Questions tagged [history]

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

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2
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1answer
17 views

What was the first microprocessor to overlap loads with ALU ops?

Modern out of order CPUs can do all sorts of things in parallel, having not only multiple functional units, but a lot of logic to check at runtime exactly which instructions really depend on others, ...
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0answers
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What was a DEC PDP-11/85 intended to be, and why might it be able to use DECsystem-10 software?

In this DEC PDP-11 Strategy Memo from Sept 1974, there is this curious question. HOW MUCH OF THE DEC SYSTEM 10 SOFTWARE CAN THE 11/85 USE, OR DOES THE 11/85 HAVE TO START FROM SCRATCH? CONFLICTING ...
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1answer
133 views

What was the most popular operating system on the PDP-11 computers? [closed]

What was the most popular operating system on the PDP-11 computers? And is it known what percentage of PDP-11 computers used this operating system?
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3answers
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Why is the ‘auto’ storage class specifier included in C?

The auto keyword in C seems quite redundant: wherever it makes sense to define a variable with automatic storage duration, it is already the default, so there is no reason to use the keyword. The ...
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3answers
2k views

When was the phrase “sufficiently smart compiler” first used?

In discussions and arguments about programming language design, one often hears comments about "sufficiently smart" compilers, as in "X needn't be inefficient, since a sufficiently ...
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8answers
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Were there any computers that did not support virtual memory? [duplicate]

Were there any computers that did not support virtual memory? if yes, were these computers able to run multiple processes at the same time? By “virtual memory” I mean when a process would want to ...
2
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2answers
400 views

How did the NSA use vector supercomputers?

In the 80s, the NSA was a major customer of supercomputers. https://www.nsa.gov/Portals/70/documents/news-features/declassified-documents/cryptologic-quarterly/NSA_and_the_Supercomputer.pdf discusses ...
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5answers
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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 ...
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10answers
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What key factor led to the sudden commercial success of MS Windows with v3.0?

Microsoft Windows was originally introduced in 1985, ostensibly to compete with the Apple Macintosh, and other computers shipping with graphical shells by that time. However, early versions of Windows ...
6
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1answer
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Did any CPU ever expose load delays?

There have been CPUs with exposed branch delays, such as early MIPS: What was the first CPU with exposed pipeline? (Later MIPS kept the delay slots from the early MIPS, though by that time, it wasn't ...
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0answers
137 views

What percentage of DVD forum royalties did Sony get?

A slightly arcane question that I think is relevant to a chapter of the history of game consoles whose dynamics I'm trying to understand. In the mid-nineties, several companies were developing optical ...
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2answers
729 views

When did various PONG systems overflow/crash due to points?

Edit: Given the many different versions of the game Pong, which version allowed you to accumulate the highest score before the game would crash, reset, or otherwise not just give you one more point? ...
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6answers
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Why did base64 win against uuencode?

From the the two methods of encoding 8-bit data as human-readable ASCII, for a time, uuencode format was more popular. USENET 'binaries' groups were filled with uuencoded posts with whatever goodies ...
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17answers
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Were any IBM mainframes ever run multiuser?

Now of course there is a sense in which they were – some mainframe installations supported thousands of users! But there is a distinction. Consider the familiar fixture in so many 80s computer science ...
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3answers
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Historical price of ROM

Historical price charts for RAM are quite readily available, e.g. in the mid-seventies a ballpark figure was a penny a byte. What was the price of ROM (assuming you were getting the chips produced in ...
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1answer
319 views

Did the Saturn fail because of game distribution issues?

The Sega Saturn sold only nine million units, well short of the ambition with which Sega launched it, and as it would turn out, well short of what was needed to ultimately keep the company in the ...
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2answers
647 views

What process node were 4k and 16k DRAMs first made at?

In the history of computers, much is said of microprocessors, for good reason, but the relatively unsung RAM chips were equally important. Of particular significance were the 4kbit and 16kbit dynamic ...
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1answer
137 views

How much RAM was sold each year in the 1970s?

I'm trying to get an idea of the quantitative parameters of the computer industry in the era that saw the rise of personal computers. Of course, the industry as a whole was old by then; companies like ...
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3answers
5k views

What was Pong called in Britain?

Pong, the electronic ping-pong game invented by Atari in 1972, was the first really successful video game. In Britain, 'pong' was also slang for a nasty smell, and I remember reading somewhere, a long ...
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3answers
325 views

What software used Turbo Vision back in its prime time?

Turbo Vision, Borland’s text-mode widget toolkit, is fairly widely known by those old enough to remember it, and apparently quite influential: it gave rise to a number of ports and reimplementations (...
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1answer
245 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 ...
20
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1answer
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When did the IBM 650 have a “Table lookup on Equal” instruction?

In 1959, Donald Knuth wrote an assembly program named SuperSoap for the IBM 650. Here is the manual, and here is a listing of the program (in SuperSoap assembly language). Quoting from the abstract: ...
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1answer
474 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 ...
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6answers
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What caused the downfall of Pascal? [closed]

From 1985 to 1990 Borland's Turbo Pascal was at least as popular as C for DOS systems. Turbo Pascal was especially popular because of it's ground breaking BGI graphics interface while C was stalled in ...
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11answers
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Did any European computers use 10-line fonts?

Most 8-bit computers implemented hardware text mode, and most of those used 8x8 fonts. This was logical for American computers; the title safe area on NTSC is about 200 scan lines; font height 8 gets ...
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9answers
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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 ...
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4answers
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Why was “C:” chosen for the first hard drive partition?

I was reading this answer, as the question came to my mind: why does C: indicate the first hard drive partition? The usage dates back to CP/M (as noted in a comment), was embraced by MS-DOS, and ...
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3answers
506 views

What was the earliest use of |> pipe in programming?

I am trying to find which language used the |> operator first. It's being discussed for use in R, and it's been in OCaml for some years. Did it originate in OCaml? If not, what are its earliest ...
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1answer
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What was the first programming language to have 'printf'?

I'm curious as to which language was the first to literally have a formatted text output procedure called printf. A trivial question, sure, but I was prompted to ask by a recent question on ZSPL. I'...
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3answers
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What was the role of Commodore-West Germany?

Most of the history of Commodore in personal computers took place while East and West Germany were divided, and Commodore maintained a significant corporate presence in West Germany. While I believe ...
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5answers
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Why did C use the -> operator instead of reusing the . operator?

In the C programming language, the syntax to access the member of a structure is structure.member However, a member of a structure referenced by a pointer is written as pointer->member ...
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5answers
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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 ...
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4answers
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Could any computers use 16k or 64k RAM chips?

An interesting feature of the Apple II was that it had three rows of sockets for RAM chips, each of which could take either 4k or 16k chips. That meant the minimum configuration was 4K (cheap) but it ...
6
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1answer
597 views

What non-Spectrum computers did Sinclair sell 4 million of?

Reading Alan Sugar : The Amstrad Story, I just came across one of those little oddities that initially manifest as 'huh, wait a minute' and sometimes just mean someone has made a typo, and sometimes ...
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4answers
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Why did the IBM 650 use bi-quinary?

The IBM 650, announced in 1953, was the world's first mass-produced computer. It represented numbers in decimal, which is understandable, both because it needed to work with exact money amounts, and ...
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7answers
4k views

Why did DEC develop Alpha instead of continuing with MIPS?

I have been rereading a fascinating discussion about why DEC replaced VAX with Alpha based on talks with people who were there at the time; in a nutshell, in the opinion of the VAX engineers, it was ...
2
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1answer
217 views

Bill-of-material cost of early hard drives

Based on this topic (and continuing this topic), my question once again surfaced: And what was the layout of the prime cost of early 8 and 5.25 inch hard drives? From Seagate and competing ...
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4answers
986 views

IBM vs DEC and business partners

A Quora question Why did Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) fail? has gathered some really interesting answers, including from former DEC people. There is one such answer I do not quite understand: ...
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2answers
362 views

Why did the CDC 6600 expand the word size to 60 bits?

According to http://www.quadibloc.com/comp/cp0201.htm The CDC 1604 used 48-bit floating point with 11 bits exponent and 36 bits mantissa. There was also a double precision format (which I believe was ...
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4answers
2k views

Are there statements from IBM insiders revealing why OS/2 was dropped?

In the early to mid-90s I was an OS/2 user and supporter. The operating system was originally jointly developed by both Microsoft and IBM. Both companies claimed it was the future, including public ...
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1answer
283 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 ...
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5answers
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Why did mainframes have big conspicuous power-off buttons?

Some fascinating stories in this discussion thread. It starts with discussion about computers overheating, but about halfway through the thread, it switches to discussion of mainframe installations in ...
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7answers
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Why did 8-bit Basic use 40-bit floating point?

Nowadays floating point is usually either 32 or 64 bits, sometimes 16, occasionally 128. But of course, the Basic interpreters on the 8-bit machines, having to implement floating point in software ...
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0answers
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Record definitions with IBM COBOL and IMS

A common technology stack for line of business applications in the sixties and seventies was IBM COBOL with the IMS database. I'm curious about how the combination handled record definitions. COBOL ...
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4answers
5k views

Why did MacOS Classic choose the colon as a path separator?

I mean, all other OSs that I know of use some form of slash as a path separator, so why did Apple choose the colon?
5
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1answer
136 views

What was the first database to start compressing in situ?

The obvious way for a database to store data is with each record in a contiguous chunk, and each field having a fixed size and offset in the record. Joel Spolsky praises that way of doing things: ...
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3answers
968 views

How was it possible to run IBM mainframe software in emulation on HP?

... At least, without getting sued into the ground? According to one of the answers to What was the most critical supporting software for COBOL on IBM mainframes? We installed a new HP replacing an ...
4
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1answer
241 views

How did the DEC RP06 respond to unscheduled power off?

The DEC RP06 disk drive was a remarkable piece of hardware. It seems to have been the last generation of drives that used rigid magnetic disks in removable packs, before their replacement by '...
3
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0answers
134 views

Why did Gran Trak 10 cost so much?

In 1974, Atari released a driving game called Gran Trak 10. The development prototypes had used real car steering wheels and pedals, but it was realized these were too expensive, so they were changed ...
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7answers
3k views

What was the most critical supporting software for COBOL on IBM mainframes?

Over the past half-century, one of the largest trends in the computer industry has been the replacement of mainframes by microcomputers. Not total by any means – there are still many mainframes in ...

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