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Questions tagged [history]

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

14
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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
387 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
12k 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
981 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....
5
votes
2answers
262 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 ...
40
votes
2answers
6k 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
150 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 ...
11
votes
1answer
301 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
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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
411 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 ...
12
votes
7answers
4k 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
202 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.
2
votes
0answers
159 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
222 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
286 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
171 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
262 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
219 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
562 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
224 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 ...
1
vote
1answer
314 views

Were 64k RAM chips $5 in 1981?

According to http://smithsonianchips.si.edu/augarten/p64.htm "In 1981, they slashed the cost of 64K RAMs from some $25 each to about $5, and the price hovered at that level throughout the following ...
6
votes
1answer
154 views

When did MOS Technology upgrade to 5µm?

I'm trying to understand exactly why various chips were designed the way they were at different times, in the service of which I have a rather specific question: When did MOS Technology upgrade to ...
10
votes
4answers
1k views

Largest practical motherboard for early computers

The power of a computer is often effectively determined by the size the RAM can be expanded to. In many cases, this was even more important than CPU speed: Memory-limited workloads In the early days, ...
13
votes
4answers
5k views

What was computer “Fuzzy” logic?

In the mid 1980's computers began to be advertised as having or being capable of "Fuzzy" logic. How was "Fuzzy" logic added to a computer and what was it suppose to do better than a computer without ...
27
votes
1answer
5k views

1913 mystery computer below Grand Central Station

Over on the twobithistory Twitter channel, I came across this post from Gothamist about a computer from 1913 under Grand Central that was purportedly developed by Westinghouse. According to the ...
6
votes
4answers
274 views

When did 1200bps become the modal speed of installed modems?

Telephone line modems were important in home and business computing for decades. Like a lot of people, I started with a Hayes Smartmodem 300. The modem came out in 1981 but I got mine about 1990. By ...
3
votes
1answer
238 views

De facto standard width of a business computer

A very interesting article about an interesting, late (in more senses than one) and little remembered computer: https://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/06/28/30_years_on_the_story_of_the_memotech_mtx/?page=...
1
vote
4answers
289 views

Hard disks in 1977

Suppose you wanted to take one of the 1977 trinity (Apple II, Commodore PET, TRS-80) and attach it to a hard disk at that time - in 1977. Of course this wouldn't be easy. Not only was there no ...
1
vote
3answers
376 views

When did schools stop caring about form factor?

It has been mentioned in a few places, that in the 8-bit era, schools preferred computers with a bulky all-in-one form factor, in the hope of reducing damage and theft, to the point where they ...
3
votes
2answers
236 views

Labor input for manufacture of early personal computers

In the early days of personal computers, manufacturing was not as automated as it later became, and a factory would often consist of people sitting at tables placing components by hand. I'm ...
11
votes
2answers
582 views

Why did MS-DOS choose percent symbol to designate variable?

I couldn't find anything but is there any reason for choosing % over $ like in *nix shells?
12
votes
2answers
336 views

What was “whole-value computation” in early real-time systems?

I've been reading Achieving Accuracy: A Legacy of Computers and Missiles by M. W. McMurran, who helped develop the Autonetics D-17 guidance computer for the Minuteman ICBM in the early 1960s. For all ...
22
votes
4answers
6k views

History of Ctrl-S and Ctrl-Q for flow control

Which OS was the first to use Ctrl-S and Ctrl-Q on the console for pause and continue? I first discovered Ctrl-S in IBM PC DOS 1.1.
2
votes
2answers
209 views

Cost of a chiclet keyboard

Early personal computer keyboards could be membrane (Atari 400, ZX80, ZX81), chiclet (PET 2001, ZX Spectrum, Oric, IBM PC Jr) or mechanical/full-travel (later PET, Apple II, TRS-80, Vic-20, and most ...
30
votes
7answers
8k views

How did Apple fail to tap the business and scientific markets?

Currently reading an excellent book called Blue Magic: The People, Power and Politics Behind the IBM Personal Computer, which is just what it says on the tin; highly recommended to anyone who wants to ...
12
votes
6answers
2k views

MITS to Dell: the mail order gap?

In 1975, MITS advertised the new Altair (not actually the first personal computer, but close enough that many historical accounts proclaim it as such) by mail order, and it sold very well by the ...
2
votes
2answers
263 views

FCC RF limits and wire transmission speeds

As I understand it, in the early days of personal computers, strict FCC limits on RF emissions, were a factor limiting the speed at which data could be transmitted over wires, but I'm trying to ...
12
votes
1answer
653 views

The almost-was Atari IBM PC

One of the more remarkable events in the history of personal computers was IBM contemplating basing their PC on Atari technology. That this was seriously considered, everyone agrees, but it's hard to ...
5
votes
1answer
297 views

Who established the original F1 desktop BIOS key and why did laptops use a different key?

It seems early on IBM, MS, and DOS clones established a standard of holding the F1 key down during boot to access the BIOS setup. Yes there were a few much less common combinations that used the DEL (...
10
votes
2answers
557 views

What is the history of the PDP-11 MARK instruction?

The PDP-11 MARK instruction was intended to be used as part of the standard PDP-11 subroutine return convention. MARK facilitated the stack clean up procedures involved in subroutine exit. To use it, ...
0
votes
1answer
177 views

Anyone here with a Sol-20 or images thereof? [closed]

I've just completed an obviously long-overdue article on the Sol-20 for the Wikipedia. It really needs some images. Does anyone out there have images that they took of this machine? Especially the ...
3
votes
0answers
158 views

When did Multics begin using '>' as a pathname separator?

As described in this question, Multics used > as the separator between components in pathnames, and < as a parent directory indicator in relative paths. However, an early paper describing the ...
5
votes
3answers
2k views

80286 pricing and availability

Most information online states that the 80286 (or iAPX 286 as it was initially known) was first available in February 1982. But information about it from this time is hard to come by, and famously it ...
2
votes
4answers
358 views

How was corporate training done before PowerPoint?

The usual thing today is a laptop (maybe desktop) PC (or Mac) connected to a video projector to display content from PowerPoint (or Keynote) slides. How was it done, in general, before this hardware ...
14
votes
6answers
2k views

CP/M in less than 80 columns

The standard for business computing in the seventies and eighties was 80 columns, and CP/M was primarily for business computing, so it's unsurprising that CP/M typically ran in 80 columns. For example,...
3
votes
1answer
277 views

What was the retail price of CP/M?

In the early days of the IBM PC, it was offered with a choice of four different operating systems including PC-DOS for $40 or CP/M for $240. Customers looked at what appeared to be essentially ...
3
votes
3answers
345 views

What was the first integrated PC compatible computer?

When IBM developed the PC, they famously chose a bunch of off-the-shelf components. Besides making the machine relatively easy to clone, another effect of this was it used a lot of chips and board ...