Questions tagged [history]

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

Filter by
Sorted by
Tagged with
12 votes
11 answers
5k views

Did any 8-bit device ever merge a CPU core?

Looking at https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c1/Commodore-64-1541-Floppy-Drive-04.jpg I started thinking the following: There are too many chips in that drive. It is crying out for a ...
9 votes
3 answers
680 views

Was the TRS-80 Model 1 ever actually sold new with that name?

When Tandy introduced the TRS-80, the computer we know now as the "Model 1" or Model I" was simply called the TRS-80. No "Model" designation was necessary. The early releases were as follows: TRS-80, ...
65 votes
13 answers
16k 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
0 answers
204 views

Northern Telecom SL-1 PBX Programming Language

My first job in 1981 was programing the Northern Telecom/ BNR SL-1 PBX. It had been licensed in the UK by GEC (the UK company, not the US one) from Northern Telecom, and I added some UK specific ...
26 votes
6 answers
7k views

What did corporations use for long-distance networks in the 1980s?

Although ARPANET was invented in 1969, the Internet as publicly available infrastructure didn't really become available until 1989. But people were certainly using computers as communication tools in ...
3 votes
1 answer
142 views

Was an Amiga 'Enhancer' software package ever released for Kickstart/Workbench 1.1?

When the original Amiga 1000 was released, it shipped with version 1.0 of Kickstart and Workbench. However, it wasn't long before Commodore released version 1.1 and computers started shipping with ...
9 votes
2 answers
1k views

Did VMS ever acquire filesystem cross-links?

Both Unix and Windows, quite early, acquired cross-links in their filesystems, such that the filesystems are not trees, but general directed graphs. I'm curious about whether this was an inevitable ...
18 votes
3 answers
6k views

Which OS first implemented hibernation?

According to the relevant Wikipedia article, [h]ibernation was first implemented in 1992 and patented by Compaq Computer Corporation in Houston, Texas. This appears to refer specifically to hardware- ...
3 votes
0 answers
152 views

What aspects of microprocessor ISAs have been patented?

A key objective of RISC-V was that every aspect of the ISA must be based on an expired patent. It was felt that this is the only truly reliable defense against patent lawsuits. It is surprising that ...
3 votes
2 answers
274 views

Did anyone use quarter-bad RAM chips?

There was a time in the early 80s when 64k RAM chips had a significant defect rate, such that half-bad ones could be obtained at a discount. Some computer manufacturers such as Sinclair and Tandy took ...
14 votes
7 answers
5k views

Which CPUs have implemented trap on signed integer overflow?

All mainstream microprocessors from the 4004 on, have implemented signed integer arithmetic with twos complement and silent wraparound on overflow (by which I mean that the CPU itself will not trap, ...
11 votes
2 answers
1k views

Why did the VAX compatibility mode not implement the MARK instruction?

This question was inspired by an older question about the MARK instruction which recently bubbled up to the top of the active pile. The VAX-11/780 and several follow-on VAXen implemented a PDP-11 ...
20 votes
2 answers
2k views

Did 486 SMP systems provide Total Store Ordering?

Cache-coherent SMP (symmetric, or shared-memory, multi processing) systems can provide various grades of memory ordering guarantees, the stronger ones being more expensive but making it easier to ...
23 votes
3 answers
4k views

Did any x86 CPU optionally trap unaligned access?

x86 CPUs have always supported unaligned load/store. Early RISC CPUs didn't. So imagine writing portable code on a 386. It seems to work fine, but how do you know you haven't accidentally misaligned ...
8 votes
2 answers
772 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, ...
6 votes
0 answers
185 views

How many commercial Spectrum ROM cartridges were released?

According to this site, Sinclair released a total of ten titles on cartridge: all games that were popular on cassette, and all in 1983, the year the Interface 2 was released. I know the cartridges ...
19 votes
3 answers
2k 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, ...
80 votes
9 answers
15k 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 ...
7 votes
5 answers
2k views

Spectrum DIY upgrade to 48K

The ZX Spectrum was initially sold in 16 and 48K versions. Every owner of the former version who continued using it, inevitably ended up wanting the upgrade to the latter. (I get the impression it ...
22 votes
3 answers
3k views

Why did MS-DOS choose the percent symbol to designate variables?

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

Historical speed of linear programming solvers

A few years ago, I remember seeing a video of Ray Kurzweil discussing how linear programming was an example of how software (algorithms) - independent of hardware - is also getting faster (...
8 votes
0 answers
235 views

What were the licensing terms for The Hobbit? [closed]

The Hobbit was a 1982 illustrated text adventure game released initially on the Spectrum, based on the Tolkien novel of the same name. According to https://www.filfre.net/2012/11/the-hobbit/ Unlike ...
2 votes
1 answer
394 views

What were 3dfx's future plans for their Glide API before it was phased out? [closed]

The end of 3dfx in December 2000 also meant the end of the Glide API for new games. But does anyone, perhaps former 3dfx employees, know what the future of the Glide API was planned if 3dfx had ...
9 votes
2 answers
1k views

Did BBC Micro business software stick to 40 columns?

The iconic personal computer sponsored by the British Broadcasting Corporation, was most famous for its use in UK schools, so I was surprised to read in The Legacy of the BBC Micro: By October 1983, ...
12 votes
5 answers
4k views

What was the first desktop computer with fully-functional input and output?

What was the first desktop computing system that satisfied the following features: It fully fit on desktop It included the full alpha-numeric keyboard It included a full text display, terminal or ...
26 votes
3 answers
14k views

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 ...
16 votes
1 answer
2k views

Why was the percent sign chosen as escape character for URLs?

URIs use percent encoding to represent characters which would otherwise be reserved (like the forward slash - %2F), not always displayable or recognizable (Unicode characters, e.g. non-Latin letters) ...
12 votes
1 answer
1k views

When was the original version of the DICE C compiler for the Amiga released? And when did it become free?

Back in the day I bought SAS/C for the Amiga. I seem to recall that before that there was Aztec C, Manx C, and Lattice C that were the major commercial C compilers for the platform. I never used them. ...
18 votes
1 answer
4k views

What was the first C compiler for the Mac?

When did a C compiler first become commercially available for the Apple Macintosh? And what was its name? The only programming languages that I recall were available for the Mac at launch (January ...
26 votes
8 answers
13k 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 votes
2 answers
616 views

Was there an equivalent to TELNET in the IPX/SPX protocol suite?

It seems logically like there would be, but I can't find much information. I found an IBM AS/400 manual from 1997, OS/400 Internetwork Packet Exchange (IPX) Support V4R1, which briefly mentions using ...
3 votes
2 answers
458 views

What was the first satellite data link that can properly be called an internet connection?

Scott Manley, in his second video about communication satellites, focusing on the 1963 Telstar 1, mentioned at 10:22: (Telstar 1) could be used for telephones it could carry multiple circuits, it ...
21 votes
10 answers
9k views

Was there any computer since about 1960 without interrupt support?

The invention and spread of interrupts in the 1950s is reasonably well known but I am curious: were there any systems after which didn't support them?
34 votes
4 answers
5k views

How widely was 0xDEADBEEF used as a placeholder, invalid value?

Inspired by some comments on the question "The history of the NULL pointer":- There was a practice in the '70s to use the hexadecimal code 0xDEADBEEF to indicate an invalid value. This could be to ...
11 votes
6 answers
3k views

What made the ENIAC "programmable"?

The ENIAC was the first programmable, electronic, general-purpose digital computer. However, it was programmed by "rewiring", and this is what I do not understand. When we say "...
10 votes
1 answer
1k views

How much memory did the PlayStation development kit have?

The PlayStation 1 had two megabytes of main memory, one megabyte of video memory and half a megabyte of audio memory. Squeezing everything to fit into these limits was one of the big challenges of ...
42 votes
5 answers
7k views

Why did so many early microcomputers use the MOS 6502 and variants?

Quite a few successful early microcomputers used the MOS 6502 CPU. This included, but was not limited to, systems like the Apple I, Apple II, Commodore PET, and Ataris. A followup known as the MOS ...
21 votes
1 answer
2k 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 ...
103 votes
6 answers
46k views

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 ...
51 votes
4 answers
6k views

Was AGP only ever used for graphics cards?

Reading on the AGP spec, the little bits I've found on sites like AGP interface pinout and wiring @ old.pinouts.ru, say: The Accelerated Graphics Port (also called Advanced Graphics Port) is a high-...
8 votes
1 answer
315 views

What was the rationale for the 'INPUT' button on an ICL 1900 console teletype?

ICL 1900 computers were always supplied with 'executive' software tailored to the specific installation. Exec provided simple program load and run facilities. There were no 'lights and switches' on ...
12 votes
6 answers
5k views

How was the first release of Java (JDK 1.0) used?

Foreword: I am not trying to accomplish a task using this technology but rather asking about the specific use cases of the very first release, out of curiosity. Was Java used for anything else other ...
17 votes
7 answers
4k views

Why did Linux standardise on RTS/CTS flow control for serial ports

I've recently been working out how best to wire up a serial cable for a vintage plotter, and it's thrown me down the rabbit hole of RS-232. As far as I can tell, many RS-232 devices which act as DTEs (...
20 votes
2 answers
1k views

Which is the first version of DOS to support more than one reserved sector in a FAT file system?

I'm trying to fix a problem when trying to use DOS stuff on SSDs. The problem is sector alignment in an SSD is completely different from what DOS expects, and writes to FAT do funny things when the ...
6 votes
2 answers
908 views

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

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?
8 votes
1 answer
777 views

What did the Big Red Button actually do on the IBM 4341? [duplicate]

Wiktionary explains the origin of the term molly guard: Originally a Plexiglas cover improvised for the Big Red Switch on an IBM 4341 mainframe after a programmer's toddler daughter (named Molly) ...
79 votes
7 answers
37k views

Who invented file extensions in file names?

Do we know when and where the idea of adding a suffix to filenames was conceived? I have found a lot of information about the history of specific file formats, but I am curious about when the need for ...
10 votes
3 answers
3k views

When did "Zen" in computer programming become a thing?

What are the roots of the endless analogies to Eastern philosophy, 1990: Zen of Assembly Language: Volume I, Knowledge 1995: Zen and the Art of the Internet: A Beginner's Guide (Prentice Hall Series ...
18 votes
2 answers
5k views

Which computer language was the first with two forward slashes ("//") for comments?

Apparently COMAL created around 1975 had 'em. Anything earlier? (This Q&A over at the langdev stack doesn't answer this question.)
33 votes
16 answers
7k 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 ...

1
2 3 4 5
19