Questions tagged [history]

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

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51
votes
8answers
8k views

Why didn't early single-chip CPUs support multiplication instructions

Early single-chip silicon CPUs like the Zilog Z80 or MOS 6502 did not have a multiply instruction at all. Was this because the technology did not exist at the time to implement it, was it too ...
7
votes
2answers
787 views

Was Commodore 128 ever used in business environment on a mass scale?

Commodore 128 / 128D was capable of displaying 80 columns through RGBi, therefore it could compete with other business machines of the time, but was this the case? Was this line of machines ever used ...
2
votes
1answer
114 views

Any informations on IBM's “Generalized Information System” still available?

I wonder if anyone has documentation left on this topic. In the early 80's, I used to be a 3270 terminal operator, and I wrote programs with GIS. I remember that this language was rather mighty but ...
5
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0answers
100 views

Looking for a timeline or overview of implementations/inventions in the electromechanical part of 5.25" floppy drives [closed]

It's not so much about going from full-height drives to half-height drives, but about finer details. Disk rotation drive - when and how was the belt replaced with a direct drive and a flat motor? Who ...
8
votes
4answers
2k views

Why the change in layout of single and double precision in floating-point registers?

The Intel 8087 supported both single and double precision floating point, but only in memory; the on-chip registers were purely double precision. (Strictly speaking they were actually 80-bit extended ...
8
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1answer
466 views

When did tabs start defaulting to 8 columns?

The ASCII horizontal tab character defaults to 8 columns, which is unfortunate because it's too wide for indenting block structured languages (at least to most people's taste, acknowledging Linus ...
2
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0answers
135 views

Why was the IBM 7070 unsuccessful?

In a talk on the IBM 360 and the computers it replaced the speaker at 39:35 describes the 7070 as 'a dog', and elsewhere contrasts it unfavorably with the 1401 (which considerably exceeded ...
4
votes
2answers
294 views

Why is the Unix epoch January 1st 1970? (In honor of 1600000000 this weekend.)

In honor of this weekend being 1,600,000,000 (1.6 billion) seconds since the Unix epoch, I was wondering if anyone knows why January 1st 1970 was chosen? According to Wikipedia, The earliest versions ...
12
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5answers
2k views

How and why did Intel make the PCI bus “CPU Agnostic”?

Intel invented the original 32/64-bit PCI bus in the early 1990s to replace the decade old ISA bus used in PC's. It was immediately popular (in comparison to Micro Channel or EISA), being both faster ...
11
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4answers
3k views

Were round punchcard holes mechanically stiffer?

The most common punch card format was the IBM 80 column by 12 row, with narrow rectangular holes. However, there were other possibilities, such as a later IBM format that used round holes. That one ...
21
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5answers
4k views

What did code on punch cards do with the other six bits per column?

In the fifties and sixties, program source code was typically stored on punch cards, one card per line. The most common card format was the IBM 80 column by 12 row. For source code, this was commonly ...
6
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1answer
194 views

First implementation of a visual cue for visited hyperlinks?

Who first proposed using a visual cue (of any kind) for hyperlinks the user has already visited? If the individual is not known, what hypertext viewer first offered this feature? My guess would be ...
4
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0answers
76 views

Why did the Burroughs 205 not use bi-quinary like the IBM 650?

The IBM 650, one of the first general-purpose digital computers, designed in the early fifties, used decimal digits with bi-quinary representation for reasons discussed here: Why did the IBM 650 use ...
9
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2answers
694 views

Was there an input device capable of entering all Algol 60 symbols with correct appearance?

This question was inspired by recent discussion on early keyboards and character sets, and mention in passing about how the COBOL designers were concerned about not using "non-existent" ...
45
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10answers
10k views

Why did 1950s-60s computers have such wide words?

Modern general-purpose computers typically have a 64-bit word size, but looking back in time, we see narrower CPUs. In the early 80s, the 68000 dealt with 32-bit addresses but the ALU was only 16 bits ...
33
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4answers
8k views

Why do keyboards have an asterisk?

While we're all accustomed to using * as the multiplication symbol (not to mention other esoteric meanings in programming) it is of course not actually the everyday standard symbol for multiplication. ...
22
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2answers
3k views

What was the first file system?

SoftwareEngineering.SE has a question about the historically first hierarchical file system (also a similar local question), but what was the first OS with a file system in general? That is, what OS ...
11
votes
2answers
680 views

Why was SLI for gaming introduced and supported in the first place?

(I'm not sure if this is the correct place to ask this, please let me know if should post this somewhere else) For a long time, using SLI for gaming has been dying out and for good reason. From what I'...
4
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1answer
241 views

COBOL and processing card files directly

COBOL was the first exercise in design of a programming language by a committee of representatives from competing companies. irrespective of one's opinion of the technical quality of the end result, ...
4
votes
1answer
161 views

What was machine-specific about Honeywell FACT?

While COBOL was the first highly successful business-oriented programming language, several business-oriented languages were designed before it in the late fifties, including Honeywell-800 Business ...
24
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5answers
6k views

Was Windows 95 really released in 1995?

Here's a recent Microsoft article claiming, "Windows 95 was launched on August 24, 1995". https://blogs.windows.com/windows-insider/2020/08/24/looking-back-the-25th-anniversary-of-windows-95/...
46
votes
2answers
5k views

What did the DoD think Fortran lacked?

According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/COBOL the project to design COBOL began when On 28 and 29 May 1959 (exactly one year after the Zürich ALGOL 58 meeting), a meeting was held at the Pentagon ...
5
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3answers
722 views

Why did the assigned goto statement in Fortran need a label list?

FORTRAN had an 'assigned goto' statement. Firstly, a statement number is assigned to a variable: ASSIGN 42 TO L Subsequently, one can obey GOTO L which (given the preceding ASSIGN) would transfer ...
17
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2answers
2k views

When did FORTRAN decide on signed integers?

I have personally always been of the opinion that it would make sense for the default integer type to be unsigned, though it's been a long time since that would've been a live issue for debate; C in ...
2
votes
0answers
140 views

Has anyone heard of SCHEMA page layout tool?

I've found a text formatting tool, under the name of SCHEMA, which would accept an input language like *RED *0STA*NN*RG*1RL*0MCS1 20 *3/ *MDLorem ipsum dolor sit amet, *MDconsectetur adipiscing elit, *...
26
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1answer
2k views

When and where did the $ convention for hexadecimal literals originate?

I found this question asking about the origin of 0x to denote hexadecimal to be interesting. However, when I cut my teeth programming on 8-bit 65xx systems in the early 80's everything I saw used a $ ...
43
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1answer
5k views

Where and when did the `0x` convention for hexadecimal literals originate?

By the early 1980s, C was using 0x as a prefix to indicate integer literals expressed in hexadecimal, e.g., 0xCAFE. This did not exist in B as of 1972, though B did support octal integer literals via ...
6
votes
2answers
725 views

What was the first microcomputer capable of working with Japanese kanji?

Apparently the first microcomputer capable of working with the Chinese language in Chinese characters was the Microprofessor II (or MPF-II-C), a Taiwanese Apple II clone from 1982. Now I'm 99% sure ...
15
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2answers
2k views

What is the oldest reference to PEEK, POKE, and USR?

I've been reading manuals for BASIC implementations and the earliest reference I can find to PEEK, POKE, and USR is in the Altair BASIC 3.2 manual, published in 1975. This morning I came across this ...
3
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2answers
416 views

Was it possible to win the “Lunar Lander” game with less fuel than the default?

A while ago I asked about the possible origin of a Russian version of the "Lunar Lander" game. No definitive answers were given. Meanwhile, I was able to decompile the binary into a semi-...
2
votes
2answers
587 views

Were the 80s more educational on IT? [closed]

I keep telling to everyone who wants to hear it (or not) that my personal IT education as a kid in the 80s was superior to what kids are exposed to today (to the degree that I can observe that as a ...
27
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6answers
8k views

What did the “programs” that “human computers” executed look like?

The Wikipedia article Computer (job description) says that before the invention of electronic computers, the term "computer" used to refer to people who worked as "computers". My ...
5
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1answer
352 views

Who are we quoting when we note that “Code is written once but read many times”? [closed]

I have often heard or read the expression, "code is written once but read many times". I think this is a fairly well-known principle of software development. But I have no idea with whom to ...
16
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3answers
2k views

Where did the the term “chrome,” referring to onscreen decorations, originate?

To most people today "chrome" probably sounds like a reference to the web browser; but at least in Microsoft contexts I've read "chrome" to refer to window decorations - like the ...
2
votes
2answers
261 views

First 386 PC on sale in the UK

In the early days of personal computers, there was something of a delay in the technology crossing the Atlantic, and when American computers did arrive in the UK, they tended to be expensive relative ...
20
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8answers
5k views

Which CPUs, if any, had an 8-bit address space?

Even the Intel 4004, which had a 4-bit word size, had a 12-bit address space. I'm wondering if any commercial CPUs had an 8-bit or similar address-space for programs, data, or both. I'm particularly ...
16
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7answers
7k views

Did any computer use a 7-bit byte?

In an answer to Why did IBM System 360 have byte addressable RAM I wrote regarding the choice of byte size: 7 bits would be a perfect match for ASCII, but engineers would instinctively recoil from ...
9
votes
0answers
140 views

When was the term Multics (operating system) coined and by whom?

From the history of Multics, I found that Project MAC was established on July 1, 1963 by MIT for the development of the Multics operating system and later GE (General Electric) and AT&T's Bell ...
10
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0answers
243 views

How much did Atari pay for GEM?

Atari licensed Digital Research's GEM graphic user interface for the ST. As https://www.filfre.net/2015/04/the-68000-wars-part-2-jack-is-back/ puts it: And of course in the wake of the Macintosh the ...
5
votes
1answer
357 views

Which were the best selling early MS-DOS PCs apart from the IBM PC?? [closed]

The IBM PC in 1981 was rapidly followed by a rich ecosystem of computers with x86 CPUs running MS-DOS, not all of which were compatible at the hardware level. There is a list of some early MS-DOS ...
6
votes
1answer
207 views

Which x87 first acquired the ability to flush denormal to zero?

On modern Intel FPUs, you can set a flag to cause all denormals to be automatically flushed to zero. On some workloads, this improves performance. I cannot find any mention of that flag in the data ...
20
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3answers
2k views

How was the 80186 incompatible with the IBM PC?

According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intel_80186 The 80186 would have been a natural successor to the 8086 in personal computers. However, because its integrated hardware was incompatible with ...
12
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3answers
2k views

What was the second most common incompatibility in MS-DOS machines? [closed]

When the IBM PC was released, it did not take long for people to figure out that there would be a big market for compatible machines. The first wave relied on MS-DOS as the compatibility layer. The ...
2
votes
1answer
81 views

Which Apple II emulators were the first ones each to use the .do and .po “dsk” floppy disk image file formats?

Apple II emulation must have started around 25 years ago but I can't seem to find a history of emulation of the platform. There are several disk image file formats but for now I'm interested in the ...
51
votes
14answers
11k views

Did many programs really store years as two characters (Y2K bug)?

The claim that programs stored dates as two ASCII or similar characters because computers were limited in resources seems wrong to me because it takes more memory than one 8-bit integer would. Also in ...
55
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19answers
17k views

Why were computer customers called “Users”?

The term User for computer hardware and software customers has been universal for as long as I can remember. It has always applied to both hardware and software customers - There were "Lotus Users" ...
2
votes
3answers
195 views

Webservers: When did www.domain.net/dir/file.html first not point to $WWWROOT/dir/file.html but to something virtualized?

If I'm not mistaken, the first webserver simply served all files and directories in a certain local directory (WWWROOT) in the identical hierarchy at a certain domain. This is in line how e.g. an FTP ...
32
votes
4answers
5k views

Why was 'echo on' chosen as the default setting within batch scripts in MS-DOS?

In my experience, just about every single MS-DOS (and thus Windows cmd) batch file starts with the line @echo off, to silently switch off echoing of the commands in the batch file to the console. This ...
17
votes
1answer
469 views

Was the IBM S/360 Responsible for Popularizating the 'A'-to-'F' Notation in Hexadecimal Numbers?

In the early history of computing before the mid-1960s, there wasn't an universal, de-facto standard for the written representation of a hexadecimal number, different computer systems used their own ...
25
votes
6answers
9k views

Why did post-8008 CPUs not keep the on-chip stack idea?

Ken Shirriff writes in his blog entry about the 8008: The 8008's seven registers are in the upper right. In the lower right is the address stack, which consists of eight 14-bit address words. ...

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