Questions tagged [history]

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

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First free and open source assembler and linker for i386 targeting and running on Win32

I'm looking for the first free and open source assembler and linker for i386 targeting and running on Win32. My requirements are: It has to be able to build a Win32 PE .exe from assembly source, the ...
pts's user avatar
  • 1,993
46 votes
1 answer
10k views

After creating HTML, why did Tim Berners-Lee bother creating HTTP? Why didn't he just write a HTML renderer for a FTP client?

My beginning 'facts' in this question are: HTTP is essentially nothing more than a file transfer protocol that only moves HTML. Networked file transfer protocols were well established by 1991, were ...
recursived's user avatar
10 votes
2 answers
1k views

What other terms have been used to describe storing working data permanently besides "save"?

Today, we "save" the file we're working on to disk. This terminology appears to be specific to architectures combining volatile and non-volatile memory. I also distinctly remember a "...
Therac's user avatar
  • 753
-2 votes
0 answers
85 views

What is the Origin of the "Floppy Disk" Save Icon? [duplicate]

“The ‘floppy disk’ icon has become a universal symbol for the save function in numerous software applications. I’m curious to know about its beginnings. What is the Origin of the "Floppy Disk&...
Avalon Sinclair's user avatar
20 votes
9 answers
8k views

What were the major things that caused TCP/IP to become the internet standard protocol?

I was wondering what were the major reasons that TCP/IP became the protocol used to communicate over the Internet, as this was uncertain for quite some time in the 80'es and early 90'es. Wikipedia ...
Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen's user avatar
40 votes
4 answers
38k views

Did any processor implement an integer square root instruction?

Has any processor ever implemented an integer square root instruction? Obviously, floating-point square root instructions are quite common, but I've never seen one specifically for integers. One close ...
v-rob's user avatar
  • 857
16 votes
3 answers
3k views

Minimum game cartridge manufacturing time

I saw a remark in a documentary on the 1990s game console industry, The Story of the Nintendo 64 - Nintendo's Defiant Innovation - The Complete Deep Dive Story, that a key point that swayed third-...
rwallace's user avatar
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18 votes
3 answers
4k views

Did the UNIVAC I really have a 2.25 MHz clock speed?

Wikipedia states that UNIVAC I "could perform about 1,905 operations per second running on a 2.25 MHz clock." (link) This claim is repeated basically all over the Internet. I find this clock ...
Jeroen's user avatar
  • 183
14 votes
1 answer
3k views

Historically speaking, why is man-db a separate package that is not part of the GNU project?

As far as I understand, GNU had a goal to create a completely free (libre) operating system, and to that end, created FOSS replacements for many UNIX programs. It puzzles me why they didn't try to ...
Kidburla's user avatar
  • 455
6 votes
0 answers
443 views

Why did only the TRS-80 see complaints about the screen?

Of the 1977 trinity, the PET and TRS-80 came with monitors built around black-and-white TV tubes, and the Apple II was commonly used with a black-and-white TV set. According to https://en.wikipedia....
rwallace's user avatar
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17 votes
3 answers
3k views

What methods were used for password encryption before adoption of DES?

It is well-known that, for quite a while, UNIX passwords were hashed using the DES algorithm (see here). However, DES was not published until 1975 and not standardized until 1977. What were the multi-...
Leo B.'s user avatar
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3 votes
1 answer
233 views

When did work begin on the VIC-II?

The VIC-II, the video chip used in the Commodore 64, was the most sophisticated video chip of any 8-bit personal computer. I'm curious about how long it took to design. According to Wikipedia In ...
rwallace's user avatar
  • 61k
9 votes
2 answers
1k views

Atari SIO vs IEEE 488

When Atari was designing the 800 series of computers, they needed a way to connect peripherals. To comply with FCC regulations on RF emission, it needed shielded cables. To achieve low cost of entry ...
rwallace's user avatar
  • 61k
2 votes
0 answers
154 views

Commodore 64 software sales peak year

Sales of the Commodore 64 itself appear to have peaked (along with sales of 8-bit home computers in general) around 1984, though continued for another decade after that. I'm curious about sales of ...
rwallace's user avatar
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8 votes
2 answers
907 views

What were MECC's specifications for a school computer in 1978?

It is well-known that one key moment for Apple was selling 500 Apple IIs to the Minnesota school system in 1978. I came across this video which discusses the background to that, including a reminder ...
rwallace's user avatar
  • 61k
7 votes
1 answer
313 views

Northern Telecom SL-1 PBX Programming Language

My first job in 1981 was programing the Northern Telecom/ BNR SL-1 PBX. It had been licensed in the UK by GEC (the UK company, not the US one) from Northern Telecom, and I added some UK specific ...
masonas's user avatar
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9 votes
2 answers
1k views

Did VMS ever acquire filesystem cross-links?

Both Unix and Windows, quite early, acquired cross-links in their filesystems, such that the filesystems are not trees, but general directed graphs. I'm curious about whether this was an inevitable ...
rwallace's user avatar
  • 61k
26 votes
6 answers
7k views

What did corporations use for long-distance networks in the 1980s?

Although ARPANET was invented in 1969, the Internet as publicly available infrastructure didn't really become available until 1989. But people were certainly using computers as communication tools in ...
rwallace's user avatar
  • 61k
3 votes
2 answers
228 views

Was an Amiga 'Enhancer' software package ever released for Kickstart/Workbench 1.1?

When the original Amiga 1000 was released, it shipped with version 1.0 of Kickstart and Workbench. However, it wasn't long before Commodore released version 1.1 and computers started shipping with ...
Geo...'s user avatar
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18 votes
3 answers
6k views

Which OS first implemented hibernation?

According to the relevant Wikipedia article, [h]ibernation was first implemented in 1992 and patented by Compaq Computer Corporation in Houston, Texas. This appears to refer specifically to hardware- ...
Leo B.'s user avatar
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3 votes
0 answers
176 views

What aspects of microprocessor ISAs have been patented?

A key objective of RISC-V was that every aspect of the ISA must be based on an expired patent. It was felt that this is the only truly reliable defense against patent lawsuits. It is surprising that ...
rwallace's user avatar
  • 61k
3 votes
2 answers
305 views

Did anyone use quarter-bad RAM chips?

There was a time in the early 80s when 64k RAM chips had a significant defect rate, such that half-bad ones could be obtained at a discount. Some computer manufacturers such as Sinclair and Tandy took ...
rwallace's user avatar
  • 61k
13 votes
11 answers
5k views

Did any 8-bit device ever merge a CPU core?

Looking at https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c1/Commodore-64-1541-Floppy-Drive-04.jpg I started thinking the following: There are too many chips in that drive. It is crying out for a ...
rwallace's user avatar
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14 votes
7 answers
5k views

Which CPUs have implemented trap on signed integer overflow?

All mainstream microprocessors from the 4004 on, have implemented signed integer arithmetic with twos complement and silent wraparound on overflow (by which I mean that the CPU itself will not trap, ...
rwallace's user avatar
  • 61k
20 votes
2 answers
2k views

Did 486 SMP systems provide Total Store Ordering?

Cache-coherent SMP (symmetric, or shared-memory, multi processing) systems can provide various grades of memory ordering guarantees, the stronger ones being more expensive but making it easier to ...
rwallace's user avatar
  • 61k
23 votes
3 answers
5k views

Did any x86 CPU optionally trap unaligned access?

x86 CPUs have always supported unaligned load/store. Early RISC CPUs didn't. So imagine writing portable code on a 386. It seems to work fine, but how do you know you haven't accidentally misaligned ...
rwallace's user avatar
  • 61k
6 votes
0 answers
205 views

How many commercial Spectrum ROM cartridges were released?

According to this site, Sinclair released a total of ten titles on cartridge: all games that were popular on cassette, and all in 1983, the year the Interface 2 was released. I know the cartridges ...
Pastychomper thanks Monica's user avatar
11 votes
2 answers
1k views

Why did the VAX compatibility mode not implement the MARK instruction?

This question was inspired by an older question about the MARK instruction which recently bubbled up to the top of the active pile. The VAX-11/780 and several follow-on VAXen implemented a PDP-11 ...
dave's user avatar
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8 votes
0 answers
248 views

What were the licensing terms for The Hobbit? [closed]

The Hobbit was a 1982 illustrated text adventure game released initially on the Spectrum, based on the Tolkien novel of the same name. According to https://www.filfre.net/2012/11/the-hobbit/ Unlike ...
rwallace's user avatar
  • 61k
7 votes
5 answers
2k views

Spectrum DIY upgrade to 48K

The ZX Spectrum was initially sold in 16 and 48K versions. Every owner of the former version who continued using it, inevitably ended up wanting the upgrade to the latter. (I get the impression it ...
rwallace's user avatar
  • 61k
2 votes
1 answer
412 views

What were 3dfx's future plans for their Glide API before it was phased out? [closed]

The end of 3dfx in December 2000 also meant the end of the Glide API for new games. But does anyone, perhaps former 3dfx employees, know what the future of the Glide API was planned if 3dfx had ...
Coder's user avatar
  • 1,068
9 votes
2 answers
1k views

Did BBC Micro business software stick to 40 columns?

The iconic personal computer sponsored by the British Broadcasting Corporation, was most famous for its use in UK schools, so I was surprised to read in The Legacy of the BBC Micro: By October 1983, ...
rwallace's user avatar
  • 61k
16 votes
1 answer
2k views

Why was the percent sign chosen as escape character for URLs?

URIs use percent encoding to represent characters which would otherwise be reserved (like the forward slash - %2F), not always displayable or recognizable (Unicode characters, e.g. non-Latin letters) ...
Glorfindel's user avatar
12 votes
1 answer
1k views

When was the original version of the DICE C compiler for the Amiga released? And when did it become free?

Back in the day I bought SAS/C for the Amiga. I seem to recall that before that there was Aztec C, Manx C, and Lattice C that were the major commercial C compilers for the platform. I never used them. ...
hippietrail's user avatar
  • 6,666
3 votes
2 answers
477 views

What was the first satellite data link that can properly be called an internet connection?

Scott Manley, in his second video about communication satellites, focusing on the 1963 Telstar 1, mentioned at 10:22: (Telstar 1) could be used for telephones it could carry multiple circuits, it ...
uhoh's user avatar
  • 2,348
21 votes
10 answers
9k views

Was there any computer since about 1960 without interrupt support?

The invention and spread of interrupts in the 1950s is reasonably well known but I am curious: were there any systems after which didn't support them?
chx's user avatar
  • 931
9 votes
1 answer
425 views

What was the rationale for the 'INPUT' button on an ICL 1900 console teletype?

ICL 1900 computers were always supplied with 'executive' software tailored to the specific installation. Exec provided simple program load and run facilities. There were no 'lights and switches' on ...
dave's user avatar
  • 35.6k
17 votes
7 answers
4k views

Why did Linux standardise on RTS/CTS flow control for serial ports

I've recently been working out how best to wire up a serial cable for a vintage plotter, and it's thrown me down the rabbit hole of RS-232. As far as I can tell, many RS-232 devices which act as DTEs (...
Peter Russell's user avatar
80 votes
7 answers
37k views

Who invented file extensions in file names?

Do we know when and where the idea of adding a suffix to filenames was conceived? I have found a lot of information about the history of specific file formats, but I am curious about when the need for ...
viggo's user avatar
  • 803
12 votes
5 answers
4k views

What was the first desktop computer with fully-functional input and output?

What was the first desktop computing system that satisfied the following features: It fully fit on desktop It included the full alpha-numeric keyboard It included a full text display, terminal or ...
Anixx's user avatar
  • 1,547
18 votes
2 answers
5k views

Which computer language was the first with two forward slashes ("//") for comments?

Apparently COMAL created around 1975 had 'em. Anything earlier? (This Q&A over at the langdev stack doesn't answer this question.)
davidbak's user avatar
  • 6,269
5 votes
2 answers
5k views

What does it mean to "publish machine code"?

The Wikipedia article on “An Open Letter to Hobbysts” says that Bill Gates complained about hobbyists pirating his software, and due to piracy he refused to publish the machine code of his Altair ...
robertspierre's user avatar
16 votes
4 answers
16k views

How were the signs for logical and arithmetic operators decided?

I'm curious as to how exactly some of the logical and arithmetic operator signs were decided? The plus and minus operators make sense, but how was decided that / was the division operator or that * ...
Neil Meyer's user avatar
  • 6,487
51 votes
7 answers
28k views

Why did the Motorola 68000 processor family fall out of use in personal computers in the 21st century?

In the '80s and '90s the Intel x86 and Motorola 68000 families were the two leading microcomputer architectures in the 16-bit/32-bit personal computer scene. The 68000s were even preferred by the ...
Biff Iam's user avatar
  • 2,209
11 votes
6 answers
3k views

What made the ENIAC "programmable"?

The ENIAC was the first programmable, electronic, general-purpose digital computer. However, it was programmed by "rewiring", and this is what I do not understand. When we say "...
Noob_Guy's user avatar
  • 693
-2 votes
1 answer
222 views

How did Jon von Neumann come up with the idea of the Von Neumann architecture? [duplicate]

The Von Neumann architecture has the following components: A processing unit with both an arithmetic logic unit and processor registers A control unit that includes an instruction register and ...
Noob_Guy's user avatar
  • 693
8 votes
0 answers
490 views

How was the Amiga console supposed to work with only 32KB of RAM?

During the development of the Amiga, one of the targets was a game console with 32KB of RAM. How was it supposed to work? by blitting ahead of the beam with the Copper to avoid double buffering? was ...
Valentino Miazzo's user avatar
23 votes
1 answer
2k views

Where can I find the code of the ancestors of the WebKit family of web browsers?

I want to trace the development of the web browser back to the earliest point. The code that would become WebKit began in 1998 as the KDE HTML (KHTML) layout engine and KDE JavaScript (KJS) engine. --...
vaughan's user avatar
  • 333
5 votes
0 answers
356 views

Did the Soviets need industrial espionage to get IBM software pre-1970?

Due to lack of the OS-level file system on the BESM-6, and to deficiencies of data visualization tools which could help people decide which blocks of a system disk could be reused (the line of ...
Leo B.'s user avatar
  • 19.1k
4 votes
0 answers
253 views

First machine with dedicated scatter/gather?

I know the Cray-1 had scatter/gather addressing, but I am curious if anyone knows what the first machine with this feature might be? I suspect it is one of the vector machines from this era, perhaps ...
Maury Markowitz's user avatar

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