Questions tagged [history]

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

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3
votes
2answers
353 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
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2answers
532 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 ...
28
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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
327 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
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2answers
252 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 ...
15
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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
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0answers
128 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
230 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
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1answer
345 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
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1answer
195 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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2answers
1k 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
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1answer
79 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
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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
16k 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
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3answers
189 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
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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
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1answer
457 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
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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. ...
1
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2answers
267 views

What’s the last x86 CPU that didn’t place a limit on the size of a single instruction?

Although useless, it’s widely known the first Intel and derivative CPUs like the Z80 didn’t set a limit on the instruction size. This means that it was possible to fill the whole RAM/ROM with a single ...
28
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14answers
6k views

History of non-American software/hardware/CS theory development, 1940s-1980s?

I am curious to learn about any developments in computer theory, hardware, and software that took place outside of the United States, in the middle of last century (~1940s-1980s). I have read 'Where ...
9
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2answers
1k views

What was the first preprocessor for a programming language?

A preprocessor is a tool that takes source code as input and outputs a modified version of it for input to a downstream tool, such as a compiler or interpreter. Preprocessors can be used to implement ...
1
vote
1answer
160 views

Is the 1920 CTR Printer-Lister a Ticketograph?

In an answer about screen formats Raffzahn wrote: "In 1920 the Tabulating Machine Company (originally The Hollerith Electric Tabulating System, now part of CTR Holding) introduced a new printer-...
5
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3answers
396 views

What were the Major Public Access Unix Systems Available in the 1980s-90s?

Back in the 1980s-90s, using a UNIX system required running expensive servers or paying for timesharing service, so they were beyond the reach of most individuals, and only available to members in ...
8
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1answer
465 views

Did Nintendo pay WDC for their use of the 65816 core?

When Nintendo used the 6502 core in the NES (as part of the Ricoh 2A03/2A07 microprocessor and sound generator), they circumvented the 6502's patent protection by disabling the BCD arithmetic. As a ...
18
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3answers
3k views

What happened to the 65832?

In his June 1985 foreword to Programming the 65816 by David Eyes and Ron Lichty, Bill Mensch expresses his hopes for a 6502-derived 32-bit microprocessor: the 65832. WDC is still thriving, but the ‘...
13
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4answers
3k views

Which are the earliest real-time text editors?

A real-time text editor is a program which facilitates editing text. In the process, the text is displayed on a screen, and the displayed text is updated after each key press. A commonly cited ...
0
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2answers
221 views

What is the brand and model of this AT chassis case from the early 90s?

A friend is trying find the original brand and model of this old 1990’s generic case. An ad from computershopper would help.
39
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4answers
3k views

What was the design rationale behind multi-port and multiple connections (and back-connections) designs of the early protocols like NFS or FTP?

Originally, the FTP protocol connected back from the server to a client to actually transfer files through that new connections. 14 years later after the introduction of the FTP, the 'passive mode' ...
31
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7answers
10k views

How exactly did Windows become the OS of the home PC?

As far as I understand it, the whole personal computing revolution that Microsoft Windows did was not entirely by its own design. Is it true that the Windows OS at its core was originally designed to ...
22
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10answers
5k views

Why did the original design of COM on Windows rely on the registry?

In the early 1990s Microsoft introduced COM (Component Object Model) which was widely used in various programming environments including Visual Basic 5 & 6. Also known as ActiveX (or at least if ...
8
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1answer
349 views

How much time and how many people were required to develop Delphi version 1?

I would guess the compiler was primarily a modification of Borland's Turbo Pascal, while the Integrated Development Environment and Visual Component Library required a lot more development from ...
9
votes
1answer
217 views

Did the Samsung SPC-650 have any hardware or firmware differences to the genuine Sinclair Spectrum+?

There was a clone of the Sinclair Spectrum+ in South Korea called the Samsung SPC-650 that looks identical to original British version with just an extra model number/logo. It even retains the ...
8
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0answers
135 views

What proprietary AT&T code/features were removed in BSD Net1 (/2), and BSD 4.4 Lite (/2) from the original 4.3BSD codebase?

Background Although BSD and its source code was freely available under the original BSD licenses, but it only covered the portion of the code which copyright was owned by Regents of the University of ...
1
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0answers
73 views

Do we know any estimate of how many Sinclair ZX Spectrums, clones, and compatibles were made in the world?

The original ZX Spectrum was made by Sinclair and then by Amstrad in the UK. There were official versions also in the US, Europe and even India. There were very many clones and compatibles made in ...
3
votes
1answer
162 views

What 20th-century computers besides KDF9 replicated hardware for each concurrently-running program?

The KDF9 (English Electric, 1963) had a hardware option for timesharing. This provided four instances of most per-program context: the nest (16-deep expression evaluation stack), the subroutine jump ...
5
votes
1answer
402 views

Where did the lookup table in Entombed come from?

Entombed is an Atari 2600 game where you move through an infinite vertically-scrolling maze and try not to die. This maze is procedurally generated, with two bits from a PRNG (underlined) added each ...
31
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11answers
7k views

What “unusual” syntax assembly languages are/were there?

This question may have the apparent form of a question soliciting a "list" answer, but I'm expecting the list to be very short, so please bear with me. What "unusual" syntax assembly languages are/...
3
votes
1answer
379 views

What 1970's terminal was black on white and had an orange keyboard?

In high school, I programmed on a terminal that was retro THEN, and I need help remembering make and model. White screen, black text (seemed very unusual to me), no lowercase, 24x80, and I have this ...
53
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4answers
12k views

Why were most PC's and electronics beige back in the day?

Back in the day (especially during the 70's and 80's) it seems that most computers and electronics were colored 'beige'. It seems it would be easy to use different colors, so why didn't they? Some ...
0
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4answers
330 views

What is the earliest implementation of the stack data structure in C? [closed]

I am trying to find the source code for the earliest implementation of the stack data structure in C, but I can't find anything. I am particularly interested in knowing if the member variables of the ...
4
votes
1answer
324 views

Price of original Apple ][ in 1980?

Apple introduced the "new and improved" Apple ][ Plus in 1979, but continued to sell the original ][ until early 1981. I speculate that some customers must have chosen the original Apple ][ over the ...
80
votes
2answers
30k 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 ...
33
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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?
5
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2answers
400 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 ...
6
votes
2answers
393 views

What's the timeline of Commodore diskette drives?

Commodore produced a number of different floppy diskette drive units, both 8" and 5.25", over the course of its history. Can someone provide a chronological list of the drives, their release dates, ...
3
votes
1answer
242 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
votes
3answers
314 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 ...

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