Questions tagged [hardware]

Retro hardware generally: boards, extension cards, power supplies, peripherals. Use more specific tags as appropriate; use [case] instead for enclosures.

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Was there a hard disk type that had a SMART overflow crash/bug?

A data center employee told me a story about 25 years ago, explaining why that data center took some time to assemble a RAID array. Recently, I wasn't able to verify the facts by googling, and I may ...
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10 votes
2 answers
793 views

Information about the Hollywood Hardware Graphics Card for Apple II+

I still have a Hollywood Hardware graphics card that I used in my Apple II+ back-in-the-day. It was my understanding that this was the graphics card used for the special effects in the first three ...
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5 votes
2 answers
354 views

What would it take for a 6502 system to use an 8 bit ISA bus

I've built 6502 computer on an ISA card: To access the bus it decodes the following 6502address ranges $0200-$03FF mapped at I/O address $00200-003ff (IOR; IOW) $4000-$BFFF mapped at ISA address $...
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4 answers
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I found an apple IIe without a power supply where can i find one [closed]

I found an apple IIe without a power supply where can i find one also any tips on where i can find other parts for it. Btw i know nothing about Retrocomputers.
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15 votes
3 answers
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What is the history and development of memory caching?

I have tried to research the history and development of memory caching online, but I find it hard to find good information. Many resources online would have you believe caching was introduced with ...
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1 vote
1 answer
371 views

Why audio of Prince of Persia (1989) produce in CPU rather than audio speaker? [closed]

I used to play this Prince of Persia (1989) in Pentinum III computer. But audio of Prince of Persia (1989) produce in CPU rather than audio speakers. Why?
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-4 votes
1 answer
310 views

If I build a new CPU architecture, how would an OS like Linux know how to run it? [closed]

I am trying to build a CPU from scratch (from NOR gates) in an emulator first, then on breadboard. (Inspired by nand2tetris and Ben Eater) Just trying to understand how things work. Now, as my CPU ...
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16 votes
2 answers
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Were there any enhancement chips that vastly outperformed the main CPU?

Were there any enhancement chips in officially-released games that were CPUs themselves and which ran the game code itself, relegating the role of the main CPU to that of a thin client? To elaborate, ...
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4 votes
2 answers
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Why do computer rooms no longer have raised floors? [closed]

As I understand it, computer rooms in the days of mainframes and minicomputers, commonly had raised floors, so that the space under the floor could be used for power cables and cool air. I'm not clear ...
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7 votes
3 answers
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Why 18 expansion slots on the Altair 8800?

The Altair 8800 had a backplane with 18 connectors for S-100 cards. Why was the number 18 particularly chosen? It is fairly common for a computer to have the number of expansion cards be a power of 2,...
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8 votes
0 answers
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What did the Big Red Button actually do on the IBM 4341?

Wiktionary explains the origin of the term molly guard: Originally a Plexiglas cover improvised for the Big Red Switch on an IBM 4341 mainframe after a programmer's toddler daughter (named Molly) ...
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3 votes
2 answers
422 views

Did any 8-bit disk drive screen off the hardware? [closed]

The Commodore 1541 floppy drive was a separate computer in its own right, with its own 6502 CPU. It was designed that way because they were basically copying the design from the Vic, partly due to a ...
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18 votes
1 answer
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How long did plasma displays persist?

I'm reading a book called The Friendly Orange Glow, about the PLATO multiuser computer system developed by the University of Illinois in the late sixties, which is fascinating at several levels as a ...
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8 votes
7 answers
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Why are symmetric bi-directional communication port cables not always crossover cables?

There are a number of bi-directional communication port standards in which cables are used to connect two identical ports, and usually those connect each pin of one port to the same pin of the other ...
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10 votes
2 answers
549 views

Simulating a 8085 using a Z80?

I am studying the replacement of a 8085 with a Z80 (I am aware that they are not pin-compatible, the solution is to be made in a board of new design rather than on the old board). The sole reason is ...
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5 votes
1 answer
650 views

Who were the market for those "speed up your computer" shareware applications back in the day? [closed]

In the Swedish computer magazine PC Hemma ("Home PC") from February 1997 (p. 68), they included a floppy disk with shareware programs related to "trimming your PC", as well as a ...
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2 votes
1 answer
298 views

When was fixed page size, flexible assignment bank switching patented?

The 8-bit microprocessors invented in the seventies, had a 16-bit address space. It didn't take long for memory demand to exceed this, with the result that bank switching was a fact of life for the ...
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23 votes
8 answers
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Why was computer memory so expensive and scarce?

Computer memory used to be a limited and expensive asset for a long while (for example, in computers with 16KiB RAM or less, compared to the 2 MiB of my first PC (an Intel 486) in 1995 and current day'...
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28 votes
3 answers
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Why do Game Boy Colors not want nickel-cadmium batteries?

This is a page from the manual for the Game Boy Color: There is no explanation as to why this is, or how this can be, but it claims that one must not use rechargeable nickel-cadmium batteries. Why is ...
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  • 281
6 votes
0 answers
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Looking for an 8-bit microcomputer with a hardware-accelerated database

In some old video on YouTube a few years ago, I noticed a curious computer from the end of the 70s - early 80s. In the rack (half height), typical of minicomputers of those years, there was a 14" ...
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6 votes
1 answer
458 views

Did ancillary LEDs trade arcade game design for manufacturing cost?

Looking at the 1974 arcade game Speed Race, I notice that the cabinet includes ancillary LEDs to show the scores. https://flyers.arcade-museum.com/?page=wide-flyer&db=videodb&id=4056&image=...
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3 votes
1 answer
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Did any 6502-based system with cycle-stealing memory access steal the first available read, rather than asserting READY three cycles early?

On the 6502, the READY signal may be used to extend read cycles indefinitely, but will have no effect if asserted during write cycles. As a result, many devices that need to steal cycles from the CPU ...
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3 votes
1 answer
183 views

How is a bus request initiated on the VME bus?

I am looking into creating a multi-processor "VME-like" system as a challenge and "because why not". I say VME-like because it probably wont be a strict VMEbus implementation, but ...
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14 votes
2 answers
3k views

How did the classic Macintosh come to use Eurocard connectors?

Almost all of the mainstream classic desktop computers that had internal slots relied on the card-edge type of connector. The classic Macintosh computers were one exception to this "rule" (...
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12 votes
3 answers
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Does 10BASE-T need more sophisticated electronics than 10BASE5/10BASE2?

In a discussion on the history of Ethernet and 10BASE5, Stefan Skoglund commented Was 10BASE5 a mistake? One reason why 10BaseT became possible is Moores law (and the same for the other designs after ...
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6 votes
4 answers
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What was the first Ethernet hub?

An Ethernet hub is – well, Wikipedia does an impeccable job of summarizing what it is: An Ethernet hub, active hub, network hub, repeater hub, multiport repeater, or simply hub is a network hardware ...
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20 votes
5 answers
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Was 10BASE5 a mistake?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/10BASE5 gives a succint but vivid description of the physical layer of the first version of Ethernet and its subsequent replacement: 10BASE5 (also known as thick ...
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26 votes
3 answers
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When did 5.25″ floppies exceed the capacity of 8″?

When 5.25″ floppies were introduced, in the mid-to-late seventies, they would have had less capacity than the older 8″ because, well, less area on which to store data. On the other hand, being cheaper ...
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22 votes
4 answers
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Why did the TRS-80 CPU have priority over the display?

The original TRS-80 had a separate bank of static RAM for video memory, so that there would be no interference between display and CPU when the CPU was just doing calculations in main memory. When it ...
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33 votes
4 answers
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Why was manual branch suggestion abandoned?

Once pipelined CPUs became common, a common issue arrived as a result of taking the wrong branch of a conditional jump, and thus needing to flush the pipeline. As a result branch prediction mechanisms ...
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12 votes
1 answer
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What is purpose of the “CH” button and “CH” switch position on this calculator?

What is purpose of the CH button and CH switch position on the Omron Elite 8002 Taschen-Rechner? (For those who don't know German, “Taschen-Rechner” just means “calculator”.) The switch has three ...
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7 votes
2 answers
283 views

How did Apple IIc daughtercard expansions work?

I've been doing a lot of reading about the ways Apple IIc owners expanded their machines in the absence of the IIe's slots, and it's very intriguing stuff. The ones that I'm most curious about are the ...
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5 votes
1 answer
203 views

What was the first control display unit with selector keys around the display?

If not the first, then the one that became popular first (in any application; this is not limited to aviation systems). A control display unit, CDU for short, is fairly common in aviation, perhaps ...
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5 votes
1 answer
355 views

What kind of graphics hardware did Nichibutsu's 1985 arcade game "MagMax" use?

The arcade game MagMax by Nichibutsu came out in 1985 and features for its time an impressive 3D scrolling effect which, in my observation, is not widely discussed yet, although it should be ...
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7 votes
1 answer
1k views

What was the price of a Winchester-Drive for the HP-85 desktop computer back in 1980?

I wrote my first computer programs in HP-Basic on a HP-85 desktop computer. The year was 1980 and we stored our programs on special "high-speed" cassette tapes. I remember proposing to buy a ...
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15 votes
4 answers
3k views

How was the real-time clock implemented in the original IBM PC and PC/XT?

I know that the IBM PC/AT added a battery backed real-time clock chip that independently maintained time whether the system was powered or not. I've also seen many of those big DS1287 clock chips on ...
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27 votes
3 answers
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In what ways was the Soviet Strela computer "designed to function during a nuclear winter"? Or at least parts of it?

From Strela computer: Strela computer (Russian: ЭВМ Стрела, arrow) was the first mainframe computer manufactured serially in the Soviet Union, beginning in 1953. This first-generation computer had ...
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4 votes
1 answer
134 views

Quadram odd IBM PC card bracket

I came across an early IBM PC ISA realtime clock/calendar card made by Quadram called the "Chronograph" (picture). It's basically the same clock feature they incorporated into their ...
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7 votes
1 answer
688 views

Did the original Japanese Tamagotchi device really die *completely* (forever) if the digital pet died? [closed]

Ever since 1997, I've had this "factoid" in my head that the original release of Tamagotchi in Japan had no "reset" feature, and you could not remove the batteries to reset it ...
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10 votes
2 answers
500 views

How do I terminate an ISA bus correctly?

I am stuck by designing a 8 Slot 16 Bit ISA Backplane Do I have to terminate an ISA bus? My search results are: No termination at all Some homebrew projects use active termination for all signals ...
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  • 213
1 vote
2 answers
175 views

How many kinds of mass-producible ROM is avaliable before 1970? [duplicate]

Back in the days before mask ROM (when invented?) we got core rope memories, or Little Old Ladies memories, which required lots of human labor to build. Were there any kinds of ROMs which were ...
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15 votes
1 answer
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Why did the Rumble Pak for the Nintendo 64 require batteries when it actually apparently doesn't?

After watching this video tutorial: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AyJsOoQKRjQ I'm wondering what the whole deal was with the batteries. Apparently, you can resolder the circuit board inside the ...
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4 votes
3 answers
527 views

Were there low-end eighties computers that used dual-ported video RAM?

Going through schematics of several home or small office computers of the era, I was wondering why almost none of them (1) used dual-ported video RAM. I understand that those chips were initaly ...
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0 votes
2 answers
248 views

Z80 - "LD (nn), dd" command cycle [closed]

For a university assignment, I have to describe and draw the command cycle of the LD (nn), dd command. To be exact, I was given this command: LD (0x1000), BC which I interpret as putting the low ...
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12 votes
2 answers
2k views

Did the PDP-8 designers consider a stack?

The PDP-8 was a remarkable exercise in minimalist computer design; some of the aspects of its design are discussed in detail at PDP-8 transistor count One feature it did not have was a stack. Instead, ...
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22 votes
3 answers
7k views

What was the rationale behind 32-bit computer architectures?

Though today various power-of-2 word sizes seems to be the norm, back in the 50-60s multiple-of-6 word sizes was more popular and was required by Department of Defense(DOD) in particular. 36-bit ...
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27 votes
2 answers
6k views

How did the "Programmer's Switch" work on early Macintosh Computers?

The early Apple Macintosh computers (original Mac, Mac 512K, Mac Plus) all came with a "Programmer's Switch" installed on the side. I believe this persisted for a long time, with the switch ...
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7 votes
3 answers
691 views

How can I tell if my old PC supports > 137 GB hard drives?

I have an old PC from 1999 that has an ASUS P5A motherboard. When I power it on, it says ASUS P5A ACPI BIOS Revision 1011 Beta 005 and 05/02/2002-ALADDIN5-<<P5A>>: I recently read that up ...
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6 votes
2 answers
1k views

Were any vacuum tube computers built with wire wrap?

I'm trying to gain some understanding of how early computers were built; as discussed in What accounted for the cost of ENIAC? the cost of first-generation computers was not necessarily mostly about ...
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23 votes
4 answers
4k views

What accounted for the cost of ENIAC?

I'm used to the fact that first-generation computers were very expensive, which I had always assumed was because they contained large numbers of vacuum tubes, each of which is a rather complex, high ...
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