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Questions tagged [history]

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

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13
votes
2answers
3k views

Could you use uppercase or special characters in a password in early Unix?

This article is about Ken Thompson's old Unix password hash being cracked. One line in the article intrigues: "Even an exhaustive search over all lower-case letters and digits took several days (...
53
votes
1answer
9k views

When was the famous “sudo warning” introduced? Under what background? By whom?

On all Unix-like operating systems, sudo is often provided as the standard package for executing commands as superuser (or an alternative user). When sudo is invoked by the user for the first time, ...
6
votes
1answer
546 views

What computer has the longest uptime? [closed]

Inspired by a YouTube video I saw recently that claims a very high uptime for the computers on the Voyager probes, I was curious -- what computer currently has the longest continuous runtime? For the ...
4
votes
1answer
290 views

Why not build an “approximate” Analytical Engine before the complete one?

From the website https://plan28.org/ and blog http://blog.plan28.org/, it seems that the original documents are scattered and hard to decipher. It might be that the plans are not even close to be ...
13
votes
3answers
3k views

Why was Logo created?

The Logo programming language was created by researchers at MIT's AI Lab. Its post-1980s use has been predominately in the educational field, but is this what the language was originally designed for? ...
17
votes
4answers
712 views

Did Apple really advise customers to lift up and then drop their computers?

This led to the infamous technical note where Apple recommended users facing problems with the Apple III to lift the computer two inches and then drop it, as this would set the circuits back in place.[...
9
votes
1answer
2k views

What was the first LISP compiler?

LISP is generally considered an interpreted language, but compilers have been made for it. What was the first compiler? To be clear, this is about compilers that compile LISP code stored for ...
38
votes
4answers
7k views

When did computers stop checking memory on boot?

I remember my old 8088 used to do this (640K OK) but can't remember seeing anything like this since. Does this still happen and it's just not visible? If not, when did it stop, and why? (Imagining ...
33
votes
3answers
3k views

Why did the VIC-II and SID use 6 µm technology in the era of 3 µm and 1.5 µm?

In short, 3 µm looks like it was the "standard" process size at the time, and it was available to Commodore before the chips were designed. Therefore it looks like using the larger 5 to 7 µm process ...
49
votes
4answers
11k views

Did the Apollo Guidance Computer really use 60% of the world's ICs in 1963?

This NASA webpage makes this claim about the Apollo Guidance Computer: By 1963, MIT - during the testing and development of the AGC Block I units - had ordered and consumed some 60% of the then ...
14
votes
2answers
986 views

What are the IPSE’s, the ASPE’s, the FRIPSE’s and the GRIPSE’s?

In one of Edsger Dijkstra's most famous essays "By way of introduction" there is this paragraph: As final example of skirting the programming issue I mention “software engineering”, the IPSE’s, the ...
13
votes
2answers
283 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
450 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 ...
63
votes
8answers
16k 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 ...
26
votes
6answers
15k 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 ...
17
votes
2answers
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
votes
0answers
124 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 / ...
39
votes
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
votes
5answers
346 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 ...
13
votes
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
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....
10
votes
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
votes
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
291 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
votes
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
117 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
votes
1answer
226 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
votes
1answer
254 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 ...
24
votes
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
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 ...
21
votes
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
votes
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
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?
8
votes
3answers
430 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
129 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
votes
3answers
188 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
238 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
950 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
votes
2answers
484 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
votes
1answer
4k 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 ...
14
votes
3answers
2k views

What LISP compilers and interpreters were available for 8-bit machines?

What LISP or LISP-like language compilers and interpreters were available for 8-bit microcomputers? Criteria for "8-bit" include that it should certainly run and execute non-trivial programs given no ...
15
votes
1answer
581 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
votes
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
292 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
votes
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
votes
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
votes
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
votes
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
votes
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
565 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 ...