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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7
votes
1answer
399 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 ...
10
votes
2answers
321 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 ...
1
vote
2answers
156 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 ...
13
votes
1answer
390 views

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 ...
4
votes
3answers
432 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 ...
0
votes
2answers
167 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 ...
10
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2answers
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, ...
21
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3answers
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 ...
27
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2answers
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 ...
5
votes
2answers
366 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 ...
5
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2answers
945 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 ...
22
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4answers
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 ...
3
votes
2answers
241 views

How many 6SN7 tubes did it take to store a bit?

One of the most important components of a computer is a circuit called a flip-flop, which has two stable states (that it can flip-flop between, hence the name); it is used for temporary storage of a ...
1
vote
1answer
242 views

8088 CPU A16-A19 address lines go crazy with nop test after 0FFFF address

I'm building a minimal, minimum mode 8088 computer. I started with an 80C88-2 (CMOS, static variant) CPU. My configuration is really simple. One CPU, one 74HCT245 (DTR->DT/R) for the data lines, ...
3
votes
2answers
161 views

Could early computers use existing punch card machines?

In the early decades of the industry, computers used punch cards for data storage and transmission, partly because they were already widely used for pre-computer data processing; indeed, a major ...
8
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1answer
844 views

How many transistors in the CDC 1604?

The CDC 1604, released in 1960, was Seymour Cray's first supercomputer, and also one of the first computers made of transistors. (The IBM 7090 was released only the previous year.) How many ...
5
votes
0answers
223 views

Were vertical monitor arcade games programmed differently from those with horizontal monitors?

Many classic arcade games like Pac Man (Namco 1980), Assault (Namco 1988), Mercs (Capcom 1990), etc, use a monitor oriented vertically. I assume that they used the same physical hardware, with the ...
11
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10answers
3k views

Hardware assisted Graphical User Interface?

I have read a fiction novel in which a manufacturer in the 80s provided GUI by adding a dedicated drawing hardware besides videocard or by extending videocard. Fictional as it is, is this possible or ...
12
votes
2answers
2k views

How did the Altair ensure that the −5 V supply was the first connected and last disconnected?

The Wikipedia page for the Intel 8080 processor describes pin 11 as The −5 V power supply. This must be the first power source connected and the last disconnected, otherwise the processor will be ...
2
votes
2answers
386 views

How were the popular CPUs of the eighties implemented? [closed]

With the ubiquity of FPGAs, I find it relatively easy to design an eighties-like CPU. But it's maybe too simple now, with so many ways to implement any given CPU unit. What were the hardware ...
6
votes
1answer
195 views

What were the different RAM refresh techniques in the 80s

I've looked at some techniques that were used at the beginning of the eighties to refresh the RAM (CPU-based refresh for the Z80, or the use of the video circuit for computers that shared the bus ...
19
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2answers
1k views

How did the Apple IIGS automatically slow 5.25 inch disk I/O code for backwards compatability?

Apple II software often used hard-coded timing for 5.25 inch floppy disk I/O, for example to control the duration of each track step or the rate at which bytes are written and read from the disk. ...
13
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4answers
3k views

CPU frequency / memory wait states at end of the 80s

According to the advertisements of the late eighties, you could find RAM having an access time ranging from 120 to 80 ns (150 to 210 cycle times). A 386SX-25 could execute a typical register to ...
-4
votes
3answers
293 views

What was the last personal computer to have the chips neatly arranged in rows and columns?

Once upon a time, the chips on the circuit boards of personal computers1 were arranged in a tidy grid pattern. Observe the board of the Apple ][+: Or the Commodore 128: Sadly, the zen of neat rows ...
6
votes
1answer
1k views

What was the first computer board to be wave-soldered?

The Wikipedia article on wave soldering does not give any information on its history. What was the first computer circuit board to use this process? I am specifically looking for computers that were ...
1
vote
1answer
264 views

Which Mac models included a software visible DSP chip

Which Mac models included a DSP chip that could be accessed by regular application code? (e.g. not hidden inside the mouse, WiFi chip, disk read/write chip, GPU, etc.) Did they ship before or after ...
-3
votes
3answers
472 views

Were there ever plans published, or kits, or a machine made, for a noughts-and-crosses computer game which did not use electronics? [closed]

Were there ever plans published, or kits, or a machine made, for a noughts-and-crosses computer game which did not use electronics – using only wire, an electricity source, and light bulbs ? . A ...
3
votes
1answer
140 views

How do I setup this Kickstart switcher?

I can not find any documentation for this Kickstart switcher. It's labeled LS A9211-3 © FH 1992. How must the jumpers J1 and J2 be set and where must the KB and RES lines be connected to? I want to ...
0
votes
2answers
223 views

Vector-06C Soviet home PC schematics

Looking for Vector-06C schematics in any form.
5
votes
2answers
245 views

Config information on ancient 16-bit Multi I/O card

I need to build a retro machine so that I can access an HDD that required manual input of BIOS parameters. (Yes, I have that information.) The only ID I can find is ES1O/4A 280695 which yields nothing ...
4
votes
1answer
366 views

What's wrong with SNES original controller's shoulder buttons?

This is probably a hardware-related question. I have recently bought a total of 7 (seven) different original SNES controllers from different sources, all of them being somewhat used but mostly ...
10
votes
2answers
763 views

When does an IBM-compatible PC keyboard controller dequeue scancodes?

There is a not-unheard-of technique in DOS software to detect certain keypresses (like Ctrl+Break) by intercepting the keyboard interrupt (IRQ 1) and reading the scancode directly from the keyboard ...
9
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0answers
231 views

Killer poke on the Ninendo DS via POWCNT1 register

From GBATEK, writes to a certain I/O port for power management may damage hardware: 4000304h - NDS9 - POWCNT1 - Graphics Power Control Register (R/W) 0 Enable Flag for both LCDs (0=Disable) (...
17
votes
1answer
1k views

How did the Nova 1200 divide so quickly?

According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Data_General_Nova The Nova 1200 executed core memory access instructions (LDA and STA) in 2.55 microseconds (μs). Use of read-only memory saved 0.4 μs. ...
8
votes
2answers
205 views

Why was the VT05 resolution 72×20?

According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VT05 the VT05 presented the user with an upper-case only ASCII character display of 20 rows by 72 columns. At first glance this seems a reasonably natural ...
2
votes
1answer
226 views

Modern heat sinks for Commodore C64/C128

The VIC-II and SID chips in the C64/128 are prone to over-heating and are rather expensive to replace nowadays. Some other ICs in these machines may have the same issue. An unmodified machine includes ...
1
vote
1answer
327 views

What to do with stone age x86 computers? [closed]

Not sure if retro is proper place... I have two old notebooks with x86 processors in the 100s range of MHz. While nostalgics might appreciate them, I'm wondering if there is any proper point in ...
2
votes
2answers
334 views

What was the DRAM refresh interval on early microcomputers?

Dynamic RAM is denser than static RAM, but needs to be refreshed every few milliseconds to avoid losing data. How many milliseconds, exactly? If the answer has changed over time, then I'm interested ...
3
votes
1answer
425 views

Did the Nintendo S-SMP really contain 3 million transistors?

According to http://www.vgmpf.com/Wiki/index.php?title=S-SMP The S-SMP (perhaps: Sony - Sound & Music Processor?) is the audio CPU used by the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. It consists of ...
6
votes
1answer
235 views

Player 1 / Player 2 input for Space Invaders

According to the Computer Archeology page on Space Invaders, port 1 presents "player 1's shoot/left/right" input to the CPU, whereas port 2 presents player 2. Playing around the code in an ...
3
votes
1answer
250 views

Why did the Vic-20 need special chips for I/O?

The Vic-20 used two 6522 VIA chips for I/O. I asked why it had two of them but thanks to a comment from Bruce Abbott, I now think that wasn't quite the question I needed to ask. What I really need to ...
3
votes
1answer
679 views

Why does the Vic-20 have two VIA chips?

The Vic-20 uses the 6522 VIA for peripheral I/O. However, it has two of them. I find this surprising, particularly considering minimizing cost was an important design goal. Is there a reason why it ...
5
votes
3answers
476 views

What is the difference between the 6522 VIA and a UART?

The 6522 VIA is an I/O chip used in the Vic-20. I was under the impression that UART (Universal Asynchronous Receiver/Transmitter) is the general term for such chips, so was surprised to see this: ...
20
votes
11answers
5k views

Did any European computers use 10-line fonts?

Most 8-bit computers implemented hardware text mode, and most of those used 8x8 fonts. This was logical for American computers; the title safe area on NTSC is about 200 scan lines; font height 8 gets ...
7
votes
4answers
2k views

Could any computers use 16k or 64k RAM chips?

An interesting feature of the Apple II was that it had three rows of sockets for RAM chips, each of which could take either 4k or 16k chips. That meant the minimum configuration was 4K (cheap) but it ...
2
votes
1answer
107 views

Macintosh IIci not booting

I have an old Macintosh IIci that worked until a few weeks ago but now doesn't turn on anymore. When I press the power button on the keyboard all the lights on the keyboard and the one on the main ...
16
votes
2answers
2k views

Why did the 8087 need a special socket?

The IBM PC included a coprocessor socket for the 8087 floating-point unit. Logical enough; some customers wanted to use the 8087 to make numeric calculations run faster. But why was the 8087 designed ...
20
votes
5answers
5k views

Why did mainframes have big conspicuous power-off buttons?

Some fascinating stories in this discussion thread. It starts with discussion about computers overheating, but about halfway through the thread, it switches to discussion of mainframe installations in ...
4
votes
0answers
149 views

Why did Gran Trak 10 cost so much?

In 1974, Atari released a driving game called Gran Trak 10. The development prototypes had used real car steering wheels and pedals, but it was realized these were too expensive, so they were changed ...
3
votes
2answers
474 views

How did wave soldering work? [closed]

While it is not used as much nowadays, wave soldering was a big advance in the productivity of manufacturing electronics, compared to soldering all the components by hand. It consists of placing all ...

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