Questions tagged [history]

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

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7
votes
1answer
245 views

Who called it “microchip” first?

We all know how Kilby at TI and Noyce at Fairchild invented the integrated circuit. But who called it microchip? Chip?
57
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5answers
10k views

Why was `!` chosen for negation?

It seems that the use of the exclamation mark ! to denote negation started with the C programming language (as far as I can tell from my google research). Nowhere though is mentioned who and why chose ...
0
votes
0answers
136 views

What was the CGI of the 1st Harry Potter movie made on? [closed]

What was the computer system used to created CGI in the first Harry Potter movie? How powerful this computer may have been? Since it was late 1999 I don't suspect Silicon Graphics was still the thing? ...
10
votes
2answers
448 views

What was the first programming system to place no limitations on the length of identifiers?

Historically, interpreters and compilers have limited the length of identifiers. For example, FORTRAN I and II considered only six characters to be significant, and LISP 1.5 forbid symbol names to ...
11
votes
1answer
401 views

What was special about “Vulcan” - the CP/M database program?

The Vulcan DBMS for CP/M micros was originally developed in 8080 assembly language by a contractor working for Jet Propulsion Lab, based on an earlier JPL mainframe program. This code went on to be ...
13
votes
0answers
319 views

When and where was the ‘dotted sequence of integers’ version numbering scheme invented?

Probably the most widespread software version numbering scheme in use today takes the form of a dotted sequence of integers. Variants of this scheme usually share the following characteristics: ...
7
votes
1answer
399 views

Did the original Japanese Tamagotchi device really die *completely* (forever) if the digital pet died? [closed]

Ever since 1997, I've had this "factoid" in my head that the original release of Tamagotchi in Japan had no "reset" feature, and you could not remove the batteries to reset it ...
7
votes
1answer
564 views

What was the first compiler/interpreter/assembler to indicate problematic columns in diagnostic messages?

These days, most compilers and interpreters seem to provide the following in diagnostics: A description of the problem The name of the source file A line number A relevant position within the line ...
6
votes
0answers
175 views

Was there another dialect of Pascal with this range checking feature?

I've decompiled yet another Pascal compiler for the BESM-6. While it does not implement the full language (for example, packed records and arrays are not implemented, helper routines SEL and INS are ...
11
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6answers
511 views

Are there any primary sources for the “passing constant by reference” behavior in old Fortran compilers?

Occasionally I have heard references to a peculiarity of certain (old) Fortran compilers, with regards to subprogram argument passing. Here is an example, from an answer to a Stack Overflow question: ...
12
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2answers
493 views

According to Steve Jobs in 1981, what computer privacy issue was “very very hot in the media” at that time?

In an 1981 interview with Steve Jobs, he says the following: There is a common conception that people have of computers which is more along the lines of "1984"; very large, very centralized ...
10
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2answers
788 views

How widely used were C1 control codes?

As ASCII is a 7-bit code set, and ISO 646 cannot satisfy needs of many languages, variable-length ISO 2022/EUC was developed, which introduced C1 control codes. However, C1 have hardly left any ...
44
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7answers
7k views

Who invented the clipboard?

Just as the wheel, the clipboard on a computer is indeed a very useful invention! Who came up with such bright idea? Additionally, did it exist on non-graphical environments as well ?
34
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7answers
5k views

Why were relays prevalent in early 1940s computers when vacuum tubes were also available?

Many of of the computers built in the 1940s used relays for logic (see here and here): Bell Labs Model I, 1940 Bletchley Park Bombe, 1940 Zuse Z2, 1940 Zuse Z3, 1941 Bell Labs Model II, 1943 Bell ...
7
votes
4answers
628 views

Have there been any studies comparing the reliability of relay versus vacuum tube computers?

Computers of the first half of the 20th century generally used relays or vacuum tubes as their logic elements. Each of these components has there own methods of failure, but relays and tubes have a ...
8
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1answer
338 views

Which pre-ANSI C compilers allowed a ternary expression as Lvalue?

Soon after learning the C language in the late 80s, before an ANSI C compiler was available on the machines I was using, it occurred to me to check if the following compiles int a, b, c; foo() { (...
2
votes
1answer
153 views

What happened to Spatial Freedom and the Astroid controller?

I've been doing some research into 3D mice. Pretty much the only game in town is the space mouse from 3Dconnexion. In doing this I discovered that its original designer John Hilton left after the ...
1
vote
2answers
156 views

How many kinds of mass-producible ROM is avaliable before 1970? [duplicate]

Back in the days before mask ROM (when invented?) we got core rope memories, or Little Old Ladies memories, which required lots of human labor to build. Were there any kinds of ROMs which were ...
11
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3answers
1k views

What is the story behind 'goto' vs 'go' 'to' in ALGOL-60?

Preamble As Algol-60 had no reserved words, the language keywords had to be specially marked, e.g. prefixed with an underscore with a trailing space or semicolon (_begin _integer i;i:=42_end), or ...
5
votes
3answers
666 views

Performance characteristics of the DEC Type 30 graphical display

The DEC Type 30 was an early vector graphics display, that was used for an astonishingly wide range of applications for the 1960s. It used a 16-inch circular CRT with high persistence phosphor ...
5
votes
1answer
765 views

Looking for the source code of a sophisticated Pascal pretty-printing program

I'm trying to find a 70s or very early 80s source code of a Pascal pretty-printing program which is more advanced than the version mentioned on the Prettyprint wiki page which is undated and somewhat ...
18
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2answers
4k views

Did any notable product use Intel's first RAM?

The 3101 SRAM was Intel's first product. At $99.50 for 64 bits, it had enough memory to store the characters expensiv. (Sorry, the final e costs extra.) Is there a record of any product using it?
9
votes
1answer
334 views

Why did the Bell 103 modem specification use 1070Hz, 1270Hz, 2025Hz and 2225Hz?

The Bell 103 modem spec gives the following frequencies to use: Transmit Side: 1070Hz (space) and 1270Hz (mark) Receive Side: 2025Hz (space) and 2225Hz (mark) Why were these specific frequencies ...
10
votes
1answer
2k views

What was the earliest that it would have been practical to manufacture a USB-C plug for consumers?

In the early 1980's, plugs with low pin density like DB-25 were common on home computers. The industry was still relatively small, not everything in the manufacturing chain was automated. I assume a ...
4
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1answer
152 views

How were card sequence numbers typically checked?

Although average punched cards had eighty columns, often only seventy-two were used for characters; the remaining eight were ignored by software. Hence arbitrary metadata could be included with each ...
10
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2answers
2k views

Did the PDP-8 designers consider a stack?

The PDP-8 was a remarkable exercise in minimalist computer design; some of the aspects of its design are discussed in detail at PDP-8 transistor count One feature it did not have was a stack. Instead, ...
21
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3answers
7k views

What was the rationale behind 32-bit computer architectures?

Though today various power-of-2 word sizes seems to be the norm, back in the 50-60s multiple-of-6 word sizes was more popular and was required by Department of Defense(DOD) in particular. 36-bit ...
5
votes
2answers
945 views

Were any vacuum tube computers built with wire wrap?

I'm trying to gain some understanding of how early computers were built; as discussed in What accounted for the cost of ENIAC? the cost of first-generation computers was not necessarily mostly about ...
6
votes
1answer
300 views

Did other computer companies need to license Fortran from IBM?

Reading a fascinating online book about the history of computing, I came across this passage on http://ds-wordpress.haverford.edu/bitbybit/bit-by-bit-contents/chapter-seven/7-5-assembly-language-...
5
votes
1answer
452 views

Why ASCII paper tape has lower bit punched from the narrow side?

ASCII was presented on paper tape where the lower 5 bits cross sprocket holes as following While FIELDATA chose the other way I found placing the higher, flag bits at the narrow side appealing, ...
22
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4answers
4k views

What accounted for the cost of ENIAC?

I'm used to the fact that first-generation computers were very expensive, which I had always assumed was because they contained large numbers of vacuum tubes, each of which is a rather complex, high ...
10
votes
2answers
273 views

Did any core-memory computers have a read-and-erase instruction?

Magnetic core, the primary form of computer memory from the mid-fifties to the early seventies or thereabouts, had the slightly awkward property that reading it erased it, so every time the CPU ...
3
votes
2answers
241 views

How many 6SN7 tubes did it take to store a bit?

One of the most important components of a computer is a circuit called a flip-flop, which has two stable states (that it can flip-flop between, hence the name); it is used for temporary storage of a ...
3
votes
2answers
161 views

Could early computers use existing punch card machines?

In the early decades of the industry, computers used punch cards for data storage and transmission, partly because they were already widely used for pre-computer data processing; indeed, a major ...
14
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3answers
7k views

When did double-keying cease to be a common practice in verification?

In an IBM service bureau in the early 1960’s all data was keyed twice. The first time the holes were punched into cards. The 2nd time a verifier checked that the correct holes had been punched. ...
25
votes
1answer
2k views

Why was IBM's Scientific Subroutine Package superseded?

It is a familiar fact that scientific software tends to do a lot of vector arithmetic and similar, that one does not want to keep rewriting the low-level code for such, so the usual practice is to use ...
36
votes
13answers
7k views

Why were programs entered on punch cards instead of paper tapes?

Dale Fisk's Programming With Punched Cards is a fascinating account of programming in the days of punch cards. The fundamental dynamic was that early computers did not yet support timesharing. The ...
8
votes
1answer
844 views

How many transistors in the CDC 1604?

The CDC 1604, released in 1960, was Seymour Cray's first supercomputer, and also one of the first computers made of transistors. (The IBM 7090 was released only the previous year.) How many ...
13
votes
5answers
4k views

Why didn't early color TV sets accept RGB input?

Early PCs generated RF signal, and later Composite video or S-video, to use a TV set as monitor. Why didn't color TVs of those days expose a analog RGB interface for direct connection from VCR/PC or ...
29
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6answers
7k views

Was there a specific benefit to inverted (XOR) mouse cursors other than aesthetics?

As far as I can remember the inverted (aka "XOR") style of mouse cursor has been around as long as there have been mice. I mean something like this: (source) where the cursor shape is ...
6
votes
3answers
346 views

New chess engines on retro hardware

Does anyone know of any efforts to write modern chess engines for old hardware? (e.g. C64, A2e?) I'd love to see how a pared-down Stockfish or Leela that could fit in RAM could do rating wise etc. ...
12
votes
1answer
1k views

Who are the people associated with Simula, Assembler and Fortran in this video?

I am watching a recording of a discussion panel ‘Unix50 - Unix Today and Tomorrow’, part of which contains Bjarne Stroustrup’s talk ‘From C to C++’, discussing the history of C++. At 20:46 there is a ...
11
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5answers
1k views

Belated ascendancy of dynamic linkers

Old computer systems were supplied—by our present notion—with very little memory, thus conservation of both RAM and storage room has been tremendously important during those years of austerity. ...
11
votes
10answers
3k views

Hardware assisted Graphical User Interface?

I have read a fiction novel in which a manufacturer in the 80s provided GUI by adding a dedicated drawing hardware besides videocard or by extending videocard. Fictional as it is, is this possible or ...
5
votes
5answers
384 views

Were there any filesystems support tag based key-value pairs before the 90s?

Attribute–value pair is quite common in programming languages, databases, URL query-strings, and Email/HTTP headers, which could also be used to organize, classify and version files. Extended file ...
6
votes
1answer
313 views

Why was the Altair numbered “8800” even though the processor was an 8080?

The Altair 8800 was a computer using the Intel 8080 processor. Why the difference in numbers?
4
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2answers
385 views

Are ECMA and ANSI sister organisations?

ECMA was the body that formalized JavaScript while ANSI was as I understand it the body that formalized much of the early C programming language, what became known as ANSI C. Are these two ...
1
vote
1answer
163 views

Did the computing power of end users increase at a steady pace over the years? [closed]

Does the computing power of the average people in the household increase at a steady pace or has it wax and waned over the years? Are there some eras of computers where computing power grew faster ...
-4
votes
3answers
293 views

What was the last personal computer to have the chips neatly arranged in rows and columns?

Once upon a time, the chips on the circuit boards of personal computers1 were arranged in a tidy grid pattern. Observe the board of the Apple ][+: Or the Commodore 128: Sadly, the zen of neat rows ...
6
votes
1answer
1k views

What was the first computer board to be wave-soldered?

The Wikipedia article on wave soldering does not give any information on its history. What was the first computer circuit board to use this process? I am specifically looking for computers that were ...

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