Questions tagged [history]

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

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54
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2answers
24k views

Is there any code in Firefox (as of 2020) that comes from Netscape Navigator?

Inspired by comments on the previous question Is it true that Netscape Navigator eventually became Mozilla Firefox? (Answer: Yes). In 1998, Netscape released a large amount of their existing source ...
32
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1answer
8k views

Is it true that Netscape Navigator eventually became Mozilla Firefox?

Is it really the case that Mozilla Firefox is a modern day version of Netscape Navigator?
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2answers
294 views

How did Microsoft get away with JScript? [closed]

How exactly did Microsoft reverse engineer Brendan Eich's JavaScript, call it something else and not get a massive lawsuit in the aftermath? I understand this was a long time ago but I still wonder ...
3
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1answer
163 views

What was the history of Nanodata Corporation?

Nanodata was a Buffalo, New York company that was formed in 1971 and seems to have sold its first products in 1973. They filed for bankruptcy in 1982, though they may have carried on business for a ...
5
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3answers
280 views

Did the Apollo Guidance Computer or other multi-ROM machines subdivide code between ROM chips/modules to facilitate partial updates?

The Apollo Guidance Computer had its code stored in six modules that held 6 kwords of storage each, and the design of each module was such that changing even a single bit after construction would have ...
3
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1answer
157 views

What was the DEC CR11 card reader 'compressed Hollerith code' for?

In this manual for the DEC CR11 card reader controller, the controller can deliver the card content to the PDP11 in either of two forms: Column binary: the 12 rows of hole/no-hole are delivered in ...
3
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1answer
662 views

Did this analogue computer from 1960 really have Internet?

If you zoom in this image, to the leftmost, white "cell" in the middle "row" of the machine, it says, in the bottom, "INT NET": https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c6/PACE-TR-...
6
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2answers
1k views

Were internet costs ever billed per packet?

I'm currently studying the TCP layer, one of the main references is the 1981 Internet Engineering Task Force's RFC. One of the paper it cites is a paper published by the Internet Electric and ...
7
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1answer
260 views

What is a “stunt box”?

According to the Free Dictionary, citing the McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, a "stunt box" is "A device to control the nonprinting functions of a teletypewriter terminal." ...
13
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1answer
437 views

Did Babbage's Analytical Engine lack indirect addressing?

As I understand it the analytical engine could only refer to memory by variable cards that had the explicit address printed on them, see https://www.fourmilab.ch/babbage/cards.html. For instance the ...
6
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2answers
357 views

What happened to the S1 operating system?

(Computerworld, Vol. 17, No. 41, 1983, p. 49) Additions: Robert Knight, formerly of Princeton's computer laboratories, is [...] the creator of S1, which he had running on an IBM Instruments ...
4
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1answer
157 views

Why did the CDC 6600 expand the word size to 60 bits?

According to http://www.quadibloc.com/comp/cp0201.htm The CDC 1604 used 48-bit floating point with 11 bits exponent and 36 bits mantissa. There was also a double precision format (which I believe was ...
33
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2answers
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On what computer did “JUMP” mean “don't jump?”

This question triggered a brain cell. I remember a computer architecture, possibly one that was known for its beautifully symmetric instruction set, with an assortment of distinct mnemonics for ...
5
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1answer
318 views

How many hours of labor did it take to assemble a minicomputer?

A minicomputer like the PDP-8 contained several thousand discrete transistors and other components, all of which had to be soldered by hand, and that was among the simplest computers on the market; ...
4
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2answers
248 views

What was the DEC Type 30 vector graphics display used for?

The DEC PDP-1 had, unusually for its time, a vector graphics display. According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Digital_Equipment_Corporation Most systems were purchased with two ...
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0answers
354 views

How many Amiga 590 units were sold?

The A590 was an external hard disk for the Amiga 500, in 'sidecar' form factor, that could also hold an extra megabyte of RAM. How many 590s were sold, throughout its life?
38
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5answers
9k views

Apocryphal (?) tale of hard drive platter propelled through a wall?

In the mid-1990s while a student at a US university during a computer science lecture, my professor (not a TA or grad student) told us a story of "witnessing" a large, then old-fashioned metal hard ...
7
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1answer
313 views

What are some early network file systems?

I know it's always hard to define an exact first, so I'll just ask about early network file systems. To be more specific, I'm wondering about file systems that transparently present directories and ...
38
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5answers
10k views

How did Atari lose money on home computers?

The answer recently posted to Did Atari make more money from arcade games or consoles? quotes a New York Times article from 1982 https://www.nytimes.com/1982/12/19/business/the-game-turns-serious-at-...
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4answers
1k views

Is it a Directory, a List, or a Catalogue?

There are three common CLI commands on microcomputers that all mean the same thing: "Show me the contents of a volume, disk, or sub-directory". I will mention that the noun "Catalogue", and the ...
3
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2answers
322 views

Why did extracodes fall out of favour?

Once you have an operating system that provides services callable from programs, you need to provide a way for programs to request those services. These days the general approach only requires a ...
8
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1answer
272 views

Did Atari make more money from arcade games or consoles?

Atari was originally an arcade game company, starting at the beginning of the seventies with Computer Space and Pong. In 1977, they entered the console business with the VCS a.k.a. 2600; in 1979, they ...
12
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3answers
2k views

What hardware did advanced programming languages run on? [closed]

Some years ago, I discovered an obscure programming language called Haskell. This language is mind-blowingly powerful; I can barely believe it even exists. But what's even more shocking is, it was ...
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2answers
1k views

Who were the Atari ST designers pilfered from Commodore?

After Jack Tramiel was fired from Commodore and became the owner of Atari, I believe he offered jobs to a number of key technical people who followed him from Commodore. Who were the key people (if ...
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2answers
4k views

Zilog Z80 freezes while binary counting up to 65 536 (2^16)

A few days ago, I got Z80A CPU from eBay. So I tried to run it with classic 555 timer as a clock signal generator. I connected the 8-bit data bus of the CPU to the ground to "simulate ROM" (00 for NOP)...
2
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0answers
200 views

What was the cost of the PS2 chip in the last PS3 to have it?

The PlayStation 2 provided backward compatibility with the PS1 by essentially incorporating an entire PS1 on a separate chip. It kept this arrangement permanently. The PS3 started off providing ...
4
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3answers
424 views

Why were the PlayStation 2 CPU and GPU initially separate chips?

At the heart of the PlayStation 2 were a pair of custom chips, described in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PlayStation_2_technical_specifications CPU: MIPS III R5900-based "Emotion Engine", clocked ...
10
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2answers
1k views

How did most fifth-generation consoles avoid wobbly graphics?

According to Why do 3D models on the PlayStation 1 “wobble” so much? the PlayStation had a problem with wobbly graphics because Filling a triangle involves visiting every pixel within it and ...
5
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1answer
355 views

How much memory did the PlayStation development kit have?

The PlayStation 1 had two megabytes of main memory, one megabyte of video memory and half a megabyte of audio memory. Squeezing everything to fit into these limits was one of the big challenges of ...
11
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2answers
1k views

Did Crash Bandicoot wear out CD drives?

According to https://all-things-andy-gavin.com/2011/02/06/making-crash-bandicoot-part-5/ Andy had given Kelly a rough idea of how we were getting so much detail through the system: spooling. Kelly ...
2
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1answer
164 views

What were the wholesale costs of 256kbit vs 1Mbit DRAM chips in 1994?

In the early eighties, 64kbit DRAM chips replaced 16kbit ones by being cheaper per bit. Around 1987, 256kbit replaced 64kbit in turn, so computers like the Commodore 64 started using two of them for ...
10
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1answer
755 views

What sort of RAM chips did the Commodore 64 use in 1994?

For the first few years after its release in 1982, the Commodore 64 used eight RAM chips of 64kbit each. In the late eighties, it became cheaper to use a pair of 256kbit chips of the 4-bit-wide ...
36
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3answers
8k views

Where did the free parameters of IEEE 754 come from?

It's clear where many of the design decisions of IEEE 754 floating point come from. For example, the binary format maximizes efficiency on binary hardware. And 32 and 64 bits for single and double ...
9
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5answers
4k views

Did any RISC CPU ever take more than one clock cycle per instruction?

Classic RISC CPUs like ARM and MIPS basically offer the trade-off: simple instruction set, but instructions execute in one cycle for good overall performance. (It gets more complicated in later times, ...
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5answers
775 views

What was the first introduction of callback concept of programming?

Although I seriously code with computer languages in general since 2010 and as an amateur programmer with programming languages in particular since 2015 (primarily Bash and JavaScript imperative ...
38
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6answers
9k views

Why did early arcade games use vertical displays?

Surprisingly many early arcade games, such as Pac-Man, Galaxian and Galaga, mounted their displays vertically, in portrait rather than landscape orientation. (From the perspective of the electronics, ...
0
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1answer
158 views

Commodore – The Inside Story [closed]

Commodore – The Inside Story, by David Pleasance, who was a manager in Commodore UK. Sounds like a very interesting book, supposedly available, but when I look on Amazon, hoping in particular for the ...
20
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7answers
5k views

Which 8-bit computers were used in German schools in the 1980s?

In the 1980s, each country had a particular brand of computer that was most commonly used in schools; often, there was pressure to go with a local manufacturer. In the US, the Apple II. In Britain, ...
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3answers
2k views

Why was it not possible to cost-reduce the Amiga 500?

According to 'Commodore: The Final Years' (whole trilogy highly recommended, BTW), page 129, 'Jeff Porter realized it would not be possible to significantly cost reduce the Amiga 500 to get it into ...
18
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7answers
3k views

Cost of unrestricted sprites

All the game consoles of the second through fourth generations, and several early home computers, had sprites, which were valuable though costly, e.g. the VIC-II spent 2/3 to 3/4 of its area on ...
9
votes
2answers
300 views

Were expansion slots fundamentally incompatible with FCC regulations?

The Apple II provided the ability to connect to your TV (as opposed to purchasing a dedicated monitor). However, at that time, the FCC criterion for applying stringent RF emission limits was 'device ...
9
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3answers
776 views

Cost of dynamic versus static RAM in the early days

Early pioneers building memory cards for personal computers, tended to use static RAM, because it's quite a bit easier to get to work. Later, dynamic RAM became de rigueur, for the simple and ...
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3answers
2k views

Did multiplexed address/data lines make memory access slower?

Looking at the pinout of e.g. the 8088, it multiplexes the data lines onto eight of the address lines; presumably the designers judged that being able to squeeze the chip into a 40-pin package, would ...
3
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2answers
331 views

Did the BBC ask for any unusual key colors on the BBC Micro?

Perhaps the most visually distinctive feature of the BBC Micro is the row of red function keys on the keyboard. I don't know who came up with that. I could swear I read somewhere that the BBC asked ...
6
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2answers
565 views

What was the title safe area on PAL TV sets?

Computers that used TV sets for display, needed to worry about the title safe area. By consensus, on NTSC sets, it was 200 scan lines, or 192 if you wanted to play it really safe. What was the ...
2
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1answer
378 views

How much did it cost to develop the Z80 CPU?

How much did it cost, in dollars at the time, to develop the Zilog Z80 CPU? According to Wikipedia, The Z80 is an 8-bit microprocessor introduced by Zilog as the startup company's first product. ...
12
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2answers
722 views

Did the Oric-1 improve on the Spectrum's keyboard?

So I've been whiling away some of a quiet Saturday night reading up on an early eighties computer called the Oric-1, which seems to be a curious little machine that has been largely unsung; moderately ...
8
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1answer
983 views

Were single-sided floppy drives really more tolerant of rough handling?

The Osborne 1 was a luggable computer that contained a pair of 5.25-inch floppy drives. According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osborne_1 Adam Osborne decided to use single-sided disk drives out ...
10
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1answer
612 views

How many cards could you put on an S-100 bus?

The S-100 bus was something of an industry standard in the 1970s, for 8080 and Z80 computers built on a backplane design. It was invented with the Altair 8800, which apparently provided 16 or 18 ...
11
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1answer
588 views

What is the history of the Intel 8275 video controller?

The highly popular at the time build-it-yourself home computer Radio 86RK, designed in the Soviet Union, contained a rather mysterious video controller chip KR580VG75. It had a high end, feature rich ...

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