Questions tagged [hardware]

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

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2answers
105 views

Is this a computer screen in 1956, and if so, what is it displaying?

The photo below shows what may be a CRT for the TX-0 (transistorized experimental computer) in 1956, referring to what may be a CRT on the left side, not to the CRT on the right side . If that is a ...
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4answers
410 views

Are there standard DIN pinouts for cassette and video ports on early Japanese 8-bit computers?

I have several different Japanese 8-bit computers, and they use similar DIN connectors for video and cassette I/O: Composite video: 180° 5-pin DIN: Fujitsu FM-7, NEC PC-8001mkII Color TTL (digital) ...
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3answers
366 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 ...
87
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20answers
18k 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 ...
118
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4answers
30k views

It's now safe to turn off your computer

One thing I remember very well from my childhood is the screen you got at the end of a shutdown process ond old computers: I don't know if this was a Windows 95/98/2000/ME only thing but I wonder why ...
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2answers
10k views

Why does the 80486 take longer to execute simple instructions than complex ones?

The 80486 processor can execute many instructions in a single cycle, such as a register-to-register add instruction (ADD EAX, EBX, for example), which one would generally assume is fairly complex, ...
8
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8answers
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 ...
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8answers
4k views

Why were optical drives not used as secondary storage instead of magnetic drives?

What prevented optical drives from being used as the dominant secondary storage like the magnetic disk drives, in PCs? Was it entirely technical limitation or other issues like late development and ...
33
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6answers
6k views

Why do hard drives not use larger platter sizes anymore?

In reading a related question about floppy drive capacity, I thought to ask a question I've had for a long time. When I started programming, all PC hard drives used the 5¼" platter size. There were ...
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2answers
204 views

What is the brand and model of this AT chassis case from the early 90s?

A friend is trying find the original brand and model of this old 1990’s generic case. An ad from computershopper would help.
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4answers
3k views

Why does MP3 audio decoding overwhelm retro CPU's?

Many retrocomputers from the late 80s and early 90s had audio DAC hardware support. This includes the Amiga, Classic Macintosh, and PC's with SoundBlaster add-on cards. Despite the fact that the MP3 ...
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1answer
186 views

Who built the first electric/electronic adder?

The first electricity-based adder presumably used relays. (The electromechanical relay was invented for the electrochemical telegraph for repeaters in 1831 by Joseph Henry (1797-1878). I can't figure ...
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7answers
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Was it possible programmatically to manipulate the volume as well as the pitch on computers with no sound chip?

On early versions of many 8-bit computers like the Apple II, Spectrum, and even the IBM PC, there was no sound hardware other than the simple "beeper". Programmers made sound by hitting a hardware ...
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2answers
183 views

Why did computers settle for instructions with multiple machine cycles instead of investing into larger ring counters? [closed]

On the 8080 and 8085 microprocessors, a LDA instruction took 13 timing(or T) states to execute. This could be solved by using a ring counter that could generate said 13 T states,as well as having ...
6
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1answer
188 views

Did the Timex Sinclair 2068 and the Sinclair ZX Interface 2 use totally different hardware and software techniques?

Sinclair released an add-on for the Spectrum called the ZX Interface 2 that provided joystick ports and a cartridge slot. It wasn't successful and only a few cartridges were ever produced. In the US, ...
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2answers
187 views

Reusing original Palm memory cards

I have a number of non-functional older PalmOS devices (of the 68000 processor variety, not the later ARM processor models). I'd like to be able to reuse the memory cards from these in new ...
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6answers
4k views

Did any RISC CPU ever take more than one clock cycle per instruction?

Classic RISC CPUs like ARM and MIPS basically offer the trade-off: simple instruction set, but instructions execute in one cycle for good overall performance. (It gets more complicated in later times, ...
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7answers
985 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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1answer
176 views

How Amiga A590 autoboot ROM and bootable floppy disk works?

Commodore A590 was a peripheral hard drive and memory expansion unit for Amiga 500/500+ computers. It provides SCSI and XT-harddrive controller and 2MB Fast Ram. Here is the Big Book of Amiga Hardware ...
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4answers
423 views

What was the first personal computer to use surface mount components?

Title pretty much says it all. To qualify, the computer must have been manufactured and released. No prototypes or computers that never shipped. Also, I'm looking for computers used at a home or ...
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2answers
458 views

How do you use the INHIBIT pin on the Apple II bus?

Pin 32 of the Apple II bus is a signal called /INH (short for "INHIBIT"). Some of what I found online about using this pin for an Apple II expansion card suggests it was inconsistently implemented ...
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1answer
302 views

Which computers used the Intel 82786 graphics chips, and what sort of commercial success did that chip attain?

In the late 1980's, Intel offered the 82768 graphics chip, with specific support for windowed environments. I remember it being covered in Byte magazine, but don't remember seeing any applications of ...
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0answers
257 views

Why would installing Windows 9x on a Sager NP8200 or Wedge 466/DX2 laptop brick the system?

In the setup.txt file on the Windows 95 and 98 CDs (located in the \WIN95 [Windows 95] / \win98 [Windows 98] folder), which contains important information on setting up Windows and solving or working ...
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11answers
6k views

640x480 color display in 1980

I'm working on an alternate history story in which the protagonists, Silicon Valley computer entrepreneurs, are trying to release a graphical workstation in 1980, with the capability of displaying ...
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1answer
115 views

How can I fix this clacking sound made by the Game Boy speaker?

I have a Game Boy, and whenever it tries to play sound, the sound is very quiet but there's a loud clacking sound. Here is a sample. In this case, it is Tetris Attack playing: https://soundcloud.com/...
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10answers
6k views

Graphics chips in 1980

Suppose you were trying to build a computer with a color graphics display in 1980, you have limited engineering resources and time to market is critical, so you want to get as many of the parts off ...
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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). ...
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1answer
241 views

Hardware implementation of the isometric tile engine. Is it possible, did it exist?

We are talking about a hardware (and not software over hardware, as for example in some games on the SNES console) tile engine with multi-overlapping rectangular (rather than square, when the image ...
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7answers
6k views

Purpose of turbo switch on systems unable to slow to 4.77 MHz?

I have a PC with an Intel P133 (133 MHz). The motherboard (PcPartner MB520NH) only allows for it to be slowed down to 75 MHz at the least via jumper settings, but no lower. Yet the PC's case has ...
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2answers
3k views

How did I fry my SID chip?

I recently got a SID chip (8580r5) for $35 and got it playing music. I was really happy about it. I hooked up a small amp chip to the 9V supply momentarily (it didn't work, I was building that part of ...
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6answers
16k views

What did the 'turbo' button actually do?

I remember the computer I played Commander Keen on as a child had a turbo button that I was forbidden to touch, what did this button actually do?
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8answers
292 views

What 8-bit microcomputer systems multiplexed multiple physical ports on a single controller?

The NEC PC-8201 had three serial interface ports on the back, "RS-232," "SIO1" and "SIO2." These were all driven by a single IM6402 USART, switched between each physical port via bits 7 and 6 of IO ...
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2answers
1k views

DEC Alpha: why no 8/16-bit load/stores?

The first version of the DEC Alpha had no load/store instructions for 8 or 16-bit values; if you wanted to deal with data of such sizes, you had to do it by shifting and masking values in registers as ...
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1answer
332 views

How many hours of labor did it take to assemble a minicomputer?

A minicomputer like the PDP-8 contained several thousand discrete transistors and other components, all of which had to be soldered by hand, and that was among the simplest computers on the market; ...
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1answer
173 views

Why did the CDC 6600 expand the word size to 60 bits?

According to http://www.quadibloc.com/comp/cp0201.htm The CDC 1604 used 48-bit floating point with 11 bits exponent and 36 bits mantissa. There was also a double precision format (which I believe was ...
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4answers
2k views

Amiga 500 OCS/ECS vs Mega Drive VDP

Superficially the Amiga 500 and Mega Drive are similar. Both run a Motorola 68000 CPU at similar clocks and both have dedicated hardware for sprite and other graphics operations. Comparing the arcade ...
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1answer
203 views

When first CMOS versions of Z80 became available and were they ever used in (non-portable) home computers?

When Z80 first became available on the market in 1976 it was made using NMOS technology. It is the version that is likely to be most familiar to people interested in retro-computers. For example, to ...
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2answers
308 views

Were expansion slots fundamentally incompatible with FCC regulations?

The Apple II provided the ability to connect to your TV (as opposed to purchasing a dedicated monitor). However, at that time, the FCC criterion for applying stringent RF emission limits was 'device ...
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2answers
254 views

What's the Motorola microprocessor with two sets of registers to avoid costly context switch?

I remember reading somewhere (maybe on Hacker News or Lobsters) that Motorola made a microprocessor some decades ago with two sets of registers. This means when handling an interrupt, it does not need ...
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5answers
4k views

DIY Project using 1970s 8-bit CPU, is it possible?

I've recently really wanted to try and design a computer system around a retro 8-bit CPU such as the Zilog Z80 or the Intel 8080, and I would appreciate some sanity checks! I was inspired by Ben Eater'...
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2answers
375 views

Why did extracodes fall out of favour?

Once you have an operating system that provides services callable from programs, you need to provide a way for programs to request those services. These days the general approach only requires a ...
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2answers
2k views

How did most fifth-generation consoles avoid wobbly graphics?

According to Why do 3D models on the PlayStation 1 “wobble” so much? the PlayStation had a problem with wobbly graphics because Filling a triangle involves visiting every pixel within it and ...
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1answer
219 views

How to set up a payphone phone network central office

I would like to setup a network of payphones inside my college as part of a retro phone systems / artistic interactive exhibit. I would like to be able to use the payphones to make calls inside the ...
7
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1answer
318 views

In the 1970s, had there been a way that a home computer using a TV as monitor could get FCC approval for Apple II style slots without cheating?

I’m reading the book “Atari Inc.: Business is Fun” by Curt Vendel and Marty Goldberg. (By the way, it’s a fun read, highly recommended.) It states that when the Atari engineers had been developing the ...
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0answers
213 views

What was the cost of the PS2 chip in the last PS3 to have it?

The PlayStation 2 provided backward compatibility with the PS1 by essentially incorporating an entire PS1 on a separate chip. It kept this arrangement permanently. The PS3 started off providing ...
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1answer
409 views

How much memory did the PlayStation development kit have?

The PlayStation 1 had two megabytes of main memory, one megabyte of video memory and half a megabyte of audio memory. Squeezing everything to fit into these limits was one of the big challenges of ...
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3answers
2k views

6502 reset pin: always needed on power on?

The 6502 pinout has a reset pin, which presumably would be used if a reset button is pressed on the machine containing the CPU. But the 6507 contains the same pin. The 6507 was designed at the ...
38
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6answers
9k views

Why did early arcade games use vertical displays?

Surprisingly many early arcade games, such as Pac-Man, Galaxian and Galaga, mounted their displays vertically, in portrait rather than landscape orientation. (From the perspective of the electronics, ...
7
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1answer
516 views

How did the Donkey Kong arcade hardware provide 128 sprites?

According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donkey_Kong_(video_game) The Donkey Kong hardware has the memory capacity for displaying 128 foreground sprites at 16x16 pixels each and 256 background ...
21
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3answers
2k views

Why was it not possible to cost-reduce the Amiga 500?

According to 'Commodore: The Final Years' (whole trilogy highly recommended, BTW), page 129, 'Jeff Porter realized it would not be possible to significantly cost reduce the Amiga 500 to get it into ...

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