Questions tagged [history]

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

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12
votes
1answer
213 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 ...
0
votes
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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
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 / ...
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?
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 ...
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 ...
35
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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....
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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
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
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.
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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
24
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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 ...
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 ...
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?
13
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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?
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 ...
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 ...
4
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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 ...
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 (...
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 ...
2
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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? ...
16
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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 ...
15
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1answer
348 views

In the original Z80 layout, where are the “traps” located? And what are their effects?

According to Zilog Oral History, Zilog only had a tight schedule to design the Z80. Facing the potential competition, Federico Faggin and Masatoshi Shima were worrying about Japanese semiconductor ...
16
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2answers
2k views

Looking for an old image of designing a CPU with plan laid out / being edited on a literal floor

There is an image that I remember seeing, but that I have never been able to find. It shows 2-3 people on their hands and knees, crawling around a blueprint of a chip that had been rolled out over the ...
8
votes
2answers
282 views

Texas Instruments SN502

My father is an engineer that worked at TI directly under Jack Kilby in the early 60’s. This chip was given to him by Kilby as a “thank you” for all his hard work. We also have the accompanying build ...
9
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4answers
1k views

Compaq Portable vs IBM 5155 Portable PC

In 1983, Compaq introduced its first product, a portable computer weighing 28 pounds; 128-640K RAM, two 5.25" floppy drives, 9" monochrome CRT for $3590. It was extremely successful in the market, and ...
48
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2answers
7k views

How was the blinking terminal cursor invented?

I was just staring at my blinking terminal cursor: And was wondering where it comes from. Does anybody have some piece of history about the blinking cursor? I couldn't find much online. E.g.: when/...
12
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3answers
4k views

When did game consoles begin including FPUs?

Floating-point coprocessors (FPUs) were an expensive, niche, add-on product for early desktop and home computers. but became commonplace by the mid-1990s, as they began to be included within the most ...
32
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3answers
6k views

Were any of the books mentioned in this scene from the movie Hackers real?

In this scene from the 1995 movie Hackers, Cereal pulls out several books referred to by different colors of the "technicolor rainbow", including a "green one", "luscious orange", the "Pink Shirt book"...
2
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0answers
130 views

Can the quality of a programming language be objectively determined? [closed]

Can there really be an objective way to determine the quality of a programming language or is it all just up to the subjectivity of the programmers when the quality of languages are discussed? Is ...
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 ...
2
votes
1answer
563 views

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. ...
23
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4answers
5k views

Was Unix ever a single-user OS?

I've been told that Unix started out as a Phone Switch OS and was not a multi-user OS at some time in its infancy. As I'm always willing to learn new things, are there any greybeards around here ...
6
votes
2answers
445 views

Why did the Apple IIc perform badly in the market?

The Apple IIc was a compact version of the Apple II that eschewed internal expansion slots in favor of having the popular expansion options already built in, and saving cost and weight. Apple expected ...
2
votes
0answers
104 views

HP presage of the PDA revolution

I no longer have clear memory of this, but I'm fairly certain I read an article back around 1979 or so published by Hewlett Packard. At the time, they had recently released their 41C calculator. I ...
9
votes
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 ...
18
votes
3answers
2k views

Is there a way to get a compiler for the original B programming language?

I am learning about the original B programming language, but I don't have a compiler. Is there an emulator for an old computer that can run an old operating system that have a compiler for the ...
6
votes
3answers
424 views

Did the BCPL programming language support floats?

Did the BCPL programming language support floating point? If not, then how did programmers use it to add two floating point numbers?
58
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6answers
12k views

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 ...
5
votes
1answer
227 views

How to add an “int” to a “float” in the B programming language?

C has data types, so if you add an int to a float, for example: int i = 1; float f = 2.5; float r = i + f; The C compiler will know that it should generate machine instructions that adds an int to a ...
35
votes
5answers
5k views

Did any compiler fully use Intel x87 80-bit floating point?

There is a paradox about floating point that I'm trying to understand. Floating point is an eternal struggle with the problem that real numbers are both essential and incomputable. It's the best ...
5
votes
4answers
398 views

What was the first time a programmer was able to use the well know block structure for conditional code?

The easily readable structure of having an if keyword which controls execution of a following block of code is so prevalent in programming that it seems to just be part of it. However, programming ...
3
votes
3answers
256 views

What was the first language to offer “full” structured programming support?

In the same vein as this question about conditionals, I am interested in the first time a language provided functionality we assume as a given for modern programming languages. The question is when a ...