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Questions tagged [history]

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

4
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1answer
218 views

How many units did the Victor 9000 sell?

According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sirius_Systems_Technology the Victor 9000 aka Sirius 1 was "the most popular 16-bit business computer in Europe, especially in Britain and Germany," though ...
6
votes
1answer
153 views

Component cost in historical ads versus wholesale

To get an idea of how much various components such as CPUs, RAM chips, disk drives and monitors historically cost, and therefore how those costs influenced design decisions that were made, a good ...
4
votes
2answers
203 views

With better character handling capability, why didn't PC-98 system succeed in rest of East Asia?

From my understanding, an important advantage PC-98 have over IBM compatible PC was that it is better at handling ideograph based characters which are common in East Asian countries. Why didn't other ...
2
votes
0answers
330 views

What was the first game to use humorous progress updates? [closed]

I've recently downloaded Futurama: Worlds of Tomorrow on my phone, and I noticed it has a progress bar with humorous messages in it (it usually loads fast enough for only two messages to appear). Two ...
5
votes
2answers
724 views

When did CPUs start using page mode DRAM?

According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dynamic_random-access_memory#Page_mode_DRAM Page mode DRAM is a minor modification to the first-generation DRAM IC interface which improved the ...
4
votes
2answers
412 views

Manufacturing cost breakdown for a 16-bit computer

The dynamics of the market, of what platforms end up being used at what times in what contexts, depend not only on what is technically possible, but even more on what can be done for what price, so ...
3
votes
1answer
134 views

ST-506 price: wholesale or retail?

The ST-506 was an early personal computer hard disk, introduced in 1980 with a capacity of 5 megabytes and a price of $1500. While several sources confirm the price, I haven't been able to find ...
28
votes
4answers
7k views

Why (historically) include the number of arguments (argc) as a parameter of main?

A comment on this answer to a StackOverflow question made me curious. According the C99 standard, section 5.1.2.2.1: The function called at program startup is named main. The implementation ...
12
votes
1answer
2k views

First computer with LCD screen

The Toshiba T100, the company's first laptop computer, shipped in 1982 with an LCD screen of 80x25 text resolution: http://oldcomputers.net/toshiba-t100.html Was this the first computer ever to have ...
1
vote
1answer
404 views

Amiga versus Atari ST computer introductions [closed]

I'm interested in the time, place and manner in which some historically important computers were introduced to the world. For example, the Macintosh was presented in January 1984 by Steve Jobs, first ...
9
votes
2answers
693 views

Apple II GS versus Mac Plus cost

I just came across a fascinating video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7h4tepFbMso&t=78s which makes a coherent case - I don't feel I can pass a final verdict on whether he's right or wrong, but a ...
66
votes
6answers
7k views

What technological factors drove the rise of “high-speed” modems in the early 1990s?

The first inexpensive modem I ever purchased was a 300 baud direct-connect unit for the C64 User Port in late 1983. I recall that a couple of years later (1986), 1200 baud modems were affordable and I ...
0
votes
1answer
161 views

PC for DMV knowledge test - since when? [closed]

I was watching a movie License to Drive (1988) where the character was doing a DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) knowledge test on an interactive software on a PC. I was a bit surprised that such ...
16
votes
5answers
964 views

Limiting factor on sprite sizes

Early consoles and home computers that were optimized for games, tended to provide sprites. From a game programmer's viewpoint, these were good to have. Of course, one always wanted more and larger ...
15
votes
6answers
3k views

Reason for popularity of Apple IIGS

According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apple_IIGS the Apple IIGS, in its year of introduction, outsold the Macintosh, without being substantially cheaper than it. This is somewhat counterintuitive:...
8
votes
3answers
2k views

Was Family BASIC for the NES/Famicom powerful enough to create full games and applications?

"Family BASIC or Famicom BASIC is the consumer product for programming Nintendo's Family Computer video game console of Japan." wikipedia I can't seem to find much info about Family BASIC ...
5
votes
2answers
535 views

Maximum size of 8-bit computer cartridges

What was the largest cartridge produced, or possible, for any 8-bit home computer? That is, the later 8 or 16-bit console cartridges could be surprisingly large, up to several megabytes in some cases,...
30
votes
8answers
8k views

Why do articles use the term “UART” instead of “serial port”?

I am learning about old computers, and I have found the following image from this article: They use the terms "UART" instead of "serial port" and "UART driver" instead of "serial port driver", I have ...
23
votes
5answers
4k views

Why did Commodore sell CPUs to its competitors?

Many of the most popular personal computers and video game consoles of the 1970s and 1980s, including those made by Commodore, Apple, and Atari, used the 6502 CPU (or some close relative, such as the ...
8
votes
1answer
519 views

How was the Traf-O-Data 8008 simulator developed?

Traf-O-Data was the first business partnership between Paul Allen, Bill Gates and Paul Gilbert. In order to develop the software for their custom-built Traf-O-Data machine (Intel 8008 Inside™), ...
5
votes
1answer
679 views

How was the Microsoft PDP-10 8080 emulator developed? [closed]

Altair BASIC, the first version of Microsoft BASIC, was developed using an Intel 8008 emulator, modified to emulate an Intel 8080, running on a PDP-10 computer. This emulator was originally designed ...
5
votes
1answer
329 views

Cost differential between 2 and 4 MHz RAM chips in 1982

The most common speed of the 6502 was 1 MHz, allowing the use of 2 MHz RAM chips (half the bandwidth went to the video chip to refresh the screen). In 1982, the BBC Micro shipped, with double speeds ...
7
votes
4answers
647 views

Video chip for hypothetical 1988 arcade game

I have a project where I aim to create a retro arcade game cabinet, the technology would be ~1988. For now I am planning to only simulate the system on my PC in order to develop the game. The ...
5
votes
1answer
227 views

Primary manufacturers of picture tubes for early monitors

Which companies were the most important manufacturers of picture tubes for monitors (both monochrome and color) in the seventies and eighties? That is, it's easy enough to find lists of monitors by ...
3
votes
1answer
588 views

What was the first commercially available computer with ECC memory?

In the early days of computing, memory error detection and correction was either non-existent (Wikipedia tells of Seymour Cray famously saying "parity is for farmers" when asked why he left it out of ...
10
votes
6answers
2k views

Sound chips in 1977

By the early eighties, there were a variety of off-the-shelf sound chips suitable for use in home computers and arcade games. What about 1977? That seems to have been just a little early; I'm not ...
5
votes
2answers
658 views

Are there any articles elucidating the history of the POPCOUNT instruction?

Figuring out how many bits in a group of bits are set to 1, known as computing "population count", Hamming weight, or "bit summation", among others, has various applications. It is also fairly cheap ...
10
votes
1answer
876 views

Where do command line switches originate from?

In Linux we have command line switches traditionally started with minus ls -al. In Windows those start with slash dir /b. I remember that on RSX-11M that I used to deal with and later on RT-11 the ...
4
votes
1answer
267 views

Using audio tape recorders on non-personal computers?

A Soviet manual (1978) for an interactive integrated development system named ПУЛЬТ (translated as "console" or "[remote] control panel") developed for the BESM-6 mainframe contains a cryptic note: ...
23
votes
9answers
5k views

Graphics chips in 1980

Suppose you were trying to build a computer with a color graphics display in 1980, you have limited engineering resources and time to market is critical, so you want to get as many of the parts off ...
10
votes
2answers
873 views

Where did Fast InvSqrt() come from?

The fast inverse square root algorithm is probably best known for its use in Quake III Arena, the source code of which was released to the public a few years after its release. However, the algorithm ...
10
votes
2answers
799 views

Pattern matching, which language first had it

Which programming language was the first to use pattern match? The oldest ones I know are: Prolog 1972 ML 1973 Are there languages older that have pattern matching? Edit: By pattern matching I ...
11
votes
1answer
672 views

Early Apple assemblers, getting hold of them

The apple ][ history site https://apple2history.org/history/ah17/#05 has a section on assemblers with these interesting snippets: TED/ASM: Developed at Apple and smuggled out the doors around May ...
1
vote
0answers
123 views

Historical cost of semiconductor fab [closed]

How much did a state-of-the-art semiconductor foundry cost in or around 1980? Ideally I'd like to get data on how it changed over time from the seventies to present day, but even a single data point ...
10
votes
2answers
1k views

How powerful was Knuth’s computer?

The Art of Computer Programming, volumes 1–3, was written in the late 1960s, with vol 3 finalized in Sept 1972 after a delay of “almost 3 years” because of rapid development of the subject matter. I ...
28
votes
5answers
5k views

How was the C language ported to architectures with non-power-of-2 word sizes?

By the time the C language started to gain popularity outside of the PDP-11 circles (mid-1970s), mainframes with "weird" word sizes, and no capability to address individual bytes efficiently were ...
4
votes
1answer
532 views

The history of context switch

I wonder which was the first operating system that had context switch and what are famous examples of OS that didn't have context switch?
6
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1answer
432 views

Transistor count of early video chips

There are a number of sources that give transistor counts for different CPUs over the decades. I'm looking for transistor counts for early video chips. in particular, I'd be interested in transistor ...
8
votes
2answers
893 views

When did 64K RAM become about as cheap as 16K?

In the days of 8-bit computers, two of the more common memory configurations were 16K and 64K, implemented as eight RAM chips of 16kbit or 64kbit respectively. The setup was one chip per bit over the ...
3
votes
1answer
262 views

When did computers start being able to take both 115 and 230 volts? [closed]

With modern computers and game consoles, it's common to have the ability to take 115 or 230 volt mains supply, selected by a small switch on the back of the machine. Presumably the logistical ...
42
votes
3answers
7k views

What's the relationship between early 90s Pentium microprocessor and today's Intel designs?

My simplified understanding of the evolution of the Intel processors over the last 20 years is that the Pentium II and Pentium III architectures were sort of "dead-ends", and today's Intel processors ...
13
votes
6answers
684 views

Largest ratio between base and maximum RAM

For example, the Apple II originally shipped with a base 4K of RAM but could be expanded to 48K, so the maximum was twelve times the base. Of all the computers ever shipped, which one has had the ...
12
votes
3answers
1k views

Speed of early ROM versus RAM chips

In the late seventies, up through around 1981, the maximum access speed of off-the-shelf RAM chips was around 2.6 MHz. Did the same speed limit apply to ROM chips of the same era? If not, what would ...
54
votes
6answers
14k views

How were the first ZX Spectrum games written?

Being a child of the 80s I loved my ZX Spectrum, did my best to learn BASIC but I felt like the games I was playing (Jetpac, Dizzy, Renegade etc) were perhaps not written using BASIC. I wondered: how ...
5
votes
3answers
551 views

When were the analogs of the C operators “break” and “continue” introduced in Pascal?

When published in 1970, the Pascal language did not have a way to implement the functionality equivalent to the (future) C language operators "break" and "continue". Their convenience having been ...
8
votes
5answers
558 views

How did software engineers test their code in 19xx? [closed]

There is a plethora of tools available for engineers to test their code these days. However, frameworks like Mocha.js came around only in 2011 with the ascent of NPM. So I wonder what were the ...
3
votes
3answers
582 views

How to compute performance of a CPU in FLOPS?

For a computer that took a variable number of clock cycles to execute floating point instructions, what would be the formula to estimate its performance in FLOPS assuming that it can execute either A ...
24
votes
1answer
2k views

Why did keygens play music?

When running some keygens (i.e. applications that generate working license keys for possibly pirated software), low-quality background music is played while the user waits. See this sample YouTube ...
12
votes
2answers
1k views

What was the first C compiler for the IBM PC?

When did a C compiler first become available for the IBM PC? I have fond memories of Turbo C, but that didn't become available until the mid to late eighties; it definitely wasn't the first one. ...
11
votes
2answers
813 views

What is the origin of different styles of assembly language mnemonics?

As exemplified in answers to this question (I hope that closed questions that are linked to, don't get purged), the instruction mnemonics in early assembly languages had a 1-to-1 correspondence to the ...