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Questions tagged [history]

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

4
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2answers
222 views

Patent barriers to IBM mainframe compatibility?

'Blue Magic: The People, Power and Politics Behind the IBM Personal Computer' is an excellent book, but it makes one claim I cannot quite make sense of. Page 13 of the hardback edition says: "Lowe ...
3
votes
1answer
160 views

Which pre-IEEE computers had a single precision FPU and implemented double precision floats in software?

Before the formats of floating point numbers have been standardized in IEEE 754 in 1985, different vendors had used many different floating point formats, some of them listed on the Data Format and ...
2
votes
2answers
244 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 ...
9
votes
1answer
215 views

What exactly did Sony contribute to the original Apple PowerBook?

The first Apple PowerBook laptops were delivered in 3 versions in 1991: PowerBook 100, 140, and 170. These initial PowerBooks were overall a tremendous commercial success for Apple, and are regarded ...
57
votes
8answers
18k views

How was copying prevented when the first CD-ROM games were introduced?

Several ways exist to protect against the copying of games but, when CD-ROM games were first introduced, were there any measures taken by video game developers to prevent the copying of games?
5
votes
1answer
278 views

What was the first interactive OS to run each command in a new process?

I was prompted to ask this by another recent question about early Unix process structure. The more-or-less contemporaneous systems I'm aware of (built 1960s to 1970s) mostly gave you a software ...
32
votes
2answers
5k views

Did IBM encourage Bill Gates to retain the rights over PC-DOS?

As is well-known, Microsoft's negotiations with IBM to deliver PC-DOS 1.0 with the original IBM PC resulted in: IBM licensing the OS from Microsoft, as opposed to purchasing it outright. Microsoft ...
0
votes
3answers
233 views

What was the first intelligent digital robot? [closed]

Robots have a long history from the (not so) simple mechanical creations of antiquity up to today's fully autonomous models. The earliest ones could only carry out scripted actions, modern ones adapt ...
14
votes
3answers
1k views

What init system was used in early Linux distributions?

Nowadays there is quite some debate and controversy over whether Linux distributions should use systemd, GNU Shepherd etc. But all these systems are relatively new - for these examples dating back to ...
4
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0answers
184 views

Was the character in the Game & Watch series supposed to be his own unique character?

For those of you who don't know, the Game & Watch handhelds were a series of LCD handhelds released prior to the Gameboy that featured one (and sometimes two) player games. Some of these games (...
17
votes
1answer
1k views

When was QDOS changed to MSDOS?

So a while back, I heard that MSDOS was originally named QDOS (Quick and Dirty Operating System), and that it was later changed is MSDOS (Microsoft Disk Operating System). This was probably a ...
2
votes
3answers
471 views

When did “Zen” in computer programming become a thing?

What the roots of the endless analogies to Eastern philosophy, 1990: Zen of Assembly Language: Volume I, Knowledge 1995: Zen and the Art of the Internet: A Beginner's Guide (Prentice Hall Series in ...
16
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5answers
2k views

Was 1991's Hellcats the first instance of incremental screen updates?

In case you have never seen it, 1991's Hellcats was a seminal release on the Mac. It ran at full 8-bit color and could, on a newish machine, drive three 1024x768 screens at the same time. Nothing on ...
9
votes
2answers
1k views

What's the relationship between the Nascom computers and the company Lucas Electrical?

Researching the Nascom 2 computer, I found these schematics for the system. Interestingly, after the schematics for the computer itself, there is an added schematic for a disk controller to use with ...
13
votes
2answers
3k views

Why was the 6809 so expensive?

The 6809 was released in 1978, but looking at the usual source for price quotes for old computer components, Byte magazine, I cannot find any quotes for 1979. December 1980 lists it at $38, compared ...
14
votes
2answers
2k views

First language with C-like memory management

This is a nerd question but I can’t find anything in google. So, in which programming language did the classical memory management system first be implemented? I mean the division into value types (...
8
votes
1answer
466 views

Why green phosphor instead of amber?

According to this answer to Why were early personal computer monitors not green? they had a severe disadvantage in that you had to choose between 'too dim' and 'rapid burn-in' whereas amber could ...
57
votes
13answers
12k views

Were later MS-DOS versions still implemented in x86 assembly?

Recently, Microsoft published the source code of old MS-DOS versions on GitHub. What is odd in my opinion is the use of x86 assembly language for everything. The assembly language would not be my ...
6
votes
3answers
1k views

Was cost the only reason why demo cartridge games weren't produced?

I was reading on this page about the Final Fantasy demo cartridge, and I wondered why more cartridge games didn't have demos. From this wiki page: The availability of demos varies between formats....
6
votes
2answers
508 views

Was there any indication that video game companies tried to circumvent Game Shark?

Have video game developers blocked the ability of GameShark to find unused content in games (that they either didn't have time to remove unused, or plan to use in an updated version or sequel) I ...
42
votes
3answers
6k views

Why did line printers have 132 columns?

From what I read, most line printers have 132 columns. Also, the VT-220 and presumably other terminals may be switched between 80 columns (that's a usual width) and 132 columns. As I recall, 80 ...
1
vote
1answer
157 views

What information exists about WD-xsl?

Whilst working on a personal project, I discovered the existence of an old version of the XSLT specification, identified by the namespace http://www.w3.org/TR/WD-xsl instead of the modern https://www....
16
votes
2answers
1k views

History of the demise of Matrox from the world of 3D graphics cards

In the last century, a brand of video cards that rhymed with quality, Matrox, was very popular and the choice for professional applications and to some extent for 3D gaming. The benefits of upgrading ...
11
votes
1answer
374 views

When was Breakout developed by Steve Wozniak?

The classic game Breakout was developed in 1975-76; famously, the first version of the circuit board was designed by Wozniak over the course of four nights, though Atari subsequently redesigned it for ...
14
votes
5answers
3k views

Security Issues with Bootable Games

I'm not sure if this is the correct place to ask this question or Information Security, but here it goes. Certain storage mediums can also be bootable, for example USB drives or CD/DVDs. These ...
3
votes
1answer
455 views

How did PC boot games handle saving?

I was reading on this RCSE page about old PC games that you had to boot into to play. Obviously the machine that the game would run on would at least have enough RAM and necessary graphics ...
16
votes
1answer
2k views

Where does the hierarchical directory structure originate from?

Windows, Macintosh, Unix/Linux: today, they all support a hierarchical directory structure. The differences are in the details (mount points vs drive letters), but all use a hierarchical directory ...
11
votes
7answers
5k views

Is there a reason why MS-DOS didn't use more English words for commands?

When using diskpart, I can list all the drives by typing LIST DISK or to select a specific drive I can type select disk 1. Is there a reason why MS-DOS didn't use more English words to do tasks, for ...
2
votes
0answers
213 views

Why the exterior of PC towers and monitors used to be white in the 90's and now is black? [closed]

White got dirty pretty quick. Why would they chose that color? And why MAC still keep it but other manufacturers do not.
1
vote
0answers
171 views

When did green LEDs become as cheap as red LEDs? [closed]

Blue LEDs in the cheap, practical form we know them today, arrived in the 90s; before that, the choices were red and green. I want to say there was a time some years before that when green LEDs ...
4
votes
2answers
233 views

Did any retro computers ship with the SP0256-AL2 speech chip or its equivalent?

The SP0256-AL2 Speech IC was a popular solution for text to speech translation but is now out of production. There where several other chips that entered the market but as far as I know did not have ...
74
votes
9answers
12k views

Why were CLIs typically light text on dark background, whereas GUIs typically use(d) dark text on light background?

My experience is that CLIs were typically shown with light text on a darker background. For example, the IBM PC would use white/light gray (depending on your point of view), amber or green (the latter ...
5
votes
1answer
305 views

Commodore-Motorola lawsuit in 1984

According to Commodore: The Amiga Years, the reason the Commodore UNIX machine project in the early 80s used the Z8000 rather than the 68000 was an ongoing lawsuit with Motorola: With the Commodore-...
2
votes
1answer
185 views

TED computers and delayed RAM chips

From 'A Company on the Edge', page 545: Commodore marketing scheduled the release of the TED computers for May 1984, but met with inevitable delays due to RAM shortages and problems with the ...
6
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2answers
272 views

Turning off the color burst

On early color computers, it was possible to add a feature by which you could turn off the color burst output, restricting the display to black and white but making it significantly sharper and ...
3
votes
1answer
226 views

Transatlantic gray market Commodore PETs and 220V/50Hz vs. 115/60Hz

In the late seventies, Commodore sold the PET in Europe at a considerably higher price than in America; they could get away with this because there was less competition there. Some of the American ...
6
votes
3answers
579 views

Part-bad chips other than RAM

In the early eighties, you could buy half-bad 64k RAM chips at a discount. Some cost-conscious manufacturers such as Sinclair and Tandy took advantage of this, buying eight such chips to make a 32K ...
5
votes
1answer
230 views

Were Harvard Mark I and Mark II using diodes?

My understanding is that diodes (and other electronic components like vacuum tubes) started to be used in this line of Harvard machines, only with the Mark III computer. Does anyone have some ...
1
vote
1answer
335 views

Were 64k RAM chips $5 in 1981?

According to http://smithsonianchips.si.edu/augarten/p64.htm "In 1981, they slashed the cost of 64K RAMs from some $25 each to about $5, and the price hovered at that level throughout the following ...
6
votes
1answer
169 views

When did MOS Technology upgrade to 5µm?

I'm trying to understand exactly why various chips were designed the way they were at different times, in the service of which I have a rather specific question: When did MOS Technology upgrade to ...
10
votes
4answers
1k views

Largest practical motherboard for early computers

The power of a computer is often effectively determined by the size the RAM can be expanded to. In many cases, this was even more important than CPU speed: Memory-limited workloads In the early days, ...
13
votes
4answers
5k views

What was computer “Fuzzy” logic?

In the mid 1980's computers began to be advertised as having or being capable of "Fuzzy" logic. How was "Fuzzy" logic added to a computer and what was it suppose to do better than a computer without ...
27
votes
1answer
5k views

1913 mystery computer below Grand Central Station

Over on the twobithistory Twitter channel, I came across this post from Gothamist about a computer from 1913 under Grand Central that was purportedly developed by Westinghouse. According to the ...
6
votes
4answers
282 views

When did 1200bps become the modal speed of installed modems?

Telephone line modems were important in home and business computing for decades. Like a lot of people, I started with a Hayes Smartmodem 300. The modem came out in 1981 but I got mine about 1990. By ...
3
votes
1answer
241 views

De facto standard width of a business computer

A very interesting article about an interesting, late (in more senses than one) and little remembered computer: https://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/06/28/30_years_on_the_story_of_the_memotech_mtx/?page=...
1
vote
4answers
308 views

Hard disks in 1977

Suppose you wanted to take one of the 1977 trinity (Apple II, Commodore PET, TRS-80) and attach it to a hard disk at that time - in 1977. Of course this wouldn't be easy. Not only was there no ...
1
vote
3answers
401 views

When did schools stop caring about form factor?

It has been mentioned in a few places, that in the 8-bit era, schools preferred computers with a bulky all-in-one form factor, in the hope of reducing damage and theft, to the point where they ...
3
votes
2answers
256 views

Labor input for manufacture of early personal computers

In the early days of personal computers, manufacturing was not as automated as it later became, and a factory would often consist of people sitting at tables placing components by hand. I'm ...
11
votes
2answers
630 views

Why did MS-DOS choose percent symbol to designate variable?

I couldn't find anything but is there any reason for choosing % over $ like in *nix shells?
12
votes
2answers
376 views

What was “whole-value computation” in early real-time systems?

I've been reading Achieving Accuracy: A Legacy of Computers and Missiles by M. W. McMurran, who helped develop the Autonetics D-17 guidance computer for the Minuteman ICBM in the early 1960s. For all ...