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Questions tagged [hardware]

For questions about the components of retro devices (computers, etc.)

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4answers
16 views

Operating systems which have non-x86 instruction set architecture

What are the most famous operating systems for non-x86 computers? I mean, most famous OS which have different instruction set architecture. Background (to better understand my task): I ask this ...
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2answers
44 views

Why not CLV floppies?

The outer tracks of a disk are longer than the inner tracks, and could therefore potentially hold more data. Constant angular velocity puts the same number of bits on every track, which wastes much of ...
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3answers
428 views

Parallel to serial conversion

Two very common connectors used in the eighties were the Centronics parallel port (particularly used for printers) and the RS-232 serial port (particularly used for mice and modems). Suppose you have ...
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18answers
7k views

Have programming languages driven hardware development?

Programming language development has been influenced by hardware design. One example from this answer mentions how C pointers were, at least in part, influenced by the design of the PDP-11. Has the ...
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2answers
180 views

When did game consoles acquire battery-backed clocks?

The importance of a desktop PC knowing the current time could be debated, but it is clear IBM felt it to be important, for the IBM PC typically prompts the user to supply it on boot. Given that, the ...
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11answers
13k views

Why did trackballs disappear?

For a desktop computer, a mouse is a great pointing device. For a laptop if you don't want an extra device to keep track of, you need an alternative. The options I'm aware of: NubLow-tech, cheap, ...
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3answers
4k views

386SX, NES and how much did data lines really cost anyway?

In 1988, Intel introduced the 80386SX, most often referred to as the 386SX, a cut-down version of the 80386 with a 16-bit data bus mainly intended for lower-cost PCs aimed at the home, educational, ...
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1answer
406 views

Wider tower cases

Desktop computers have been in tower cases for a long time; in some cases since the eighties, per When did the tower form factor appear and when did it become popular? The form of tower cases has ...
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3answers
714 views

IBM PC expansion card latency

In the IBM PC and early successors and compatibles, it was commonplace for most of the computer's memory to be on cards in general expansion slots. (e.g. the original IBM PC could take 64K on the ...
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1answer
195 views

What was the purpose of GROM (vs ROM) in the TI-99/4a?

The TI-99/4a had a cartridge slot on the front of the computer which accepted "solid state cartridges" (as TI called them). These cartridges would typically contain ROM (Read Only Memory) like many ...
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1answer
259 views

Did any Apple II games use a “timing resistor”?

A science-lab program for the Apple II (I forget the name) had a board that plugged into the joystick port and included a "timing resistor". While I don't know what the program actually did with the ...
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4answers
997 views

Did any machines alternate between two video memory banks?

If a home computer or console has two banks of memory, A and B, then the following design is possible: The video chip only connects to bank A. The CPU connects to both. During active scan line, CPU ...
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1answer
244 views

Why does the SNES have a separate memory bank for sound?

According to https://snescentral.com/article.php?id=0088 the SNES has the following memory banks: Work RAM for CPU - 128 Kilobytes (CPU temp. storage) Video RAM for PPU - 64 Kilobytes (temp. storage ...
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1answer
256 views

When were other inexpensive computers able to recreate “The Amiga Juggler”? [closed]

The Amiga Juggler was the 2nd very popular demo to appear for the Amiga Computer early in its lifespan. The demo was created by Eric Graham (who went on to develop Sculpt3D) using raytracing to both ...
8
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1answer
316 views

How did Parallel ATA/IDE Independent Device Timing work electrically?

Back in the days of Parallel ATA (a.k.a. IDE) it was possible to connect two drives with a single cable. The ATA standard defines a number of modes with different speeds which the drives and the ...
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1answer
229 views

What's the purpose of HOLD command in 6502 stack pointer

In the Block Diagram the Stack Pointer Register (S) has a HOLD command in addition to the LOAD and BUS ENABLE commands. The HOLD command is linked to the S/S output of the Random Control Logic. What ...
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2answers
268 views

How significant/pioneering was the TV Typewriter?

How significant and pioneering was the TV Typewriter, in light of things like calculators with CRT's from 1964 and various other things? I recently read that the TV Typewriter established the standard ...
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1answer
138 views

Ways To Test iMac G3 Before Buying

I am going to buy an old iMac G3 Over the next couple of days/weeks, and I want to make sure that I am buying a system with no problems. I usually ask for the serial number and good pictures before ...
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3answers
754 views

what OS runs Zip drives? [duplicate]

I came across my old Zip drive and some Zip disks. I am curious what is on the disks, but my Windows system won't run them. Back in the day I thought that these would be the ultimate in archive ...
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4answers
2k views

Purpose of two disk drives on the Osborne 1

I recently discovered the Osborne 1 computer, and I noticed it had two floppy disc drives. What was the purpose of including two drives?
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4answers
486 views

What is the basic logic behind the setting or ordering of keys in a keyboard?

I am a computer science student. I mostly work with computers and I am really wondering about the layout of keys in a keyboard. It is comfortable and easy. My question is this: what is the basic ...
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2answers
428 views

What's with the empty space on this die?

Here is the Valvo 2650. (Also known by other names, in the UK as Signetics 2650). What struck me about this image is the amount of empty space! If you look at a modern-day chip, say a Skylake or ...
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0answers
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Is there a comparative analysis of the evolution paths of chips inheriting from TMS9918?

This is primarily about VDP from the Sega Master System game console and video chip from the MSX 2 series computers. Specifically about Yamaha YM2602 (aka Sega 315‑5124) and Yamaha V9938 respectively. ...
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2answers
3k views

Reason for gold lines on old ICs?

A lot of older (ceramic) ICs have a gold-plated line extending from the die cover to the edge of the package. Did this serve a practical purpose or was it just bling? I suspect that it might be what'...
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5answers
6k views

Using DRAM as a camera sensor?

Back in the days when COMECON (RVHP) was cloning digital ICs usually the first wave of such ICs were in a ceramic package with a glass window (similar to EPROM) to check for bugs and stuff while used. ...
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3answers
161 views

The earliest a home-computer or home-robot could be interfaced with a camera

What was the earliest date a home-computer or home-robot could be interfaced with a tv-camera or digital-camera . Robots were often based on home-computers . Although I'm asking this question for ...
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17answers
6k views

Simplest system to create an emulator for

Next year I'm going to teach a 2-semester microprocessors class to third-year undergraduate EE students. In order to sign up for the class, students need to have completed programming and digital ...
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2answers
241 views

Is it possible to upgrade original iMac (1998) memory (RAM) to above 256 MB?

I am looking into buying myself an original iMac, as I want to mess with the older system a little bit. Is it even remotely possible to change the RAM in the system to being over 256 MB? I am willing ...
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1answer
264 views

How can I edit CMOS hard drive geometry settings on a 1991 PC?

First, I am NOT asking how to use the BIOS Setup utility. I'm asking how to OVERRIDE the built-in settings my BIOS Setup supports for the HD geometry. I have a 1991 NCR PC with a 386SX, on-board IDE, ...
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4answers
571 views

Is the N64 incapable of 2D graphics?

So as many fans are aware, the N64 era was a jump for many games into the third dimension. Games like Mario and Zelda were impacted in a positive way. Others... not so much. While it may seem odd that ...
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1answer
199 views

“Unexpected interrupt in protected mode” after installing 486 DX2

I've got a Packard Bell Legend 245 that's been running a 486 DX at 33 MHz. The board is Socket 2, and says Intel Overdrive Ready. I bought a 66 MHz DX2 under the assumption that it's just a drop-in ...
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1answer
2k views

How do accelerators and CPU cards work on the Apple II?

An Amiga 1200 exposes the entire CPU bus on the expansion port, so that an accelerator only needs to assert BR which causes the onboard CPU to stop all computation and electrically disconnect from the ...
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2answers
267 views

Do TG16 games and software suffer from lag frame similar to NES Super Mario Bros?

As a speedrunning fan, I've watched hours of Super Mario Bros speedruns, and have heard the term "lag frame". I don't think it's similar to typical computer lag, but instead an extremely technical ...
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1answer
478 views

RAM for Socket 7 Motherboard - 64MB sticks appearing as 16MB

I hope this is the right place to ask this and that it is "retro" enough. I have a Socket 7 machine that I am working on. It's my 1st PC from childhood that I restored, and now I would like to ...
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2answers
187 views

Method for adding firmware to a Commodore 64 expansion card?

The C64 expansion port can and does support multiple IO devices without conflicts. There is 0.5 KiB that is decoded for $DE00-$DFFF, using /IO1 and /IO2 on the expansion port. As long as the devices ...
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2answers
2k views

Why do old computers perform a long memory test on every boot?

Basically any computers from the mid 90s and earlier perform a slow memory check on every single boot. The more memory there is present, the slower that process becomes, for example: https://www....
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3answers
3k views

What happened to ZIP RAM?

I have several retro machines and add-on cards for the Amiga that use ZIP RAM. This vertically mounted chip design enjoyed a brief popularity in the early 1990s, in between the original DIP DRAM and ...
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1answer
229 views

Connecting Panasonic “Penwriter” RK-P400C to modern PC using USB to serial cable

I have a Panasonic "Penwriter" model RK-P400C electronic typewriter/plotter from circa 1985 I'd like to be able to connect to a modern PC. And hopefully even use to draw graphics! Bought in almost new ...
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3answers
494 views

Did DEC build their early computers out of the same parts?

Considering the PDP-8, PDP-7, PDP-9, PDP-1, even though they are completely different architectures (from a programmer's or compiler's point of view at least), they have some remarkable similarities ...
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1answer
392 views

On the bbc-micro, a half-size mode 1 screen mode with 16 colours instead of 4 can fit in memory but can the video chip be programmed for it?

Screen Mode 2 on the BBC micro is 160 x 256 with "16"* colours. This uses up 20Kb of memory. Horizontal-rectangular pixels ( 2 x squares each). 4 bits per pixel (0-15 values for 16 colours) Screen ...
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3answers
230 views

TMS9918 with shared memory

The TMS9918 video display processor was designed in the 70s to have its own memory connected directly to it, and provides an interface that allows the CPU to read or write the memory during cycles in ...
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5answers
633 views

A different way to share the memory bus between the CPU and the Video

Considering the ZX Spectrum, part of the memory is accessible to both the ULA and the CPU, and the CPU is slowed down when it is using that area, so that the framebuffer can be read out. As I ...
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5answers
2k views

Is my understanding right about the actual differences between 240p and 480i?

After reading around on the web, including the authoritative site Scanlines Demystified I still am having trouble understanding the difference in signal between 240p and 480i. After reading the wiki ...
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2answers
347 views

Strange “snow” artifacts when dragging a window in 256-color mode

I picked up a nice Packard Bell Legend 245 over the weekend, and it works great apart from one issue so far: when dragging windows around the screen (Win 3.1), the screen gets corrupted with weird ...
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0answers
188 views

When did green LEDs become as cheap as red LEDs? [closed]

Blue LEDs in the cheap, practical form we know them today, arrived in the 90s; before that, the choices were red and green. I want to say there was a time some years before that when green LEDs ...
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1answer
262 views

Recent article about using Apple II for security purposes

I'm looking for the article for a project. It is fairly recent, may have been a news article, or a blog. It in turn might have referenced a scholarly paper. Anyway, the gist of the article was that ...
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3answers
361 views

What is the optimal way to store retro computing paraphernalia (games, consoles, accessories, books) on display at home?

When collecting retro computing related items you'll undoubtedly end up with a variety of different items, made from different materials and in a range of conditions. Here is a recent snap of my ...
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8answers
11k views

Why were chips socketed in early computers?

In many early computers, many of the chips were in sockets rather than soldered directly to boards, e.g. this series of pictures of the Tandy CoCo 1 has a note to the effect that all the chips are ...
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2answers
161 views

Do all Econet devices need the same clock speed?

Econet was a network used by the BBC Micro, conceptually similar to Ethernet, two orders of magnitude slower and correspondingly cheaper. According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Econet it ...
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4answers
1k views

Largest practical motherboard for early computers

The power of a computer is often effectively determined by the size the RAM can be expanded to. In many cases, this was even more important than CPU speed: Memory-limited workloads In the early days, ...