurich Switzerland, which in turn was inspired by the Xerox Alto developed at Xerox PARC.[1]

The Modula-2-based Kronos was quite amenable to the basic principles of MARS, as Modula-2 is fundamentally modular, allowing programs to be partitioned into units with relatively well defined interfaces. These interfaces supported separate compiling of modules, and separating of module specifications from their implementation. The primary difference between Lilith and Kronos was that the processor of Lilith was 16-bit, while Kronos was 32-bit and incorporated several extensions to the instruction set to accommodate the inter-processor communication needed in MARS.[citation needed]

Kronos satisfied many aspects of the reduced instruction set computer (RISC) design, although it was not pure RISC: the evaluation stack was used to evaluate expressions and to hold parameters for procedure calls. Since most executed instructions were encoded in a single byte, the object code for Kronos was very compact. Although Kronos was a proprietary processor, it was well suited to applications which were sensitive to high programmability rather than to software compatibility. For example, embedded control systems require fast and reliable design of new original applications for controlling unique objects and processes. Modula-2 was then a perfect language for this purpose, and Kronos was a perfect processor to effectively run the Modula-2 software.[citation needed]


An advanced version of Kronos was based on a 32-bit stack-type КА1845ВМ1 processor, КА1845ВС1 data processing unit, and УУП memory control unit. All the three were designed and fabricated by КНИИМП, Kiev Research Institute of Microdevices.

  • КА1845ВМ1 had 246 commands, which allowed supporting Modula-2 language. It also featured hardware support of interrupts and process synchronization. The CPU was fabricated in a 2.5 um CMOS technology with two layers of metallization and packaged in a planar 84-pin metal-polymer case. It contains 199 thousands elements and has area of 8.55x8.1 mm^2. The maximum clock frequency is 10 MHz.
  • КА1845ВС1 contained ALU, 8x32 stack, matrix shifter, 16x32 register block, and status flag multiplexers. The amount of addressable memory is 4 GB. The chip area is 5.8x5.25 mm^2, 16 thousand elements.
  • УУП provided operation with virtual memory up to 4 GB. It contains a data cache (128x32), a redirect buffer (128x40), a dynamic RAM controller, and an error detection and correction circuit. Memory access time does nor exceed 100 ns. УУП chip contains 102 thousands elements and has area of 9.1x7.3 mm^2.


The Kronos software included:[citation needed]

  • Versions of the proprietary operating system Excelsior
  • Compilers for Modula-2, C, and Fortran
  • CAD systems
  • Other applications

Operating system[edit]

DeveloperKronos Research Group (KRG)
Written inModula-2
Working stateDiscontinued
Source modelproprietary
Initial release1988; 34 years ago (1988)
Marketing targetResearch
Available inRussian
Update methodCompile from source code
Package managerModula-2 modules
Kernel typeModular
Preceded byMedos-2

The Kronos workstation includes an operating system named Excelsior, developed by the Kronos Research Group (KRG). It is a single user system based on Modula-2 modules.[5]

In design, it is similar to the OS Medos-2, developed for the Lilith workstation, at ETH Zurich, by Svend Erik Knudsen with advice from Niklaus Wirth.[6][7]


  1. ^ a b c d "Kronos: History of a Project" (in Russian). xTech. Retrieved 8 April 2021.
  2. ^ Kuznetsov, D.N.; Nedorya, A.E.; Osipov, A.V.; Tarasov, E.V. (1986). Kotov, V.E. (ed.). "The processor Kronos in a multiprocessor system". Computer Systems and Software (in Russian). Novosibirsk: 13–19.
  3. ^ Wolcott, P.; Goodman, S.E. (September 1988). "High-Speed Computers of the Soviet Union". Computer. Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. 21 (9): 32–41. doi:10.1109/2.14345. S2CID 15721973.
  4. ^ Kotov, V.E. (1991). "Concurrency + modularity + programmability = MARS". Communications of the ACM. 34 (5): 32–45. doi:10.1145/103701.103707. S2CID 10320717.
  5. ^ Kuznetsov, D.N.; Nedorya, A.E.; Tarasov, E.V.; Filippov, V.E. "Kronos: a family of processors for high-level languages". Kronos: History of a Project (in Russian). xTech. Retrieved 13 April 2021.
  6. ^ Knudsen, Svend Erik (1983). Medos-2: A Modula-2 Oriented Operating System for the Personal Computer Lilith (PhD). ETH Zurich. doi:10.3929/ethz-a-000300091.
  7. ^ Knudsen, Svend Erik (25 October 2000). "Medos in Retrospect". In Böszörményi, László; Gutknecht, Jürg; Pomberger, Gustav (eds.). The School of Niklaus Wirth: The Art of Simplicity. Morgan Kaufmann. pp. 69–86. ISBN 978-1558607231. ISBN 1-55860-723-4 & dpunkt, ISBN 3-932588-85-1.

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