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Questions tagged [hardware]

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

22
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6answers
4k views

Why weren't discrete x86 CPUs ever used in game hardware?

Please don't point out APUs with x86_64 cores used in current generation game consoles, these are not part of the question I cannot recall a single arcade system or game console that ever used x86 ...
2
votes
1answer
139 views

IBM 650 - how many logic gates?

How many logic gates did the IBM 650 have? I'm used to measuring the complexity of a CPU by transistor count, but the 650 was a vacuum tube machine; the number of tubes would also be an interesting ...
42
votes
2answers
4k views

Why did the IBM 650 use bi-quinary?

The IBM 650, announced in 1953, was the world's first mass-produced computer. It represented numbers in decimal, which is understandable, both because it needed to work with exact money amounts, and ...
2
votes
2answers
265 views

How did 2-chip CPUs work?

The 1970s saw a big transition from CPUs built from thousands of discrete components, to CPUs implemented on a single chip, with the occasional use of bit-slice components along the way. There were, ...
4
votes
6answers
3k views

Were any external disk drives stacked vertically?

There was a time when floppy disk drives were big, expensive devices that in many cases, instead of being components of a computer, would be separate machines connected by a cable, in some cases with ...
3
votes
4answers
206 views

Did the PC/AT-bus use its expanded address space?

The system bus of the IBM PC had 8 data lines and 20 address lines, in a logical correspondence to the 8088 CPU. The AT added a second inline edge connector to expand this to 16 data lines and 24 ...
3
votes
3answers
275 views

Were there computers whose text touched( or came close to ) the overscan border? [closed]

QUESTION - . Were there computers whose text in text-mode, touched( or came close to ) the overscan border, and could this sometimes result in some of the computer-generated-display not being ...
4
votes
1answer
240 views

Did the 286 go out of its way to follow the 8088 bus protocol?

In general, different CPUs don't use the same bus protocol. A 16-bit CPU would not in general be expected to use the same protocol as an 8-bit CPU. For example, the 68000 would not be expected to use ...
20
votes
3answers
3k views

Did arcade monitors have same pixel aspect ratio as TV sets?

It is well known that when emulating classic games on modern displays, you need to be careful not to distort the aspect ratio. Generally speaking, CRT screens were 4:3, and specific pixel aspect ...
0
votes
3answers
222 views

How were early computer monitor signals used to breach security? [duplicate]

In the mid 80's, several national news outlets showed people able to reproduce a computer's monitor's screen at least 100ft away. 1) How were early computers compromised like this? 2) Were there ...
17
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3answers
4k views

When did hardware antialiasing start being available?

An important step towards 3D gaming was the ability to scale sprites or tiles by nonintegral factors. Examples of the former from the eighties were the arcade games Pole Position, Outrun, Space ...
2
votes
1answer
216 views

SNES PPU die photo

The heart of many classic home computers and game consoles was the graphics chip, yet these tend to be less well-documented than the corresponding CPUs. Still, there are die photos of two of the most ...
2
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0answers
104 views

How to reset/recover password on Ascend/Lucent “SuperPipe 155” ISDN router

I am trying to set up a second-hand 1990s era Ascend/Lucent "SuperPipe 155" ISDN router for use with some of my 90s era computers, but I don't know the router's password and the instructions I found ...
16
votes
3answers
4k views

Why did the Cray-1 have 8 parity bits per word?

According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cray-1 The Cray-1 was built as a 64-bit system, a departure from the 7600/6600, which were 60-bit machines (a change was also planned for the 8600). ...
18
votes
1answer
3k views

Did 5.25" floppies undergo a change in magnetic coating?

3.5" floppy disks, in the transition from 720K to 1.44M, changed the actual coating to a different compound that was magnetically 'stiffer'. This was necessary to support the higher density, but meant ...
8
votes
4answers
728 views

How much data could a home computer store on an audio cassette?

The use of audio cassettes for storing data for home computers was a great example of repurposing an existing invention. Cassettes were sold in a variety of capacities, and labelled with their audio ...
9
votes
1answer
280 views

Why can't special controllers or accessories be used with Super FX games?

SNES games with the Super FX processor generally do not support special controllers or accessories such as the Multi Player 5 multitap, SNES Mouse, or Super Scope. Yoshi's Island, for example, ...
13
votes
1answer
2k views

What are Holorydmachines?

While going through the memoirs of a witness of the Holocaust in Germany, I stumbled upon the passage: there in Rudolfstadt we had a new holorydmachine from the Americans - in the barn of a farmer -...
12
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2answers
2k views

Why did some CPUs use two Read/Write lines, and others just one?

Many 8-bit processors, such as Motorola's 6800 and MOS Technology's 6502 make use of a single pin to indicate to the rest of the system whether the CPU wishes to read from or write to a memory ...
3
votes
3answers
254 views

3 decimal digits per 10 bits

Early computers often had hardware support for decimal arithmetic. This was usually in the form of BCD, 1 decimal digit per 4 bits, e.g. the 6502 and Z80, tightly constrained by transistor count as ...
3
votes
1answer
98 views

Sam Coupé power supply heat

I have a Sam Coupé and the last time I turn it on, i noticed a smell of components overheating. After opening the power supply I came to the conclusion that is the resistance R1 (50ºc with IR ...
2
votes
5answers
516 views

Was it possible to send data over the phone-line without a modem?

Was it possible to send data over the phone-line without a modem? Clarification Was it possible to send data over the phone-line without a modem, either by connecting computers directly to the ...
2
votes
1answer
219 views

How to repair an old motherboard

I recently got some old motherboards. I was able to fix a damage caused by a leaked battery on a 486 board by soldering a bypass (to fix not working keyboard plug). Another board is in a good shape ...
13
votes
3answers
2k views

What was the first microprocessor to support full virtualization?

Virtual memory, which allows an operating system to run several machine code programs isolated from each other, came to the desktop during the eighties. But full virtualization, which lets the ...
4
votes
2answers
156 views

Single-stepping the Altair 8800

I've just been watching a rather interesting series of videos about the MITS Altair 8800. It has a button on the front panel to single-step the CPU one instruction at a time... Except that, on closer ...
2
votes
3answers
329 views

History of advanced hardware [closed]

Like most people, I grew up in the 1980s, and bore whitness to the great 8-bit home computer revolution. From where I'm sitting, "computers" started with slow 8-bit machines just powerful enough to ...
50
votes
12answers
10k views

How big is a mainframe?

If you read about the history of computing, you'll hear how the first computers were "huge". You will often come across assertions that in the early days of commercial computing, a single computer ...
7
votes
4answers
588 views

Amiga floppy disks and GCR vs MFM

According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Group_coded_recording the Commodore 1541 disk drive used a particularly efficient GCR encoding scheme to cram 170K onto the same 5.25" disks that in an Apple ...
-3
votes
4answers
257 views

Operating systems which have non-x86 instruction set architecture [closed]

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 ...
18
votes
7answers
3k views

Why not constant linear velocity 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 ...
4
votes
3answers
841 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 ...
80
votes
20answers
17k 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 ...
1
vote
2answers
244 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 ...
48
votes
11answers
14k 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, ...
25
votes
3answers
5k 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, ...
1
vote
1answer
446 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 ...
11
votes
3answers
754 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 ...
3
votes
1answer
272 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 ...
4
votes
1answer
283 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 ...
10
votes
4answers
1k 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 ...
2
votes
1answer
296 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 ...
2
votes
1answer
325 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
votes
1answer
332 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 ...
8
votes
1answer
244 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 ...
3
votes
2answers
295 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 ...
3
votes
1answer
150 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 ...
7
votes
3answers
829 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 ...
8
votes
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?
4
votes
4answers
503 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 ...
4
votes
2answers
446 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 ...