Questions tagged [history]

History of computers, digital electronics, hardware manufacturers and software developers.

Filter by
Sorted by
Tagged with
5
votes
2answers
833 views

Were any vacuum tube computers built with wire wrap?

I'm trying to gain some understanding of how early computers were built; as discussed in What accounted for the cost of ENIAC? the cost of first-generation computers was not necessarily mostly about ...
6
votes
1answer
258 views

Did other computer companies need to license Fortran from IBM?

Reading a fascinating online book about the history of computing, I came across this passage on http://ds-wordpress.haverford.edu/bitbybit/bit-by-bit-contents/chapter-seven/7-5-assembly-language-...
4
votes
1answer
419 views

Why ASCII paper tape has lower bit punched from the narrow side?

ASCII was presented on paper tape where the lower 5 bits cross sprocket holes as following While FIELDATA chose the other way I found placing the higher, flag bits at the narrow side appealing, ...
21
votes
4answers
4k views

What accounted for the cost of ENIAC?

I'm used to the fact that first-generation computers were very expensive, which I had always assumed was because they contained large numbers of vacuum tubes, each of which is a rather complex, high ...
9
votes
2answers
237 views

Did any core-memory computers have a read-and-erase instruction?

Magnetic core, the primary form of computer memory from the mid-fifties to the early seventies or thereabouts, had the slightly awkward property that reading it erased it, so every time the CPU ...
3
votes
2answers
172 views

How many 6SN7 tubes did it take to store a bit?

One of the most important components of a computer is a circuit called a flip-flop, which has two stable states (that it can flip-flop between, hence the name); it is used for temporary storage of a ...
3
votes
2answers
138 views

Could early computers use existing punch card machines?

In the early decades of the industry, computers used punch cards for data storage and transmission, partly because they were already widely used for pre-computer data processing; indeed, a major ...
13
votes
3answers
6k views

When did they stop verifying everything that went into a computer?

In an IBM service bureau in the early 1960’s all data was keyed twice. The first time the holes were punched into cards. The 2nd time a verifier checked that the correct holes had been punched. ...
25
votes
1answer
2k views

Why was IBM's Scientific Subroutine Package superseded?

It is a familiar fact that scientific software tends to do a lot of vector arithmetic and similar, that one does not want to keep rewriting the low-level code for such, so the usual practice is to use ...
33
votes
13answers
7k views

Why were programs entered on punch cards instead of paper tapes?

Dale Fisk's Programming With Punched Cards is a fascinating account of programming in the days of punch cards. The fundamental dynamic was that early computers did not yet support timesharing. The ...
8
votes
1answer
828 views

How many transistors in the CDC 1604?

The CDC 1604, released in 1960, was Seymour Cray's first supercomputer, and also one of the first computers made of transistors. (The IBM 7090 was released only the previous year.) How many ...
0
votes
0answers
78 views

What is a good general-knowledge-level title description of Dr. Aho's and Dr. Ullman's body of work for which they were awarded the 2020 Turing Award? [migrated]

I recently read in the New York Times that my old "Data Structures and Algorithms" class professor Dr. Ullman had received the Turing Award along with Dr. Aho. The article title was "...
13
votes
5answers
4k views

Why didn't early color TV sets accept RGB input?

Early PCs generated RF signal, and later Composite video or S-video, to use a TV set as monitor. Why didn't color TVs of those days expose a analog RGB interface for direct connection from VCR/PC or ...
28
votes
6answers
7k views

Was there a specific benefit to inverted (XOR) mouse cursors other than aesthetics?

As far as I can remember the inverted (aka "XOR") style of mouse cursor has been around as long as there have been mice. I mean something like this: (source) where the cursor shape is ...
5
votes
3answers
309 views

New chess engines on retro hardware

Does anyone know of any efforts to write modern chess engines for old hardware? (e.g. C64, A2e?) I'd love to see how a pared-down Stockfish or Leela that could fit in RAM could do rating wise etc. ...
12
votes
1answer
1k views

Who are the people associated with Simula, Assembler and Fortran in this video?

I am watching a recording of a discussion panel ‘Unix50 - Unix Today and Tomorrow’, part of which contains Bjarne Stroustrup’s talk ‘From C to C++’, discussing the history of C++. At 20:46 there is a ...
11
votes
5answers
1k views

Belated ascendancy of dynamic linkers

Old computer systems were supplied—by our present notion—with very little memory, thus conservation of both RAM and storage room has been tremendously important during those years of austerity. ...
10
votes
10answers
3k views

Hardware assisted Graphical User Interface?

I have read a fiction novel in which a manufacturer in the 80s provided GUI by adding a dedicated drawing hardware besides videocard or by extending videocard. Fictional as it is, is this possible or ...
5
votes
5answers
378 views

Were there any filesystems support tag based key-value pairs before the 90s?

Attribute–value pair is quite common in programming languages, databases, URL query-strings, and Email/HTTP headers, which could also be used to organize, classify and version files. Extended file ...
6
votes
1answer
296 views

Why was the Altair numbered “8800” even though the processor was an 8080?

The Altair 8800 was a computer using the Intel 8080 processor. Why the difference in numbers?
4
votes
2answers
373 views

Are ECMA and ANSI sister organisations?

ECMA was the body that formalized JavaScript while ANSI was as I understand it the body that formalized much of the early C programming language, what became known as ANSI C. Are these two ...
1
vote
1answer
158 views

Did the computing power of end users increase at a steady pace over the years? [closed]

Does the computing power of the average people in the household increase at a steady pace or has it wax and waned over the years? Are there some eras of computers where computing power grew faster ...
-4
votes
3answers
281 views

What was the last personal computer to have the chips neatly arranged in rows and columns?

Once upon a time, the chips on the circuit boards of personal computers1 were arranged in a tidy grid pattern. Observe the board of the Apple ][+: Or the Commodore 128: Sadly, the zen of neat rows ...
6
votes
1answer
1k views

What was the first computer board to be wave-soldered?

The Wikipedia article on wave soldering does not give any information on its history. What was the first computer circuit board to use this process? I am specifically looking for computers that were ...
10
votes
1answer
408 views

Where did the # notation for hexadecimal RGB colour triples originate?

The hexadecimal notation #RRGGBB for RGB colour triples has been popularised by HTML and is commonly associated with it, even though nowadays it is not used in HTML directly, but rather via CSS. I ...
9
votes
2answers
294 views

Did any equipment ship with odd serial parity by default?

The asynchronous serial protocol supported an optional parity bit, which could make the total number of "1" bits an even number or an odd number. As discussed in this question, parity could ...
26
votes
1answer
4k views

Where is the ancient preprocessor?

I found the old C compiler from V6, and, though it seems to the modern eye a little different from good, idiomatic C, evidently it uses things like #include and #define, but I do not see how it ...
3
votes
3answers
353 views

Have TCP connections ever been exclusive per port?

I came across an old service which listens on a range of TCP ports. Client connections are handled with this scheme: Client connects to the first port Server answers with a port number and closes the ...
1
vote
1answer
200 views

When did cross-platform C start assuming function prototypes? [closed]

The most important difference between the original 'K&R' C, and ANSI/ISO C89/90, was function prototypes. These started being supported by some compilers in the mid-eighties, were formally ...
30
votes
3answers
3k views

What aspect of portable floating point did Java back down on?

Java was released under the slogan 'write once, run anywhere'; while its adoption was probably more about 'now we have a language that provides garbage collection in a familiar workflow and with a ...
13
votes
6answers
2k views

How can extra (digital) data be hidden on VCR/VHS tapes? [closed]

For my new crime-novel I am in need of some more specific info on hiding digital data on analog VCR or VHS cassettes. I have already read a lot online and seen the LCR oddware video on that case (...
4
votes
1answer
199 views

Besides the IBM 709 and its descendents, did any other machine have “slightly longer” registers?

This question occurred to me while I was formulating this answer about arithmetic versus logical shifts. The IBM 709, and its descendant the 7090, etc., is a 36-bit mainframe with a classical single-...
15
votes
2answers
2k views

Which computers did Donald Knuth “mix” together to get MIX?

The MIX was a computer design that Donald Knuth used to illustrate computer instruction sets in his magnum opus The Art of Computer Programming. MIX's model number is 1009, which was derived by ...
22
votes
7answers
5k views

What was the last non-monolithic CPU to come to market?

This answer to the question "What was the rationale behind 36 bit computer architectures?" makes the point that early computers were assembled by hand, rather than having central processing ...
14
votes
3answers
2k views

What were the differences between Xenix and Unix?

According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xenix by the beginning of the nineties, SCO was selling 32-bit 386 versions of both Xenix and Unix. According to https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=...
12
votes
1answer
1k views

What did Prodigy use for pre-web GUI client?

Prodigy was a big early Internet service provider, and of course by the late nineties, the most popular Internet protocol was the web; most users spent most of their Internet time in a web browser. ...
37
votes
3answers
6k views

What did AOL use for pre-web GUI client?

AOL was a big early Internet service provider, and of course by the late nineties, the most popular Internet protocol was the web; most users spent most of their Internet time in a web browser. But if ...
5
votes
1answer
884 views

When did AOL start offering Internet email?

AOL, one of the most successful early Internet service providers, started life in 1983 as a company called Control Video Corporation selling downloadable games for the Atari 2600; this became Quantum ...
13
votes
2answers
1k views

Origin of “arithmetic” and “logical” for signed and unsigned shifts

The assembly language for many processors use the phrase "arithmetic shift" to represent the bitwise shift of a signed value, and "logical shift" for an unsigned value. The two ...
4
votes
1answer
235 views

What HyperCard extensions did Myst use?

The original Macintosh version of Myst was written in HyperCard. According to https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20549685 Adding useful features, such as uploading those HTML files to a web server, ...
6
votes
1answer
1k views

What programming languages were most commonly used on the AS/400 in the 90s?

The IBM AS/400, formerly known as System/38, subsequently known as i (sic), is remarkable in being essentially the most future-proof of all the minicomputers, thanks among other things to the use of ...
4
votes
1answer
122 views

How was EDSAC program code represented on uniselectors?

(I hope we haven't covered this somewhere...) The 1949 EDSAC could boot, as we say nowadays, from a bank of uniselectors. It's unclear to me how program code was actually represented on the ...
16
votes
3answers
2k views

Which was the first magazine presented in electronic form, on a data medium, to be read on a computer?

In this question a magazine is meant to be a periodical publication containing news, information and other content like software for example. By electronic magazine I mean a magazine presented in ...
0
votes
1answer
271 views

What's the heritage of 80286? [closed]

80186 introduced some instructions for HLL features. 80286 introduced some instructions for protected mode, and provided some multitasking ability with external MMU which was never intended for PCs ...
4
votes
0answers
194 views

What was this book about floating-point system design/construction?

A comment on the question Why did 8-bit Basic use 40-bit floating point? says the following (emphasis added): Re, "Nowadays, floating point is usually either 32 or 64 bits." More ...
5
votes
1answer
302 views

What size was the Microsoft Internet Explorer team?

According to Joel Spolsky, I will give the Internet Explorer team credit. With IE versions 3.0 and 4.0 they probably created software about ten times faster than the industry norm. This had nothing ...
4
votes
4answers
321 views

Cheapest type of Read-Only Memory allowing Random access before Year 1970

Back in the 50s and 60s people had: random access, read-write memories like Magnetic Cores. sequential access, read-write memories like Delay Lines and Magnetic Tapes. And: sequential access, write ...
-1
votes
1answer
319 views

Was this a typo/mistake, or did a mid-1990s cheap “data bank” for personal use really only hold THREE addresses + phone numbers? [closed]

In approximately 1995, or 1996, at the very latest 1997, I was a kid who was obsessed with cutting-edge technical gadgets. I carefully read every issue of this "Teknikmagasinet" catalogue, ...
3
votes
3answers
358 views

What was the most common method of internet access for small offices in 1990s in USA?

In mid-1990s, dial-up access was already common, but its speeds were still low (like 14-28 kbps, 56 kbps only in the late 1990s), and I don't know if there were any popular solutions to share dial-up ...
16
votes
3answers
3k views

When did files start to be dated?

When I revisit my files on a 5¼″ floppy using my 1541 drive with a C64 I mainly miss the date on files. I know that a Real Time Clock was not implemented and that the first computer to integrate the ...

1
2 3 4 5
13