Questions tagged [history]

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

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12
votes
1answer
214 views

Why were TECO variables called Q-registers?

The TECO editor, (originally Tape Editor and COrrector, later Text Editor...) found in some form on just about every computer and operating system DEC ever made, provides variables in which you can ...
62
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8answers
15k views

Why did IBM make the PC BIOS source code public?

IBM released the IBM 5150 Technical Reference manual in August, 1981, and included in it the fully commented source code listing for the BIOS. I find this odd for two reasons: IBM must have realized ...
0
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1answer
194 views

What programming languages appeared in 1961?

I'm trying to get Programming Languages Through The Years over on the Code Golf site going again. The Wikipedia article that the challenge has been working from only lists COMIT for 1961, and calling ...
16
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1answer
1k views

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 ...
12
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1answer
776 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 ...
13
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3answers
1k 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 ...
25
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6answers
14k views

Is it true that control+alt+delete only became a thing because IBM would not build Bill Gates a computer with a task manager button?

Is it true that ctrl+alt+del only became a thing because IBM would not build Bill Gates a computer with a button specifically for the task manager? Making it so that Microsoft had to develop a ...
2
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0answers
115 views

What was the influence of the 'Legion of Doom' and the e-zine Phrack on early computer culture? [closed]

I was reading a bit about the 'Hacker Manifesto' written by Loyd 'The Mentor' Blakenship and was also reading about the hacker group 'Legion of Doom' and was wondering what influence these groups / ...
26
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4answers
7k 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.
5
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5answers
332 views

Could the Intel 8086 CPU have many segments in memory of the same type?

The Intel 8086 CPU could address up to 1 MB of memory using segmentation, and this CPU have 4 segment registers, which are CS and SS and DS and ES. Each segment in memory can have a maximum size of ...
15
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10answers
3k views

Were people building CPUs out of TTL logic prior to the 4004, 8080 and the 6800?

I've just finished reading Charles Petzold's book, Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software. In it Charles explains building relays into gates, gates into logic components, and ...
7
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3answers
648 views

Patent barriers to IBM mainframe compatibility?

'Blue Magic: The People, Power and Politics Behind the IBM Personal Computer' is an excellent book, but it makes one claim I cannot quite make sense of. Page 13 of the hardback edition says: "Lowe ...
38
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6answers
9k views

How did the SysRq key get onto modern keyboards if it's rarely used?

Was the SysRq key ever used on any common operating system? Google tells me it wasn't. But then how did it end up on so many keyboards?
61
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8answers
16k 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 ...
29
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5answers
3k views

What was the purpose and history of the C64's special keys?

I never had a Commodore 64 but I've always been curious what the purpose and history of some of the special keys were. In particular: C= Run/Stop Clr/Home Restore I'm mostly used to the standard ...
12
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5answers
2k views

Does the Intel 8086 CPU have user mode and kernel mode?

Does the Intel 8086 CPU have user mode and kernel mode as modern CPUs do? and if it doesn't have user mode and kernel mode, does that mean that any user program written for the Intel 8086 CPU could do ...
11
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3answers
465 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 ...
35
votes
7answers
12k views

Why did computer video outputs go from digital to analog, then back to digital?

While early microcomputers used analog video outputs (often to use a television as a display), higher end machines such as the BBC Micro or Commodore 128 supported a digital RGB (or RGBI) video output....
8
votes
0answers
347 views

What is the timeline of NASA ground control computers?

In the movie "Hidden Figures", NASA receives an IBM 7090 in 1961. What is the subsequent timeline of the primary computing means for flight planning and orbit calculation? Specifically, what was the ...
11
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0answers
411 views

Who owns the intellectual property of Thinking Machines today?

Who owns the intellectual property regarding the Connection Machine and other products from Thinking Machines? I believe the remnants were bought by Sun, so possibly Oracle, but does anyone know?
32
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5answers
2k views

Why did the Bell 103 modem use a data rate of 300 bps?

Virtually every telephone modem in existence runs at a data rate that's a multiple of the Bell 103A's 300 bps. Why was the base 300 bps chosen in the first place?
19
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3answers
3k views

Term “console” in game consoles

Not sure if this exactly fits here, but I’m interested in the history of word “console” in game consoles and in computing in general. I can see at least two usages for the term, which at least ...
10
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5answers
2k views

What was the difference between a Games Console and a Home Computer?

In the world of home entertainment and video games, two terms that were commonly used to describe machines from the 1970s onward are "games console" and "home computer". Some devices appear to ...
13
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7answers
4k views

Does the Intel 8085 CPU use real memory addresses?

The Intel 8086 CPU uses memory segmentation, which means that when, for example, you write the value 123 to the memory address 1001, the memory address 1001 will actually get converted first into ...
1
vote
1answer
284 views

Why doesn't the Intel 8086 CPU use real memory addresses? [duplicate]

The address bus of the Intel 8086 CPU is 20-bits, and when you want to specify a memory address to read from or write to, you would form the memory address using a segment register and an offset ...
16
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5answers
5k views

Why plastic cases?

Early computers of the 'all in one' form factors, such as the Commodore PET, the early IBM microcomputers and later models of the TRS-80, as well as the 'box' form factors such as the Altair, used a ...
1
vote
0answers
115 views

Why is the order of the special characters on the keyboard like !@#$%^&*()? [duplicate]

The order wasn't easy for me to memorize. I would like to know if there is a historical story.
6
votes
1answer
330 views

Was the character in the Game & Watch series supposed to be his own unique character?

For those of you who don't know, the Game & Watch handhelds were a series of LCD handhelds released prior to the Gameboy that featured one (and sometimes two) player games. Some of these games (...
7
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1answer
215 views

WEGA operating system origins

I just recently stumbled across information about DDR minicomputer P8000 and its unixoid operating system WEGA. The website above as well as Wikipedia seem to claim some compatibility or even ...
16
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6answers
3k views

What PC “Clone” technology standards were introduced by clone manufacturers?

IBM famously created the PC standard with the introduction of the first IBM PC in 1981. IBM also extended the standard with the introduction of the PC/AT (1984) and the PS/2 line (1987). However, by ...
9
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1answer
241 views

What do the stars mean on the Bell Labs Pins (company culture)?

I frequently see these kinds of pins go for sale, Both of the two pins in the picture read "Bell Telephone Laboratories 1875". One of the pins has two stars, the other three. What did it mean to ...
9
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4answers
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 ...
21
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9answers
2k views

Why did CP/M and MS-DOS use the BIOS instead of their own drivers to access hardware?

Modern versions of Windows (and other modern operating systems I suppose) have their own drivers to access hardware. But as I have read, in the old days, if CP/M or MS-DOS wanted to access hardware, ...
23
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6answers
5k views

How did the IEC decide to create kibibytes?

What was the decision making process that lead to the IEC to create "kibibytes", "mebibytes" and so forth? To me it seems like kilobytes were well established as 1024 bytes, both by programmers using ...
14
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2answers
2k views

Did Xerox really develop the first LAN?

Did the computer scientist at Xerox really develop the first LAN, but had no backing from the company to further develop these technologies, later showing this to both Steve Jobs and Bill Gates? Just ...
24
votes
2answers
2k views

What was the ASCII end of medium (EM) character intended to be used for?

I can find information about how characters were used to structure transmissions in general, and I can find information about transmission characters which are still commonly used today, though ...
24
votes
4answers
3k 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
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5answers
5k views

How well known and how commonly used was Huffman coding in 1979?

Infocom's Z-Machine, designed in 1979, compresses text using a basic 5 bit code which is not very efficient in practice, achieving maybe a 1.5:1 compression ratio. Huffman coding would be far more ...
2
votes
2answers
468 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? ...
8
votes
3answers
387 views

Why do Early DRAMs (e.g. 4116) have a negative Column Address Set-up Time?

Early DRAMs have a multiplexed address bus. Briefly speaking, to access a word, one needs to... Put the row address on the bus, and latch it using the falling edge of /RAS signal. Put the column ...
13
votes
1answer
5k views

What is the oldest commercial MS-DOS program that can run on modern versions of Windows without third-party software?

What is the oldest commercial MS-DOS program that can run on modern versions of Windows (such as Windows 8.1 or Windows 10) without third-party emulators?
6
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1answer
1k views

What was the first third-party commercial application for MS-DOS?

What was the first third-party commercial application for MS-DOS intended for IBM PC-compatible computers?
9
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2answers
252 views

What connection exists between Facit AB and Sharp on the MZ-800 computer?

Facit used to be a very successful Swedish company manufacturing mechanical calculators that quickly went down to its final demise by not being able to adapt to the shift towards electronic ...
2
votes
1answer
237 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 (...
4
votes
3answers
173 views

How did console flexowriters connect to their computers?

Several early computers (e.g., KDF9, LGP30) used Friden Flexowriters for console functions. What was the nature of the connection between the Flexowriter and the computer? Was this something we ...
9
votes
5answers
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, ...
2
votes
1answer
123 views

ISVs in the mainframe and minicomputer eras

In the eighties, there was a vast flowering of small independent software companies. Business and productivity software for the IBM PC, all manner of novelties for the Macintosh, games for the ...
12
votes
1answer
909 views

Why the DOS extender and DPMI were unavailable to DOS programs on 286 standard mode of Windows 3.0

An old article on Windows 3.0 from PC Magazine (June 11, 1991, page 348) said that: Using standard mode, the Windows DOS extender and DOS Protected Mode Interface (DPMI) are available to Windows ...
16
votes
1answer
3k views

When did Linux kernel become libre software? [closed]

In this video, Richard Stallman claimed that Linus Torvalds created Linux kernel as a proprietary software and then liberated it ('liberated' is the term Stallman used). Assuming so, when was the ...
9
votes
1answer
555 views

Why wasn't the Z6 version of the Infocom Z-machine ported to the IIgs?

Infocom ported their Z-machine to nearly every viable platform in the 70s and 80s. Zork runs on around 18 different 8/16 bit platforms using earlier versions of the Z-machine. Why was Z6 the graphical ...