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Questions tagged [history]

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

12
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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 ...
13
votes
3answers
3k views

Why did 3.5" floppies win?

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 ...
46
votes
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
406 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
votes
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
257 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
278 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 ...
12
votes
1answer
333 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
144 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
votes
1answer
165 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
votes
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
votes
0answers
87 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
votes
2answers
264 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
231 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
268 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
232 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
292 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
votes
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
votes
3answers
234 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
votes
0answers
196 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
502 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
votes
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
502 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
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
524 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
vote
1answer
159 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 ...
12
votes
1answer
423 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
462 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
222 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
188 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
239 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
314 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
189 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
votes
2answers
294 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
228 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
602 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
231 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 ...