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Questions tagged [history]

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

13
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1answer
2k views

What are Holorydmachines?

While going through the memoirs of a witness of the Holocaust in Germany, I stumbled upon the passage: there in Rudolfstadt we had a new holorydmachine from the Americans - in the barn of a farmer -...
11
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2answers
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Why did some CPUs use two Read/Write lines, and others just one?

Many 8-bit processors, such as Motorola's 6800 and MOS Technology's 6502 make use of a single pin to indicate to the rest of the system whether the CPU wishes to read from or write to a memory ...
29
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2answers
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Why did the C64 have ← and ↑ as dedicated keys?

I've always wondered why the Commmodore 64 had discrete keys dedicated for the ← and ↑ symbols. If I remember correctly, they weren't used in BASIC at all, and were not very useful for drawing, ...
5
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1answer
242 views

Were there any working computers using residue number systems?

Wikipedia says: A residue numeral system (RNS) is a numeral system representing integers by their values modulo several pairwise coprime integers called the moduli. Bit widths of each of those "...
30
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2answers
2k views

Why are the symbols on the number keys of PC & Mac keyboards different to ASCII keyboards?

On a US-layout PC keyboard, the symbols above the number keys are as follows: Whereas the keyboard on an Apple II is different: Note, for example, the '(' and ')' symbols are now above 8 and 9, and '...
17
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4answers
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What was the effect of the Video Game Crash of 1983 outside of North America?

The Video Game Crash of 1983 is well known for the effect that it had on the video game console market in North America. A prime example is Atari burying thousands of unsold game cartridges in ...
12
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3answers
1k views

What was the first microprocessor to support full virtualization?

Virtual memory, which allows an operating system to run several machine code programs isolated from each other, came to the desktop during the eighties. But full virtualization, which lets the ...
30
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6answers
10k views

Which was the first programming language that had data types?

Machine language (and Assembly language) don't have the concept of data types, so if you want to add an int and a float variables in Assembly, you have to use the appropriate Assembly instruction that ...
4
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1answer
180 views

ENIAC stands for Electrical Numerical Integrator And Calculator; what made it particularly suitable for numerical integration?

The acronym ENIAC stands for Electrical Numerical Integrator And Calculator. The fact that it was simpy a numerical computer means it probably could be used to perform numerical integration in some ...
5
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2answers
301 views

Where was this Grace Hopper/Univac photo taken?

Here is a photo of a Univac I with four individuals. According to Artifact Details at the Computer History Museum's web page with an extremely similar photo (perhaps a shot a few moments earlier/later)...
2
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3answers
268 views

History of advanced hardware [closed]

Like most people, I grew up in the 1980s, and bore whitness to the great 8-bit home computer revolution. From where I'm sitting, "computers" started with slow 8-bit machines just powerful enough to ...
71
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12answers
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Back in the late 1980s, how was commercial software for 8-bit home computers developed?

When hobbyists wanted to write software for e.g. the Commodore 64, they either used the built-in BASIC interpreter (with all its limitations) or some native tools, like compilers for other languages ...
5
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1answer
381 views

How old is Perl's “Plain Old Documentation” (POD) format and why was it called “old” initially?

I recently wondered how the "old" came into the "Plain Old Documentation" of Perl's documentation format "POD". Was it named like this from the beginning? If so, why was it considered old back then? ...
25
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8answers
13k views

Did a shuttle launch take most of the world's computing power?

The 1998 movie "Armageddon" depicts two Space Shuttles launching simultaneously. I read some expert say that "There isn't enough computing power in the world to launch two shuttles at the same time". ...
16
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7answers
4k views

Why didn't PostScript eliminate the need for printer drivers?

In the days of dot matrix printers connected by RS-232 or the IBM/Centronics parallel port, each with its own quirky set of commands, it's obvious why printer drivers were a necessary and important ...
15
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4answers
3k views

Why did 3.5" floppies win? [duplicate]

It's an open question whether desktops would've kept using 5.25" until the end of the floppy era, but laptops meant something smaller was going to be introduced; that much was essentially ...
48
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11answers
13k views

Why did trackballs disappear?

For a desktop computer, a mouse is a great pointing device. For a laptop if you don't want an extra device to keep track of, you need an alternative. The options I'm aware of: NubLow-tech, cheap, ...
1
vote
1answer
431 views

Wider tower cases

Desktop computers have been in tower cases for a long time; in some cases since the eighties, per When did the tower form factor appear and when did it become popular? The form of tower cases has ...
26
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3answers
5k views

Why separate cursor keys?

The original IBM PC keyboard didn't have separate cursor keys; the numeric keypad doubled as such. It wasn't long, however, until a new keyboard was introduced that did have separate cursor keys (so ...
6
votes
2answers
274 views

IBM would-be purchase of CP/M

It is well-known that on a sunny day in 1980, when the IBM representatives came knocking on the door of Digital Research, Gary Kildall was still in the air on the way back from visiting another ...
3
votes
2answers
302 views

When were sprites first displayed in the border area?

I assume one of the first undocumented effects on the VIC-II was the ability to display sprites in the (upper and lower) border area. I wonder how and when this was first discovered and used? Was it ...
13
votes
1answer
403 views

Why does AT&T syntax use * and $?

In a comment to an answer about AT&T assembly syntax, another-dave asked the following: DEC used #foo for an immediate operand in -11 assemblers; the Unix guys apparently preferred $foo, which ...
5
votes
3answers
155 views

Opening or converting GFA Basic files to something readable?

There is a bunch of GFA BASIC for Amiga files (the source code for Blender's ancestor, Traces, downloadable here: http://zgodzinski.com/blender-prehistory/) that I would like to peek at. Despite my ...
3
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1answer
180 views

What was the first publication documenting AT&T syntax assembly language?

What was the first publication to document what is (now) known as AT&T syntax assembly language?
16
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2answers
2k views

When TCP was first invented, was the initial sequence number required to be random?

In current time, when a TCP connection is initiated, the initial sequence number is required to be random. But I am wondering, when TCP was first invented, was the initial sequence number required to ...
2
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0answers
94 views

Which Nobel prize winners names besides Townes were used as code names for Fujitsu computers?

Fujitsu named its late 80s/90s personal computer FM Towns after physics Nobel prize winner Charles Townes. According to the sources (1, 2) I could find, using Nobel prize winners as code names was ...
4
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2answers
304 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 ...
7
votes
1answer
245 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 ...
3
votes
2answers
284 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
254 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 ...
58
votes
8answers
19k 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
297 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 ...
34
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2answers
6k 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
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3answers
253 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
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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
votes
0answers
204 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
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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 ...
3
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3answers
543 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
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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
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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
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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 ...
15
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
552 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
13k 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
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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
597 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
7k 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
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1answer
160 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
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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 ...
12
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1answer
444 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 ...