Questions tagged [history]

For questions concerning the history of computers, digital electronics, hardware manufacturers and software developers.

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11
votes
6answers
2k views

Which 8-bit computers were used in German schools in the 1980s?

In the 1980s, each country had a particular brand of computer that was most commonly used in schools; often, there was pressure to go with a local manufacturer. In the US, the Apple II. In Britain, ...
20
votes
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 ...
18
votes
7answers
2k views

Cost of unrestricted sprites

All the game consoles of the second through fourth generations, and several early home computers, had sprites, which were valuable though costly, e.g. the VIC-II spent 2/3 to 3/4 of its area on ...
8
votes
2answers
245 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 ...
9
votes
3answers
726 views

Cost of dynamic versus static RAM in the early days

Early pioneers building memory cards for personal computers, tended to use static RAM, because it's quite a bit easier to get to work. Later, dynamic RAM became de rigueur, for the simple and ...
8
votes
3answers
2k views

Did multiplexed address/data lines make memory access slower?

Looking at the pinout of e.g. the 8088, it multiplexes the data lines onto eight of the address lines; presumably the designers judged that being able to squeeze the chip into a 40-pin package, would ...
3
votes
2answers
254 views

Did the BBC ask for any unusual key colors on the BBC Micro?

Perhaps the most visually distinctive feature of the BBC Micro is the row of red function keys on the keyboard. I don't know who came up with that. I could swear I read somewhere that the BBC asked ...
5
votes
2answers
530 views

What was the title safe area on PAL TV sets?

Computers that used TV sets for display, needed to worry about the title safe area. By consensus, on NTSC sets, it was 200 scan lines, or 192 if you wanted to play it really safe. What was the ...
2
votes
1answer
292 views

How much did it cost to develop the Z80 CPU?

How much did it cost, in dollars at the time, to develop the Zilog Z80 CPU? According to Wikipedia, The Z80 is an 8-bit microprocessor introduced by Zilog as the startup company's first product. ...
-1
votes
0answers
127 views

How many ZX81 RAM packs were sold?

A classic model of home computing in the early eighties was: buy a computer, try your hand at programming. Maybe you find it interesting, and take it further. If not, the computer still serves as a ...
12
votes
2answers
689 views

Did the Oric-1 improve on the Spectrum's keyboard?

So I've been whiling away some of a quiet Saturday night reading up on an early eighties computer called the Oric-1, which seems to be a curious little machine that has been largely unsung; moderately ...
8
votes
1answer
967 views

Were single-sided floppy drives really more tolerant of rough handling?

The Osborne 1 was a luggable computer that contained a pair of 5.25-inch floppy drives. According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osborne_1 Adam Osborne decided to use single-sided disk drives out ...
10
votes
1answer
594 views

How many cards could you put on an S-100 bus?

The S-100 bus was something of an industry standard in the 1970s, for 8080 and Z80 computers built on a backplane design. It was invented with the Altair 8800, which apparently provided 16 or 18 ...
11
votes
1answer
538 views

What is the history of the Intel 8275 video controller?

The highly popular at the time build-it-yourself home computer Radio 86RK, designed in the Soviet Union, contained a rather mysterious video controller chip KR580VG75. It had a high end, feature rich ...
6
votes
2answers
317 views

What was the world's first computer role-playing game?

Role-playing games are distributed in various digital & non-digital formats AFAIK. What was the world's first computer RPG? It was written from scratch or was an adaption of a pen-and-paper RPG?
15
votes
6answers
3k views

Did any computer allow overscan on a CRT monitor?

The issue doesn't arise on today's LCD screens, but on a CRT screen, because the edges are slightly curved, and you might not be able to be sure exactly how the individual screen is tweaked, it's not ...
17
votes
3answers
1k views

Are there statements from IBM insiders revealing why OS/2 was dropped?

In the early to mid-90s I was an OS/2 user and supporter. The operating system was originally jointly developed by both Microsoft and IBM. Both companies claimed it was the future, including public ...
21
votes
3answers
3k views

How did 36-bit computers format ARPANET packets?

The contract to develop ARPANET, the first version of the Internet, was awarded in 1969; usage of the system expanded exponentially through the seventies. The size and format of ARPANET packets were ...
8
votes
2answers
1k views

What was the screen refresh rate of the Lisa and original Macintosh?

According to https://www.folklore.org/StoryView.py?project=Macintosh&story=Joining_Apple_Computer The Apple II displayed white text on a black background. I argued that to do graphics properly ...
3
votes
0answers
110 views

When was the “Director” role added to Game Development? [closed]

Obviously, crediting a "Director" was borrowed from the cinema industry. It was a new trend in computer game development in the late 1980s and early 1990s to embrace the story-telling aspect of a ...
8
votes
2answers
230 views

When was the first 3 state IC produced?

This was prompted by a question on the electronics site (which was asking why only an open collector variant of a particularly old part existed and how it could be part of a data bus). This was a ...
9
votes
2answers
400 views

What PC graphics tech outperformed Sega Dreamcast in 1999?

The Sega Dreamcast was released in 1999 (1998 in Japan) at just the time that the competition for 3D graphics on PCs was intensifying. It's my assumption that a high-end 1999 Pentium II PC with 3Dfx ...
10
votes
1answer
262 views

Why were index register contents on IBM 7090 subtracted in forming the effective address?

On IBM 709/7090/7094 mainframes, the effective address of an instruction could be modified by the contents of an index register specified in the instruction encoding. That much is a fairly standard ...
24
votes
1answer
6k views

What was the first operating system called DOS?

MS-DOS a.k.a. PC-DOS nee QDOS, was commonly just referred to as DOS. But 'disk operating system' is a very obvious acronym; there must have been previous operating systems so called. What was the ...
10
votes
2answers
1k views

Did any 360-compatible machine implement registers in core?

In the early days of transistors, when they cost on the order of a dollar each, it was possible to implement CPU registers with magnetic cores (the technology used for main memory at the time) instead ...
3
votes
1answer
122 views

What was the first company to sell an IBM compatible punchcard reader?

Punchcards were the primary way to get information into computers up through the sixties. The familiar eighty column format was designed by IBM, and was a factor in the later de facto standard eighty ...
14
votes
1answer
474 views

What is the “Data Language” paper referenced in RFC 309?

RFC 309 is an announcement of the 1972 Data and File Transfer Workshop announcement. The suggested reading section has 12 entries, 11 of which are RFCs and the last of which is: 8. Data ...
25
votes
4answers
5k views

Was there a clearly identifiable “first computer” to use or demonstrate the use of virtual memory?

The NPR.org news article and podcast How The World Has Changed! Science During The 40 Years Of 'Morning Edition' includes the photo below with the caption Before the introduction of the personal ...
14
votes
1answer
1k views

What was the first operating system that supported preemptive multitasking?

What was the first operating system that supported preemptive multitasking? By preemptive multitasking I mean that user processes were able to run in a time-sliced manner without special programming, ...
11
votes
1answer
916 views

Why is the 'echo' command called 'echo'?

This is an essentially trivial question, but anyway: several operating systems have a command to display a specified text string on the terminal, or standard out, or whatever (depends on system to ...
1
vote
2answers
119 views

ASCII ASA X3.4-1963 and Finite State Machines?

I'm reviewing the historical original ASCII standard. There are many control characters. Does anyone know the history of them and where finite state machines that made use of them may be documented? ...
1
vote
1answer
294 views

Estimating contents of old printed circuit boards

I am sorry, if this is not a good place to ask, but is there any general rule of thumb about how much precious metals could you expect to get out from 197x(?) printed circuit boards, especially Soviet ...
13
votes
2answers
3k views

Could you use uppercase or special characters in a password in early Unix?

This article is about Ken Thompson's old Unix password hash being cracked. One line in the article intrigues: "Even an exhaustive search over all lower-case letters and digits took several days (...
57
votes
1answer
9k views

When was the famous “sudo warning” introduced? Under what background? By whom?

On all Unix-like operating systems, sudo is often provided as the standard package for executing commands as superuser (or an alternative user). When sudo is invoked by the user for the first time, ...
6
votes
1answer
802 views

What computer has the longest uptime? [closed]

Inspired by a YouTube video I saw recently that claims a very high uptime for the computers on the Voyager probes, I was curious -- what computer currently has the longest continuous runtime? For the ...
4
votes
1answer
313 views

Why not build an “approximate” Analytical Engine before the complete one?

From the website https://plan28.org/ and blog http://blog.plan28.org/, it seems that the original documents are scattered and hard to decipher. It might be that the plans are not even close to be ...
18
votes
4answers
4k views

Why was Logo created?

The Logo programming language was created by researchers at MIT's AI Lab. Its post-1980s use has been predominately in the educational field, but is this what the language was originally designed for? ...
17
votes
4answers
801 views

Did Apple really advise customers to lift up and then drop their computers?

This led to the infamous technical note where Apple recommended users facing problems with the Apple III to lift the computer two inches and then drop it, as this would set the circuits back in place.[...
9
votes
1answer
2k views

What was the first LISP compiler?

LISP is generally considered an interpreted language, but compilers have been made for it. What was the first compiler? To be clear, this is about compilers that compile LISP code stored for ...
39
votes
4answers
7k views

When did computers stop checking memory on boot?

I remember my old 8088 used to do this (640K OK) but can't remember seeing anything like this since. Does this still happen and it's just not visible? If not, when did it stop, and why? (Imagining ...
34
votes
3answers
3k views

Why did the VIC-II and SID use 6 µm technology in the era of 3 µm and 1.5 µm?

In short, 3 µm looks like it was the "standard" process size at the time, and it was available to Commodore before the chips were designed. Therefore it looks like using the larger 5 to 7 µm process ...
50
votes
4answers
11k views

Did the Apollo Guidance Computer really use 60% of the world's ICs in 1963?

This NASA webpage makes this claim about the Apollo Guidance Computer: By 1963, MIT - during the testing and development of the AGC Block I units - had ordered and consumed some 60% of the then ...
14
votes
2answers
1k views

What are the IPSE’s, the ASPE’s, the FRIPSE’s and the GRIPSE’s?

In one of Edsger Dijkstra's most famous essays "By way of introduction" there is this paragraph: As final example of skirting the programming issue I mention “software engineering”, the IPSE’s, the ...
13
votes
2answers
306 views

Why were TECO variables called Q-registers?

The TECO editor, (originally Tape Editor and COrrector, later Text Editor...) found in some form on just about every computer and operating system DEC ever made, provides variables in which you can ...
2
votes
1answer
485 views

What programming languages appeared in 1961?

I'm trying to get Programming Languages Through The Years over on the Code Golf site going again. The Wikipedia article that the challenge has been working from only lists COMIT for 1961, and calling ...
64
votes
8answers
16k views

Why did IBM make the PC BIOS source code public?

IBM released the IBM 5150 Technical Reference manual in August, 1981, and included in it the fully commented source code listing for the BIOS. I find this odd for two reasons: IBM must have realized ...
26
votes
6answers
15k views

Is it true that control+alt+delete only became a thing because IBM would not build Bill Gates a computer with a task manager button?

Is it true that ctrl+alt+del only became a thing because IBM would not build Bill Gates a computer with a button specifically for the task manager? Making it so that Microsoft had to develop a ...
18
votes
2answers
1k views

What was the role of Commodore-West Germany?

Most of the history of Commodore in personal computers took place while East and West Germany were divided, and Commodore maintained a significant corporate presence in West Germany. While I believe ...
2
votes
0answers
124 views

What was the influence of the 'Legion of Doom' and the e-zine Phrack on early computer culture? [closed]

I was reading a bit about the 'Hacker Manifesto' written by Loyd 'The Mentor' Blakenship and was also reading about the hacker group 'Legion of Doom' and was wondering what influence these groups / ...
41
votes
6answers
9k views

How did the SysRq key get onto modern keyboards if it's rarely used?

Was the SysRq key ever used on any common operating system? Google tells me it wasn't. But then how did it end up on so many keyboards?