Questions tagged [history]

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

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0answers
80 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 ...
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2answers
140 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 ...
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2answers
333 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 ...
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1answer
246 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 ...
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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 ...
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2answers
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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 ...
2
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1answer
120 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 ...
12
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1answer
461 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 ...
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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 ...
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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, ...
10
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1answer
885 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 ...
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2answers
112 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? ...
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2answers
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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 (...
56
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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
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1answer
702 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
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1answer
306 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 ...
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3answers
3k 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
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4answers
760 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.[...
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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
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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 ...
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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 ...
49
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4answers
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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 ...
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2answers
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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 ...
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2answers
303 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
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1answer
482 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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 / ...
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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?
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5answers
375 views

Could the Intel 8086 CPU have many segments in memory of the same type?

The Intel 8086 CPU could address up to 1 MB of memory using segmentation, and this CPU have 4 segment registers, which are CS and SS and DS and ES. Each segment in memory can have a maximum size of ...
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5answers
2k views

Does the Intel 8086 CPU have user mode and kernel mode?

Does the Intel 8086 CPU have user mode and kernel mode as modern CPUs do? and if it doesn't have user mode and kernel mode, does that mean that any user program written for the Intel 8086 CPU could do ...
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7answers
12k views

Why did computer video outputs go from digital to analog, then back to digital?

While early microcomputers used analog video outputs (often to use a television as a display), higher end machines such as the BBC Micro or Commodore 128 supported a digital RGB (or RGBI) video output....
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5answers
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What was the difference between a Games Console and a Home Computer?

In the world of home entertainment and video games, two terms that were commonly used to describe machines from the 1970s onward are "games console" and "home computer". Some devices appear to ...
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3answers
3k views

Term “console” in game consoles

Not sure if this exactly fits here, but I’m interested in the history of word “console” in game consoles and in computing in general. I can see at least two usages for the term, which at least ...
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1answer
300 views

Why doesn't the Intel 8086 CPU use real memory addresses? [duplicate]

The address bus of the Intel 8086 CPU is 20-bits, and when you want to specify a memory address to read from or write to, you would form the memory address using a segment register and an offset ...
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7answers
4k views

Does the Intel 8085 CPU use real memory addresses?

The Intel 8086 CPU uses memory segmentation, which means that when, for example, you write the value 123 to the memory address 1001, the memory address 1001 will actually get converted first into ...
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0answers
120 views

Why is the order of the special characters on the keyboard like !@#$%^&*()? [duplicate]

The order wasn't easy for me to memorize. I would like to know if there is a historical story.
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1answer
258 views

WEGA operating system origins

I just recently stumbled across information about DDR minicomputer P8000 and its unixoid operating system WEGA. The website above as well as Wikipedia seem to claim some compatibility or even ...
9
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1answer
256 views

What do the stars mean on the Bell Labs Pins (company culture)?

I frequently see these kinds of pins go for sale, Both of the two pins in the picture read "Bell Telephone Laboratories 1875". One of the pins has two stars, the other three. What did it mean to ...
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6answers
5k views

How did the IEC decide to create kibibytes?

What was the decision making process that lead to the IEC to create "kibibytes", "mebibytes" and so forth? To me it seems like kilobytes were well established as 1024 bytes, both by programmers using ...
24
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2answers
3k views

What was the ASCII end of medium (EM) character intended to be used for?

I can find information about how characters were used to structure transmissions in general, and I can find information about transmission characters which are still commonly used today, though ...
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5answers
5k views

How well known and how commonly used was Huffman coding in 1979?

Infocom's Z-Machine, designed in 1979, compresses text using a basic 5 bit code which is not very efficient in practice, achieving maybe a 1.5:1 compression ratio. Huffman coding would be far more ...
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1answer
1k views

What was the first third-party commercial application for MS-DOS?

What was the first third-party commercial application for MS-DOS intended for IBM PC-compatible computers?
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1answer
5k views

What is the oldest commercial MS-DOS program that can run on modern versions of Windows without third-party software?

What is the oldest commercial MS-DOS program that can run on modern versions of Windows (such as Windows 8.1 or Windows 10) without third-party emulators?
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3answers
443 views

Why do Early DRAMs (e.g. 4116) have a negative Column Address Set-up Time?

Early DRAMs have a multiplexed address bus. Briefly speaking, to access a word, one needs to... Put the row address on the bus, and latch it using the falling edge of /RAS signal. Put the column ...
2
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1answer
134 views

ISVs in the mainframe and minicomputer eras

In the eighties, there was a vast flowering of small independent software companies. Business and productivity software for the IBM PC, all manner of novelties for the Macintosh, games for the ...
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4answers
272 views

How did console flexowriters connect to their computers?

Several early computers (e.g., KDF9, LGP30) used Friden Flexowriters for console functions. What was the nature of the connection between the Flexowriter and the computer? Was this something we ...
2
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1answer
242 views

Historical speed of linear programming solvers

A few years ago, I remember seeing a video of Ray Kurzweil discussing how linear programming was an example of how software (algorithms) - independent of hardware - is also getting faster (...
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1answer
1k views

Why the DOS extender and DPMI were unavailable to DOS programs on 286 standard mode of Windows 3.0

An old article on Windows 3.0 from PC Magazine (June 11, 1991, page 348) said that: Using standard mode, the Windows DOS extender and DOS Protected Mode Interface (DPMI) are available to Windows ...